The ongoing controversy between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Supreme Court (SC)-appointed Lodha Committee escalated to a new level on Tuesday, after the former threatened to call off the India-New Zealand series after claiming that their bank accounts were frozen by the panel.
The Justice RM Lodha-led committee had asked Yes Bank and Bank of Maharashtra — the two banks where the Indian cricket board has its accounts in — to prevent disbursement of funds to the board.
The board retaliated by saying that they would not be able to host New Zealand in their ongoing tour of India, which still has a Test and five One-Day Internationals (ODI) left, if they did not have any funds to start with.
The Supreme Court had appointed the three-member Lodha Committee in January 2015, in the wake of the Justice Mukul Mudgal-led panel's observations on corruption in the Indian cricket administration, with a special focus on the IPL 2013 spot-fixing scandal. In April last year, the Lodha Committee sent an 82-point questionnaire to the board in order to find out how the sport was run in the country, and unveiled a list of sweeping reforms in January this year.
There was a tussle between the two bodies over the implementation of the reforms, which was settled in a landmark verdict by the Supreme Court on 18 July, in which it accepted most of the panel's recommendations. There were two deadlines given to the board for the implementation of the reforms, the failure of which could have invited a contempt-of-court case against the apex cricket body.
The Lodha panel had recently submitted a status report to the Supreme Court, in which it had stated that there were several impediments in the implementations of approved reforms in the BCCI's administration. It also called for action against BCCI’s top-brass, including president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke.
Following the submission of the status report, the SC slammed the world's richest cricket body for its autocratic behavior, asking them to "fall in line or they would force them to".
In their Special General Meeting (SGM) on 30 September, the BCCI brazenly rejected several key reforms, including the 'one-state-one-vote' and an age limit of 70 years, which led to the Lodha Committee's directive to the banks.
But when the board hinted at the possibility of cancelling the India-New Zealand series, it sent shockwaves among the cricket community in the country. Let us take a look at how various individuals and groups reacted to the whole scenario:
BCCI president Anurag Thakur slammed the apex court's move, saying the BCCI cannot organise any tournament if their fund supply was cut off. "Really unfortunate that all BCCI accounts have been frozen, there can't be any tournament without money," the BCCI chief was quoted as saying by ANI.
Another official had much stronger words to offer on the situation. "We don't want India to be humiliated in front of the world. How can we function, how can we hold any games now? Who will make the payment? Freezing a bank account is no joke. An international team is here, and there is so much at stake," a board official was quoted as saying.
But following BCCI's earth-shattering move, Justice RM Lodha reacted by claiming that he had been misunderstood, and that his directive to the banks was simply to prevent the board's disbursement of funds to state associations, and not impede the ongoing India-New Zealand series in any way whatsoever. "Have we stopped them from conducting a series which is a routine affair? Did we ask the banks to freeze BCCI's accounts? We have not ordered them to stop distributing funds on routine matters," he said.
"But the game must go on, the show must go on. But if someone starts misreading my mails, it would be very sad," Justice Lodha was quoted as saying in an exclusive interview with Firstpost, making it very clear that they had not asked the banks to freeze the board's accounts.
Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) as well as the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) denied knowledge of the board calling for the series to be cancelled, saying that they had no such intimation from the BCCI.
"We have received no such intimation from the BCCI," MPCA secretary Kandmadikar was quoted as saying in a report on Hindustan Times.
"I have heard nothing of this sort. As of now, the New Zealand team is scheduled to leave for Indore tomorrow," said CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey in the report.
New Zealand team:
The Black Caps, who already have lost the three-Test series 2-0 following a crushing 178-run loss in the second Test in Kolkata, have confirmed that they were not aware of any such developments, and that they were preparing for the Indore Test as per schedule.
"We’ve heard nothing to the contrary, apart from a few punters at home thinking we’re going home early. We’re jumping on a plane for Indore. We deal with facts, and the facts are we’re headed to Indore," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said in a report on Wisden India.
A New Zealand Cricket (NZC) spokesman said they had heard nothing from the BCCI. "It's the first time we've heard of it," the spokesman told local media. "At the moment we are preparing to play the third Test at Indore as scheduled."
Former India cricketer Kirti Azad criticised the board's threat of cancelling the series, saying that not only is the Supreme Court's judgement unquestionable in its authority, but that preparations for the series had also been done well in advance, and that the decision would jeopardise it all.
"The BCCI has gone mad. This is the judgment of the highest court and not an observation. They don't know that it is the Supreme Court. Hotels are already booked, caterers are already ordered. These arrangements are not done in two days," Azad, a veteran of seven Tests and 23 One-Day Internationals (ODI) was quoted as saying in a report on Catch News.