Between Wickets | Cricket

End of reform in sport: a ‘no-change’ ruling could salvage hope

N. Srinivasan. File

N. Srinivasan. File  

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N. Srinivasan well qualified to attend the ICC meeting

Did former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India N. Srinivasan say “We are back” after the BCCI elections? Even if the words sound too cute, the concept is probably right. It means the hope of reform has ended, with the general body meeting on December 1 ready to roll back significant rulings by the Supreme Court.

Old-timers whose actions caused the Supreme Court to focus its attention on cricket administration are getting set to celebrate and to return the cricket board to the days when it was a feudal set-up ruled by a small coterie. This was what the court was trying to change, and what it still can if it puts its foot down.

From the start, the Supreme Court diluted many of its intentions, forgave BCCI its transgressions, and allowed it to interpret the Lodha Committee reforms as it wished, or ignore them altogether.

The BCCI might effectively end reform in sports in general in India — the Indian Olympic Association and national sports federations will be emboldened to take a stronger stand against the sports code. This code was intended to set sports bodies on the path to better governance using terms foreign to them like “transparency” and “accountability.”

The hope

The hope was that if the BCCI, the richest, most powerful and best-run sports body could be made to follow the new code, then it would be easier to get the others, most of whom depend on government handouts, have little say internationally and are often both corrupt and inefficient, to follow suit.

The objections have been basically personal, limited to looking after the office-bearers rather than the sportspeople or the sport itself, and arise out of a fear of long-serving officials being rendered irrelevant. Power, as Henry Kissinger said, is an aphrodisiac, whether political or sporting, and in the case of the BCCI it usually means both.

Still, it is different with cricket because it generates its own funds, has a successful graduation system — from the junior levels to the international — and is more powerful than even the International Cricket Council.

The December 1 meeting will vote on making changes in the cooling off period of the office-bearers, an offshoot of which will see full terms for president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah who otherwise have to quit office in ten months’ time. It also envisages giving the secretary greater, possibly unprecedented powers, and ignoring the court if the constitution is changed.

Back to BCCI normal

In other words, things go back to BCCI normal (which is not the same as normal normal). Thus enormous amounts of money, time and effort would have been wasted in the last half decade on bringing some order to and modernising a sports body that desperately needed to be brought into the 21st century.

The BCCI, now strengthened by the addition of the Home Minister’s son and the brother of the Minister of state for Finance, has traditionally united all political parties. For decades, the ruling party and the opposition have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to oppose any reform, to fight any bill in Parliament that envisaged a reduction in their powers.

The BCCI argues that the Supreme Court has done its job and should now keep out, but that would be assuming that its rulings are followed in letter and spirit. Changes to the constitution that go against the rulings are obviously violations, and need to be seen as defying the edicts laid down by the highest court in the land.

This does not mean, however, that the Supreme Court needs to get into administration at the granular level — a mistake its Committee of Administrators made consistently.

But if the BCCI is intent on ensuring, for example, that the money it loses out owing to the ICC’s new and ridiculous plan of having more annual multi-nation tournaments, then it needs to send a person to such meetings who has both the background and the authority to deal with it.

Here is where Srinivasan would make a difference. He is above 70, it is true, but that does not concern the ICC, and there is something to be said for continuity at the international level. The Supreme Court should temper justice with common sense.

If the BCCI has its way on December 1 — and it could be a unanimous endorsement of its proposals, not just the three-fourths needed — then it would be tantamount to ridiculing the Supreme Court, in the words of the secretary of the Lodha Committee which drafted the reforms later endorsed by the court.

What cannot be denied is that systems have to be put in place. Perhaps the Supreme Court could rule that no changes be made to the constitution for, say, two years. Then a review may be taken on how things have worked out before taking a call on the changes.

This will maintain the sanctity of the Supreme Court’s rulings and be a practical guide on how to proceed.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 9:38:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/end-of-reform-in-sport-a-no-change-ruling-could-salvage-hope/article29956025.ece

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