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Selection of new IPL teams should be scrutinised very closely

IPL is an outstanding brand but like all things precocious, it lives on the edge sometimes, Harsha Bhogle writes.

Written by Harsha Bhogle |
Updated: November 14, 2015 9:43:36 am
IPL, IPL teams, new IPL teams, Indian premier league, IPL BCCI, BCCI IPL, IPL BCCI teams, Harsha Bhogle column, Harsha Bhogle article, cricket news, cricket The new BCCI regime, led by president Shashank Manohar and secretary Anurag Thakur have taken a step in the right direction by appointing an ombudsman. (Source: PTI)

A new administration always seeks to stamp its presence quickly and that is what we are seeing with the BCCI. Inevitably, some changes will be good, others not quite but there is one that I am excited by and it comes with a wish that the sentiment is extended.

For at least fifteen years I have been arguing that it is impossible for all knowledge and wisdom to reside within a body or an organisation and that for the BCCI to remain healthy and outward looking, it must seek to tap the knowledge of those that are acknowledged to be men of integrity and who carry respect with them. Many years ago I had suggested that cricket lovers and icons like Deepak Parekh, Narayana Murthy and someone from the judicial world be requested to look at corporate governance norms within the BCCI. These were people who ran respected organisations and adhered to governance norms. And their stature was such that nobody could bully them into slipping convenient clauses in.

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There was another reason. In our noisy world of instant trials (and equally instant forgetfulness), justice must be seen to done as well. The fan, the true owner of Indian cricket, must believe that those running his/her sport for him/her have the best interest of the sport at heart. I was seeking a panel of people, effectively ombudsmen, who would act as moral lighthouses. I have always believed that those who are part of Indian cricket are blessed and must use that fortune to do what is right, either by themselves or collectively. An independent panel would be able to see whether what was happening was appropriate. I also believed it would be a sign of confidence from the custodians of Indian cricket.

Now, we are moving there. From having coaches, physios, trainers and players in IPL teams, the BCCI has now cast its net wider in search of the best talent and the appointment of Justice AP Shah, a man of much respect in the judiciary and beyond, as the ombudsman and, by definition, independent of the BCCI, is excellent. I would have liked to see people like him on the IPL governing council as well; not to take cricketing decisions but to see if the right processes were being followed.

The IPL needs it. It is an outstanding brand but like all things precocious, it lives on the edge sometimes. It is 8 years old, still a child, but one that has performed prodigious deeds. The abundant energy of the IPL needs to be channelized for it to become an enduring brand and that is why it needs moral lighthouses of the kind I mentioned earlier. The additional members on the governing council need not form a majority but their voice will have to be heard and followed. They will not be a threat but a source of strength.

Especially now with the tricky decision to have two new teams for only two years. Irrespective of the reasons for their exit, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were hugely popular teams and players aspired to be part of them. They were largely happy teams and their absence will hurt the IPL. But two new teams with a short term existence, and therefore with short-term intentions, need to be looked at very carefully. They must enter the IPL for the right reasons and therefore the selection of these teams needs to be scrutinised very closely. While the new reverse auction is a very clever process, and one that could maximise revenues, I would still urge the IPL Governing Council to look beyond profits and look for promoters of very obvious pedigree. Integrity cannot be monetised but in the long run it is the strongest asset anyone can have.

I also hope the new administration in the BCCI is a little less sensitive to criticism for there is nothing you can do about it. Given the size of cricket in India, and the power that the BCCI wields globally, there will always be unhappy voices around. In a slightly different world, some of us on twitter see this on a daily basis. We get illogical, cruel, mischievous comments directed at us but some very good ideas and thoughts emerge from there too. In course of time you get to know who means well and whom to ignore.

Once the fire-fighting is done, once the Lodha Commission has had its say and it that has been implemented, I would like to see a couple of big steps taken towards making Indian cricket more contemporary and competitive. For a start, 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy dilutes competition and therefore cannot produce tough and ready cricketers. We need no more than 15 so that playing the Ranji Trophy is itself a huge accomplishment. It will affect the way the BCCI is run but if the playing strength of Indian cricket has to come first, then you have to do what it takes.

I wonder too about the system of picking selectors on a zonal basis. Zone defined cricket is, happily, a thing of the past. It was a wonderful decision to play with teams across India rather than within a zone. And with that, the need to have selectors from specific zones should have vanished too. Since I hardly ever interact with people within the BCCI, I am unaware of the reason but it must be a pretty strong one.

For all the criticism directed towards it, the BCCI has always been run by people who’ve loved Indian cricket, and that includes people who have just moved out. That is a strength that needs to be built on. I look forward to more appointments like that of Justice Shah.

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