The Supreme Court had intervened in the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) last year to make it a transparent and professional body, but recent developments suggest that it seems to have had just the opposite effect. Quite a bit of chaos seems to have set in the organisation in the last six months, since the Supreme Court set up the four-member Committee of Administrators headed by Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, as the interim body to oversee the change.
The chaos is evident from the manner in which Ravi Shastri applied for the job of the coach of the men’s cricket team of India on 3 July. The BCCI had sought applications for Team India coach in May this year, just before Anil Kumble’s contract was about to end. The BCCI had then made it clear that Kumble need not apply and that his would be a direct entry into the race.
On 1 June, the BCCI announced that it has received applications from five candidates including ex-India opener Virender Sehwag, former Australia cricketer Tom Moody, current Afghanistan team head coach Lalchand Rajput, former Goa coach Dodda Ganesh and director of Cricket West Indies, Richard Pybus. These five were to compete against Kumble, the incumbent cricket coach of India.
But on 20 June, soon after the end of the ICC Champions Trophy in London, Kumble resigned as India coach and made it clear that his decision had much to do with his differences with India captain Virat Kohli. The unofficial messages circulating from the BCCI were that Kohli wanted Ravi Shastri as the coach for his team. Apparently, deferring to Kohli’s wishes, the BCCI decided to extend the date for application to the post so that Shastri could formally apply. Shastri seems to have obliged the BCCI by applying for the job of coach on Monday.
Shastri is supposed to be on an assignment in London till the third week of July. But the Team India coach has to accompany the team on its tour to Sri Lanka where they would play the first one-day match on 21 July. So the date of selection has been fixed for 10 July. In order to enable Shastri to participate in the selection process without any hitch, the BCCI has allowed a candidate to take part in the interview by video conference — a provision which was available last year too.
In fact, Shastri was also a candidate then too. He was in fact the incumbent candidate last year, having held the role of director of the cricket team. Shastri had also appeared in the selection interview last year through video conference. Shastri had then publically expressed his unhappiness as Kumble was preferred over him in the final selection.
Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain and a selector last year, had responded to Shastri saying that if the latter was serious about the job, he should have appeared in person, not via video from Bangkok while holidaying there. But this year, Shastri would most likely again take part in the same way. Even if Ganguly is again a member of the selection team, Shastri is most likely to be given the role, as he is the preferred choice of the Indian captain.
But what message does that send out? Is Indian cricket administration being open, transparent and professional or is it hurtling down in the opposite direction? A lot of questions will be raised. The biggest one will be whether the captain of the Indian team can hold the entire cricket administration to ransom. But let us not forget that things have come to such a sorry pass only because the cricket administration has been virtually emasculated in the last several months.
The Supreme Court last year dismissed, rightly so, the scheming office-bearers of the BCCI but did not put in place a viable alternative mechanism. The four-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) that was set up, as the interim body to look after the affairs of the BCCI while the Lodha Commission recommendations were implemented in order to restructure the BCCI set-up, has been singularly inept in handling the matter. Ramachandra Guha, one of the four members of the CoA, in his resignation letter last month, made a strong indictment of Vinod Rai, head of the CoA, for turning a blind eye to the shenanigans going on in the BCCI.
Last week, Diana Edulji, former Indian women’s cricket team captain and member of the CoA, went public questioning the decision of the BCCI to invite fresh applications for the coach’s job while keeping the CoA in the dark in the matter. Imagine, the body which was appointed by the Supreme Court of India to be the interim administrator has turned out to be just a mute spectator.
The man in command of the BCCI today is Rahul Johri, the CEO of the BCCI, another egregious creation of the SC. Supposed to be a professional, this gentleman was hired at a cost of almost Rs 6 crore a year (with the built-in provision for Rs 1 crore increment every year). He was supposed to report to the BCCI administration. But given the vacuum in the traditional BCCI set-up, after the overhaul effected by the Supreme Court, he has become an autonomous centre of power. What is glaring is that Rai, the ace bureaucrat, has been playing second fiddle to Johri.
Look at the nonchalance of Johri when he was asked as to why he did not inform, let alone take permission from, the CoA about the decision to invite fresh applications for the coach’s job. He simply replied: “Everyone concerned was informed.”
This is an anomalous situation. For almost a year, the state associations of the BCCI and those at the national level have been stubbornly opposing the Lodha reforms and have virtually derailed the process. The Supreme Court-appointed four-member Committee of administrators — now reduced to three with Guha’s resignation and expected to be reduced further soon to two as Vikram Limaye is set to join as the MD of the National Stock Exchange next month — has been singularly unequal to the challenge of seeing through the transition. Here is a situation where the writ of one man runs over the BCCI, a man who had not had even a passing acquaintance with the cricket administration barely a year ago.
It is time the Supreme Court wakes up to this reality and set things in order. SC is scheduled to meet on July 14 to take a call on the BCCI matter. It must have become crystal clear to the SC bench adjudicating this case that had the state associations been willing to accept the Lodha recommendations on mere persuasion, they have not done it over a year ago. They will continue to stall the recommendations as long as they can.
In order to break this impasse, it is necessary for the Supreme Court to give a verdict making the Lodha recommendations judicially enforceable. If the Apex Court does not take a final call soon, all the good work done by it in the last one year to set the BCCI in order will gradually fritter away.