When Shashank Manohar replaced the late Jagmohan Dalmiya as BCCI president in October last year, he was widely hailed as the ideal person to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds and protects the Indian cricket board. Seen as an honest, no-nonsense administrator, Manohar made all the right noises at the press conference following his election, promising to transform the board's image and restore the public's faith in Indian cricket's governing body. That, however, has not come to pass.
In a terse one paragraph statement, the BCCI announced Manohar’s resignation on Tuesday. To be sure, Manohar did manage to make some significant changes in his brief tenure. He framed rules regarding conflicts of interest and appointed an ombudsman to oversee them. He instituted an independent audit of funds sent to member associations and started posting expenses over Rs 25 lakh on the BCCI website.
But when it came to the elephant in the room, Manohar was either as powerless as the rest of us or as resistant to the Justice Lodha Committee reforms as the rest of cricket's oligarchic officials.
We should not forget that Manohar is a man steeped in the culture of the board. He was secretary when Clause 6.2.4 was amended to allow N Srinivasan to buy the Chennai IPL franchise and was criticised for his evasiveness back in 2011 by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that investigated financial impropriety in the IPL.
Whatever the reality, Manohar has now decamped for the safer shores of the ICC, where, if he wins the election for chairman, he appears bent on undoing the damage N Srinivasan did to the collective cause of world cricket (new ICC rules require the chairman to step down from his member board). This would undoubtedly earn him praise and appreciation from the other, financially less powerful boards, and cast him as cricket's white knight, a role that he seems determined to seize. The BCCI's stringent opposition to the Lodha Committee report made it impossible for Manohar to fulfil that role had he remained president. And if the Supreme Court were to order the report's implementation, it would doubtless get the credit and Manohar would be seen as the president that presided over the end of the BCCI as we have known it. It was, in effect, a lose-lose situation.
His departure also leaves a vacuum at the top of the board. It ostensibly clears the decks for Thakur to step into the top post — he is already seen as the power behind the throne — but he would face the same problem as Manohar (as would any other successor). But, if the new president can somehow successfully stare down the Supreme Court (albeit unlikely), he would then be seen inside the walls as the man who saved the board.
Thakur is an intriguing figure in cricket administration. He has done some good things as head of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, especially the building of the picturesque stadium at Dharamsala. And he recently proposed a private member bill — The National Sports Ethics Commission Bill — that would criminalise fixing in sport and provides a maximum jail term of 10 years. It would also set up a body to deal with ethics-related issues such as age fraud, doping and sexual harassment.
Should the bill be more than a publicity exercise and actually be passed in Parliament, it would mark a fundamental change in the governance of sport in India. However, it also does not touch upon term limits and age limits for officials, which is to say it is less of a threat to administrators who control member associations and national federations.
At the same time though, Thakur has also opposed the implementation of the Lodha Committee report in full. Should he step into Manohar's shoes, as BJP member of Parliament, he might be in a better position to continue the board's dogged fight in court.
In a delicious piece of irony, the one person who appears to be the most outraged about Manohar's resignation is Aditya Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar, whose court case set in motion events that led to the Lodha Committee report. Verma had championed Manohar as president while demonising former president N Srinivasan. He has a different view today; he actually praised his bitter enemy for being a honest opponent who "never ditched his friends", while castigating Manohar as a "power-hungry official".
"When he (Manohar) was not in power, he spoke about cleansing the game and now he is leaving BCCI without completing his job. Also, he is a man who believes in back-stabbing as he and his group used me in their battle against Srinivasan and then backstabbed without fulfilling promises," Verma told PTI.
This has ever been the way of the BCCI. The more things appear to change, the more they stay the same.