Sourav Ganguly, the captain widely credited to infusing aggression in the Indian cricket team, would begin his toughest innings yet. As the president of India’s cricket board — he was the only candidate to file his nomination on Monday — Ganguly is set to reclaim the BCCI reins from the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) on October 23, the day of the elections.
Speaking to reporters, he hinted at the turbulent times under CoA and his road map for the future. “I am taking over at a time when the BCCI has not been in the greatest of position for the last three years. Its image has got hampered quite a lot. It’s a great opportunity for me to do something good. It’s a big responsibility because it is the biggest organisation in the world of cricket. India is a powerhouse. It will be a challenge,” he said.
The foremost concern, he said was regarding the conflict of interest. “Cricketers are a part of the system but the numbers were not that much in the past. Conflict of Interest is an issue and I am not sure whether we will get the best cricketers. It really needs to be looked at. NCA, CAC, appointment of coaches… there has been an issue with everything. The house needs to be set in order,” he said.
Several former and current cricketers had to grapple with the conflict of interest question since the term gained currency post the 2013 spot-fixing scandal. Last April, the conflict of interest shadow was cast on Ganguly himself as he was the Cricket Association of Bengal president as well as an advisor to the IPL franchise Delhi Capitals. Fellow member VVS Laxman too was asked to leave the committee as he was the mentor of IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad and a commentator.
More recently, Rahul Dravid was asked to choose between the post of National Cricket Academy coach or quit his job with India Cements, prompting Ganguly to post an acerbic tweet: “New fashion in Indian cricket …..conflict of interest ….Best way to remain in news …god help Indian cricket!” Even Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar weren’t immune to getting slapped with conflict of interest issues.
To use a common cricketing refrain, Ganguly began on an aggressive note, as he reminded the International Cricket Council that the Indian cricket board hadn’t received funds from the parent body during the time of administrative chaos. “We (Indian board) have not received any money from the ICC in the last 3-4 years. That is going to be one of the agendas now and we need to find a solution because this is leading us nowhere,” he remarked.
Ganguly, as expected, was concerned about the well-being of domestic cricket, which he felt was neglected by the CoA.
“My biggest priority will be to look after first-class cricketers. I have been requesting that to the CoA for three years. That’s the first thing I will do, look after the financial health of our first-class cricketers. We will speak to everyone first as we make a decision but my biggest priority will be to look after first-class cricketers,” he said.
The board, in its AGM, had proposed a pay hike for the domestic cricketers, only to be shot down by the CoA. The shadow war has been a recurring theme in the last few years, with the interim panel and board squabbling over several issues.
Ganguly, though, is accustomed to leading his team out of the darkness. Like when he assumed captaincy on the heels of the worst match-fixing scandal, with India as the focal point, that shook the game.
He is credited with resurrecting the image of Indian cricket by steering it through the choppy waters. From losing the Test series to South Africa at home and being drubbed by Australia Down Under, India recovered quickly with a brand of fresh young players.
In the next five years, he led India to memorable series triumphs against Australia in 2001 and the first-ever in Pakistan. India reached the final of the 2003 World Cup from the brink of a premature exit, shared the Champions Trophy and laid the foundation of a Test side that eventually became the best-ranked team in 2008.
Micro-management of skills
His micro-management skills were often lauded. His judgement of potential and the unshakeable faith in those he considered were worth investing time into were brilliant. As a consequence, a host of match-winners blossomed under him, from Harbhajan Singh to Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag to Yuvraj Singh.
All these skills would be once again put to test, maybe even more vigorously, as he would be dealing with not youngsters or contemporaries but wizened and battle-hardened veteran administrators. The power dynamics and equations are fickle as some of English venues he had encountered. He’s not managing 11 players but a whole country.
He admitted he had a first taste of how the equations within the board could change overnight. “I didn’t know I would be the president when I came down. You [reporters] asked me and I told you it’s Brijesh and when I went up, I came to know it has changed. I have never been in a BCCI election and I never knew it worked like this.”
Having served his term as the CAB’s president, Ganguly is not a novice administrator, Tough as his new stint could be, he wouldn’t shirk away from challenges. Remember, he had an uncanny knack of leaving a memorable first impression. Like the hundreds in his first two Test innings, taking a callow bunch to Champions Trophy final. Can he imprint a memorable first impression in his new innings?