Updated: April 20, 2022 8:51:51 am
Over the years, players, rules and formats have changed but the family names of those at the helm of India’s cricket establishment haven’t. Back in the day, there were Scindias in Madhya Pradesh, Rungtas in Rajasthan, and Mahendras in Haryana. More recently, it is the Shahs in Gujarat and the Dalmiya-Ganguly combination in Bengal. The tradition of the state cricket unit passed down as a family heirloom, a residue of feudal times, has survived the days of safari suits and is flourishing even in times when cricket is said to be corporatised. In the aftermath of the Justice RM Lodha committee’s intervention, with aging satraps disqualified by the new tenure or age clauses in the constitution, over one-third of the BCCI’s state units, as reported by this paper, saw a smooth transfer of power within the family.
At a time when, by all accounts, more and more people in the country disdain nepotism and when promises of equal opportunity are emphatically made by popular leaders to audiences filled with fresh and young faces, it appears that the BCCI continues to live in a bubble. They remain aloof to the idea that organisations run by coteries foster complacence and mediocrity. The BCCI also refuses to learn from its past mistakes. The Lalit Modi affair and the N Srinivasan saga were mishaps that happened primarily because Indian cricket was a cosy club of family and friends. Each had looked the other way when a rule was tweaked for individual benefit. They all went back a long way, no one raised the red flags at BCCI meetings. Elections did take place but the loyalty of the core group got passed from father to son. When outsiders are seen as obstructionists, organisations can’t grow. They collectively stop thinking, and are bereft of new ideas.
An Indian cricket official has several perks. They have the power to direct the stream of ample funds — each state unit gets roughly Rs 40 crore annually. In a cricket-crazy country, a match-day ticket has the power to magically open doors. No wonder, then, that influential politicians, lawyers and administrators see this as the preferred career option for their sons. It provides perfect photo-ops with cricket’s swish set, and tremendous goodwill in being seen to be promoting the gladiators pulled out of obscurity by field-level scouting. The cricket board can also be an excellent finishing school, to learn the tricks of the trade, before being launched onto the bigger canvas of politics. Cricket stadiums are a networker’s dream — an evening at the game can exhaust a thick wad of business cards. But power in the hands of a few isn’t good for the game. The new BCCI family photo isn’t flattering. It gives world cricket’s most powerful board the appearance of a fiefdom, rather than the image of a professionally run, transparent and accountable sports organisation.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on April 20, 2022 under the title ‘Family game’.
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