Between wickets | Columns

If it is back to the future, why did cricket bother at all?

Returning to the old ways is being sought to be justified saying that a strong BCCI with its problems is a better alternative to uncertainty and ambiguity

Some time soon the Supreme Court will decide just how cricket is to be run in India. It could lean either towards reform, a move it initiated two years ago by accepting the Lodha Committee’s report in full. Or it could favour the status quo by ignoring its own initial energy and saying in effect that transparency and accountability don’t really matter, and what matters is preserving the old wine in old bottles.

If it is the latter, cricket, and sport in India would have lost because if the House of Cricket is cleaned up, then there are other houses that will present less of a problem, the houses of athletics, hockey, football, wrestling and so on.

Feel emboldened

If the BCCI gets its way, then the others will be emboldened despite the fact they don’t generate even a small percentage of the income the BCCI does or run the game with anything approaching its organised manner of doing so.

The former Australian captain Ian Chappell wrote recently of his cricketing credo. He told his players they had a duty to leave the game at least as strong as it was when they entered it, the implication being they should aim to leave it in a stronger state. Cricket officials are morally bound to do the same. The Supreme Court has the legal responsibility too.

And yet, the highest court in the land — which has allowed the Board of Control for Cricket in India to treat its rulings with contempt — indicated recently that the way forward is to go backwards.

Perhaps there will be no “cooling off period” after all, where an office bearer was to have a three-year gap between postings. Perhaps no “one-state-one-vote” either and maybe the cut-off age of 70 might be done away with too. The new BCCI might be the old BCCI minus the reform, but with longer serving fiefdoms and officials who feel nobody can touch them.

Difference of opinion

Since May 2013, when the spot-fixing scandal broke in the IPL, and led to the entry of the Supreme Court to set the house in order, cricket administration in the country has been in a whirl. The court-appointed Committee of Administrators and the BCCI have been at loggerheads, rather in the manner two factions of the old BCCI often were.

Some of the discontent has been personal, some professional, and many avoidable. The Supreme Court backed its own chosen body (although it didn’t get around to replacing the two men who quit a year ago), but now seems inclined in the opposite direction.

If it is back to the future for the BCCI, the only people to have gained from the whole exercise would be the lawyers. The amount of money and time and effort expended on setting Indian cricket on the straight and narrow has been enormous. The psychological effect of this (and not just on other sports) might be incalculable. Kicking the heel in and resisting stoutly might become a legal tactic with a good chance of succeeding where logical arguments and big-picture points of view fail.

Rise of the CoA

When the Supreme Court sacked the serving president and secretary of the BCCI, it sent the message that it meant business. The BCCI received the message, looked at it briefly, and then decided to ignore it. It didn’t help that as the confusion mounted, with little progress towards putting the Lodha recommendations in place, the CoA jumped in to suggest to the court that this now two-member, unelected ‘committee’ should be given the responsibility of running the game in the country.

From an advisory body representing the Supreme Court, appointed to oversee the implementation of the Lodha Committee reforms, it moved centre-stage, displaying the kind of ambition the old bandicoots of the BCCI would have been proud of.

If the BCCI calculated that sheer inaction might lead to court-fatigue, and a restoration of its glorious past when accountability and transparency were merely words in the dictionary, it is probably preparing for celebration now.

Somewhere between the saner elements in the BCCI, the CoA and the Supreme Court, the concept of reform seems to have been lost. Going back to the old ways is being sought to be justified saying that a strong BCCI with all its problems is a better alternative to uncertainty and ambiguity.

After all, the paid CEO organised a transparent media rights auction and generally ensured that whatever the state of the BCCI itself, the revenue streams flowed thick and fast. And uninterrupted.

End-game

It is possible that things are coming to a head in the long-running saga. Will the original Lodha recommendations carry the day or will we have a watered down version? Lodha himself has responded to the latter possibility with one word: “Disgusting”.

Perhaps we will finish with nothing at all, and the whole exercise will be a footnote in the story of Indian cricket. If so, the U-turn will serve as the symbol of Indian sport.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 11:51:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/if-it-is-back-to-the-future-why-did-cricket-bother-at-all/article24503899.ece

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