As the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) convenes a Special General Meeting (SGM) in Mumbai on Friday to discuss the Justice RM Lodha committee report, the state associations are in a mood for a fight. They are fine with some of the reforms such as the age clause and the restriction on the number of terms for administrators, but will strongly oppose the one-state, one-vote recommendation.
Speaking informally with The Indian Express, officials from various state associations said the clause that restricts anyone over 70 from becoming an administrator and the three-terms cap suggestion are acceptable. Unsurprisingly, however, the main opposition is regarding the proposal that seeks to restrict a state to just one vote. Some states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat have three associations. The report also proposes that the BCCI relegate the additional associations and others such as Railways and Services to non-voting Associate members.
“We respect the Lodha panel and are giving importance to it. State associations do have their own problems in their minds. We will have a discussion on it and a practical view will be taken,” IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said.
The consensus among the Indian cricket hierarchy, and also the state associations, is that the absolute implementation of the Lodha report is “impossible”, for it would be “against the very fabric of the BCCI”. The members look determined to stonewall the proposed structural changes.
Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) secretary Ashirwad Behera has urged all state units and affiliates to join hands with the parent body and become a party to the case as the cricket board has been asked by the Supreme Court to file its response by March 3 regarding the absolute implementation of the committee recommendations. Behera will officially put forward the proposal to his fellow board members to become ‘intervenor’ now that the BCCI seriously mulls legal options to safeguard its existing structure.
“Yes, this would be my proposal at the SGM. State associations have their own constitutions, but here we are fighting a common battle and we should be a direct party to it,” Behera said.
A former BCCI legal counsel believes that if the SGM stands united against the cricket body’s structural overhaul, it would be difficult for the apex court to thrust upon some of the recommendations (on the board’s constitutional/structural changes), for that would be “violative of the Fundamental Rights under the Constitution of India and law of the land”.
“Going by the Supreme Court’s clarification on Fundamental Rights, the BCCI has the ‘right to be continued to be associated with only those whom the members voluntarily admit into the association’. Simply put, it’s the cricket board’s discretion, which association gets the affiliation and which one is left out. Also, right to form an association is a Fundamental Right which falls under Article 19 (I) (C),” said the lawyer.
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The bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice FMI Kalifullah, however, has directed the BCCI to “fall in line”. The judges have found the Lodha committee recommendations “straight, rational and understandable” that “deserve respect”. They also said “there is no reason to disagree with the committee. The observations came with a warning that if the cricket administrators fail to act then the court will have the same committee to implement the recommendations.
Pick and choose reforms
“What the judges (the two-member bench) said the other day was just an advice, not an order,” said the ex-board counsel. BCCI vice-president G Gangaraju, also the secretary of the Andhra Cricket Association, reveals that they intend to pick and choose as far as the implementation of the Lodha panel proposals is concerned.
“Yes, we have to pick and choose. Some recommendations like transparency and adhering to the code of ethics are very acceptable. At the same time, we have to safeguard our foundation. So we can’t implement the clauses that intend to overhaul the whole system. The BCCI wouldn’t have been the best cricket body in the world riding on a faulty system,” he said, adding: “We don’t want any confrontation. At the same time, we have every right to protect our own interest. Also, this is a major issue and the members need to discuss it threadbare, which requires time. I think the court will give us time.”
The BCCI had asked state associations to discuss the Lodha Committee report, seek legal opinion and send their feedback. Some associations have already responded, while a few will make a submission on Friday.
Members to question Big-3’s dismantling
The emergent working committee meeting is expected to be a heated affair as South Zone will question the Shashank Manohar-suggested ICC revamp without seeking the board’s views or approval on the same. Manohar, who took over from N Srinivasan, said the financial formula where the big three — India, England and Australia — took the major share of the revenue pie from world cricket would be discontinued and a more equitable distribution would be put in place. Unsurprisingly, many state associations didn’t like the idea of Manohar as they would be financially hit after the revenue reduction. The associations also want to know why Manohar decided to give 6% of ICC revenue received by the Indian board back to the ICC.