Whatever decision the Supreme Court takes on the morrow, one thing is pretty certain: Indian cricket is headed for an upheaval. The cricket season has already started and teams (affiliated units) are in the thick of on-field action. Yet the focus is not on them but on the Supreme Court and its orders expected to be pronounced on Friday.
Currently, it is not only the India versus New Zealand Test series that cricketers, umpires, ground staff, commentators, media and scores of others are engaged with. There is a massive work force out there in all forms of cricket ranging from Ranji Trophy to Under-23, Under-19, Under-16, Under-14, women’s matches and of course the state and district units’ local league, inter-school, inter-collegiate, corporate and other tournaments. In fact, thousands of cricket matches are scheduled for the season across the length and breadth of India. All that and the various industries which support them with equipment, food, water, clothing, accommodation, transportation, etc could come to tears if the Supreme Court so deems it on Friday.
The court on Thursday was scathing in its observations, virtually accusing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of wasting its time when the latter sought more time to get the state associations to agree to reconstitute and ultimately initiate reforms.
The court would have nothing of it and said as much: "They (State associations) cannot say 'give us money, but we will not reform.' Tell them that if they want money from you (BCCI), first reform. Otherwise, we will stop all payments of money to them from you...and this will include repayment of money disbursed by you. They are reluctant because you support them," Chief Justice Thakur lashed out, according to a report of the court proceedings.
When the BCCI through its senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that they could not stop the disbursement as the domestic season had already started, the Court was unyielding: "Then there will be no domestic matches. If matches are to be conducted, they will be held in a transparent manner. Season or no season, we will not allow a penny to be wasted. Objectivity and transparency is more important than seasons," Chief Justice Thakur said.
It was obvious from his remarks that the court was acceptable for Indian cricket to live without matches till its orders were met or the BCCI agreed on the morrow to enforce it within a reasonable period of time.
The BCCI's approach to the entire issue of the Lodha Committee has been self-defeating, to say the least. Its key members chose not to depose before the committee in the early days and thus left the field open to detractors, some of whom had struggled with administration or were disgruntled parties.
The Lodha Committee could not be faulted for this and repeatedly stated that they were only implementing some of the suggestions given by former cricketers and cricket fans. By the time the BCCI stirred itself into some action, the moment had slipped away from it.
Even later, some of the BCCI’s posturing and actions continued to confound and confuse. On the one hand it said it had respectfully and courteously dealt with the Lodha Committee’s directives and was agreeable to implementing some of the recommendations. But on the other hand it issued statements that said something else.
It could have made a point if all the members had quit en masse, but they chose not to. Now that moment seems to have passed.
The court seems firm that the Lodha Committee’s recommendations are converted to policies and implemented at the earliest. Any appeal or request from the BCCI is seen as time wasting and the Chief Justice said as much: "Stop wasting our time."
However, the big challenge for the board would be to get all the state associations to accept changes in their constitution. Different state associations are formed under different acts: Societies Act of their respective states, Companies Act, etc. To get them to dissolve or adopt a new constitution would be a time consuming, uphill task, especially if it is done in a democratic way.
But with the court in no mood to agree to BCCI’s requests, the board is not only stuck between a rock and a hard place but also in for some pretty ugly times.