Goodbye BCCI, welcome CI, or why it’s time to change the name

As national players have got younger, administrators have got older and more out of touch. This had to change, and it has.

July 20, 2016 03:16 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:39 am IST

The > Supreme Court has dragged the moribund Board of Control for Cricket in India kicking and screaming into the 21st century. For so long a feudal set-up with its own infallible gods and unwritten codes, the BCCI is set to welcome professionalism, and the two things it has been fighting against throughout its existence: transparency and accountability.

The change from an individual-run or coterie-ruled establishment to one with proper systems in place will be nothing short of dramatic. The focus shifts from the individual to the collective. The BCCI is unhappy, so the ruling must be sound.

The first word in the 143-page judgement is “change”, and an interesting trio — Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein — has been quoted. When you are finished changing, said Franklin, you are finished.

End game The BCCI, now in its eighth decade, finished changing long ago, and now it is finished. To be replaced by a body that, theoretically at least, should be less political, less subject to the whims and fancies of one or two individuals, and more bound by rules than before.

Perhaps it is time to change the name too. The “Control” in BCCI is an anachronism, a colonial hangover and a tribute to the bad old days when control was indeed its main aim. It is time for a shorter, sharper, modern name. ‘Cricket India’ is all of these, and rolls off the tongue more easily than “Board of Control for Cricket in India”.

It will be interesting to see how the BCCI (or CI) responds to the ruling. It is never bored of control, never short of opportunists and puppets who prop up one another, and never short of ideas about how to remain in control.

Ironically, the reforms can be seen as the legacy of former president N. Srinivasan. Had he not misjudged the national mood and tried to manipulate his way out of trouble while saving his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, it is unlikely that the spot-fixing scandal of 2013 would have got this far. Those who cry judicial activism will do well to remember that the BCCI brought this upon itself. Good for the game, but not so good for the long-lasting, self-serving administrators many of whom now find they have to bow out, having crossed the ‘retirement’ age of 70.

A new generation takes over, without the baggage of those who began with good intentions but found it more convenient to accept the system than attempt to change it. As national players have got younger, administrators have got older and more out of touch. This had to change, and it has.

There are cricketers who are corrupt administrators just as there are politicians who can be good ones. But the balance of opinion is against the politician, and the churning might do the game good.

Eliminate the evils of voting The removal of the proxy system and the strictures against “social clubs” arrogating to themselves the power to vote in administrators will eliminate the evils of voting in the State associations.

The one-State one-vote system worries only the administrators who see the sport in terms of power bases and as a means to influence-peddling. Maharashtra (including the Cricket Club of India) had four votes. The president’s voting powers were irrational too. In Jagmohan Dalmiya’s time, he had a vote as the chairman conducting the meeting, as the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, as representative of the National Cricket Club, and as if all that were not enough, he had a casting vote too.

By bringing rationality into voting systems, the Supreme Court has ensured fairness and uniformity, two other words the BCCI was allergic to.

It called the five vice-presidents merely “ornamental” and has replaced the all-powerful working committee with the Apex Council. By turning to the North East, the Supreme Court has forced the BCCI to do one of its primary duties — take cricket to all corners of the country. But this is also where there is room for manipulation, as Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh become mainstream with a vote each. Favour-mongering is indicated.

The television revenue stream has been left untouched, which is good and the question of legalising betting has been left for the Parliament to rule on, which is as it should be. There might be some discomfort over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s representative finding a place in the Apex Council, but he might have a role initially at least.

Implications The judgement has implications for sport in general. The BCCI is the best-run sports body in the country, and generates its own funds. Yet it needed straightening out. There is a call to apply the Supreme Court’s rulings in other sports bodies reliant on government handouts and run by politicians as personal fiefdoms.

In the end the BCCI’s arrogance and its members’ intransigence brought it to a stage where there was little room for manoeuvre. Still, going gently into the night is not a BCCI habit. It might be useful to remember, though, that it was Cricket versus the BCCI in the courts, and cricket won.

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