Overreach is a deceptive word. Since we have not defined the limits of reach, our understanding of overreach will always be vague, open to subjective interpretation. The same goes for activism; one never knows when activism ends and hyper-activism begins. So let's not use it while discussing the tussle between the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee versus Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The "versus" scenario, however, is unfortunate and troubling. How can a mere sports body — forget how powerful and rich it is — be in direct confrontation with the top court of the country? It is simply in no position to be defiant. However, since that is how the media discourse has painted the matter so far, let's go with it for now.
A better way to put the Supreme Court's approach towards the BCCI would be like this: It's using a bulldozer where a few sledgehammer blows would have sufficed. The Lodha panel's recommendations, though potentially reformative and desirable in places, are too sweeping as a whole.
The panel treads in areas that should be the domain of seasoned administrators and people entrenched in managing Indian cricket for long. For example, it specifies how many selectors should be there to choose the national squad and what qualifications they should hold. It also recommends no advertisements during change of ends.
While the Supreme Court did leave the matter of advertisements to the BCCI, the hint that the panel is trying to micro-manage cricket administration is hard to miss. The BCCI's stubborn resistance to any substantial change is difficult to justify; it suggests arrogance. But the panel's approach appears to be dismissive of the competence of the cricket board and its achievements.
It's the most powerful cricket body in the world and also the richest. The stature, which India as a country would love to achieve, didn't come overnight. It takes sound thinking and the spirit of innovation to judge the call of the times. As the manager of cricket in the country, the BCCI has done a tremendous job of making the right moves at the right time, and keeping the public support for the game going stronger. At a point when Test cricket was losing fans, it was quick to read the writing on the wall and make adjustments. ODIs spiced up the cricketing scene and then came Twenty-20 cricket, all with sound marketing strategies.
That all three formats of the game survive and thrive, providing both playing opportunity and money to a large pool of players, must be credited to the BCCI. During the last couple of decades, the game has gone deeper into the country, away from the metro or urban centres, throwing up incredible talent from places not even with basic infrastructure. There exist massive economic activities revolving around cricket; it provides steady income to thousands who have little to do with the actual game.
If the above paragraphs show the BCCI in glorious light, that's not the intention. The intention is to bring perspective to the debate. All those aggressively rooting for the implementation of the Lodha panel report tend to presume that the cricket board has been terribly inefficient and corrupt. For a sports body that has achieved so much, it is a bit unfair. It must be doing many things right to reach the stature it has.
Yes, it's an elite club of the rich and mighty. The in-group holds strong to the point of being exclusive, arrogantly so. It's a convergence point of many things unwanted, including tainted money and persons. Its indifference to the serious acts of corruption within is blameworthy. However, all these are peripheral matters to the core job the board performs. And it has not done badly at all in managing cricket. A wholesale change may take out all the good things with the bad. That may prove unhealthy for the board.
That is why we bring in the imagery of bulldozer and sledgehammer. Perhaps a few strong corrective blows in places would have been more effective than total demolition and overhaul. But then, the courts know better.