“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel both”
It has happened to all of us, and currently it is happening to Indian cricket and to the BCCI. There are two roads in front of them, and they have to choose the right one. In Robert Frost’s much studied poem, the narrator chooses “the one less travelled by” and while those are beautiful words the choice is often difficult to make. For the BCCI, though, the choice is much easier. They only have to choose the right road, and there are giant billboards announcing it at the fork.
The BCCI has done quite a few things right in the last 24 months; the decision to have a regular home season, the great importance shown to India ‘A’ cricket and Under-19 cricket, the building of its finances, the creating of data bases through filming of domestic cricket. However, a lot of that has got overshadowed by the events off the field at the IPL, by the conflict of interest issues and by the way many state associations have conducted themselves.
The second of those seems to be on the path of resolution but the first and the third present a challenge and need a very quick answer. The divergent paths are the paths of revenue and of faith. Luckily Indian cricket is in a situation where if you choose the path of faith, it could, down the road, meet the path of revenue. Not everyone is as lucky to have such choices. But if you choose the path of revenue, then you run the risk of diverging from the path of faith.
Last week I asked that the two franchises for the IPL be selected on pedigree rather than the size of the bid. And now my request is that the state associations, the first point of contact for young cricketers and fans, be made to adhere to the highest levels of governance. Stories like those coming out of Delhi do huge harm to Indian cricket; not maybe as much to the finances but to the faith the fan has in the BCCI.
The Lodha Commission is expected to lay down norms for governance and fans in India are resting their hopes on it.
Hopefully it will be binding. But even more, I hope the BCCI makes it binding on itself to set up norms even before the Lodha Commission does. That will show intent and thought; it will send out a message that we are thinking of cleaning our own house before the external housekeepers come in.
Top of that list has to be the way state associations are managed. Currently, they are sitting on a huge consumer product but managing it with the rules of a small music academy. Admittedly, there are many state bodies where the intent is good and you can see that in the love with which the new stadiums have been built. But the events in Delhi give the impression everything in Indian cricket is bad, and that is why a quick reaction is essential. The first point, maybe even the only point, is to change the way state associations vote their office bearers in.
It would be tempting to say that associations should be handed over to former cricketers. It is a popular myth that if you know how to hit or bowl a cricket ball, you will also know how to handle balance sheets, cricket fans and building contractors. Indeed, associations have been managed by cricketers before and the outcome has ranged from excellent to poor. Luckily, good men are not hard to find if you look for them.
Times are changing in India. The awareness is greater but most important an aggressive Supreme Court has demanded answers.
The path of faith and good intent is calling out. It is a good one to take. In the long run, it may even be the profitable one to take.