The irony for cricket lovers, players and the BCCI couldn't have been more crude than this. Just as India was celebrating its new found status as the number one Test playing side in the world, sliding over Pakistan, a real threat of calling off the remainder of the series against New Zealand – one Test match and five one day internationals (ODIs) – looms large on the horizon.
Thanks to the ongoing war between the Supreme Court (SC) appointed Lodha Committee and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a country which has since forever boasted of the 'atithi devo bhava' philosophy might have to ask its guests from New Zealand to pack off and go home early.
Prima facie, the overbearing attitude of Lodha Committee is to be blamed. The BCCI is crying foul; so much so that its president, BJP MP Anurag Thakur, is publicly letting his unhappiness vis-à-vis Lodha Committee, headed by Justice (retd) RM Lodha, known.
Talking to Firstpost, Thakur made it clear that he had not taken kindly to Lodha Committee's directive to freeze BCCI's account and to question its payments to state units.
"Tell me how do you play without (money) being available to states (state cricketing boards) and players. BCCI does not organise matches on its own. It is done by the states concerned in coordination and support from the BCCI. For that the BCCI pays them money. This move will jeopardise the cricketing calendar for the year," Thakur said. He did not, however, comment on the fate of the ongoing India-New Zealand series.
India emphatically won the first and second Test against New Zealand by 197 runs and 178 runs respectively. The third Test is scheduled for 8 October in Indore. Following the third Test, five ODIs are scheduled to be played from 16-29 October in Dharamshala, Delhi, Mohali, Ranchi and Visakhapatnam. After this series is over, England will tour India in November to play five Test matches and three ODIs. Once the English team departs, Bangladesh and Australia are scheduled to land in India.
Thakur added, "No one can say that Indian cricket and BCCI are not functioning efficiently and have not brought in adequate reforms. One would have to care to see the good work done by us. BCCI is a professionally run organisation. See the rankings, India is number one in world in Test cricket, number one in T20, number three in ODI. We organise a highly popular IPL. All these come with the consistent and tireless efforts of the Indian team and the BCCI."
Unlike other sporting bodies, he adds, "We don't take a penny from the government even to build a world class stadium. We, in fact, pay the government through various modes as required."
Thakur asserts that to the best of his understanding of the SC ruling on the appointment of the Lodha panel, its mandate was to make necessary recommendations to the BCCI and not to judge its day to day functioning.
The BCCI chief's grudge, as well as of other senior members and players', against the Lodha Committee is strongest on limiting the number of years one could serve in the BCCI or any of its affiliates and the 'one state one board' formula. "How can Meghalaya and Mizoram have the same weightage as that of Mumbai, which has won the Ranji trophy 44 times," Thakur asks. "Depending on their competitiveness, some of the bigger states have more than one board."
The latest move by the Lodha Committee to freeze two bank accounts of the BCCI – in Yes Bank and Bank of Maharashtra – have blown off the lid on the already simmering ire in the BCCI. It is now up to the SC to provide clarity over the issue when the matter comes up for hearing later this week.
The Lodha Committee thinks that it was recommending sweeping changes or restructuring of BCCI to bring more transparency and accountability in the board's functioning, the BCCI office bearers, present and former, on the other hand, think that the panel's recommendations and directives are too intrusive and impractical.
Take the mail sent to the BCCI by Amiya Seth, President of Yes Bank, into consideration. It says, "This has reference to the below email instructions received from Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Secretary, SC Committee dated 3 October, 2016. In view of the same, we are constrained to put debit freeze on all the account(s) maintained by BCCI with our Bank. We also take this opportunity to request you to avoid banking operations in the said account(s), as they are being placed under debit freeze with immediate effect." Yes Bank sent this communication at 1.15 am on Tuesday.
The communication sent by the DGM of Bank of Maharashtra, Fort Branch Mumbai to BCCI also quotes Sankaranarayanan's email to conclude that "under such circumstances we are stopping all the transactions in your account till getting further instructions from SC Committee."
In a mail sent on Monday to the BCCI secretary and bank officials, Sankaranarayanan of Lodha Committee had said: "It has come to the notice of this Committee that certain decisions have been taken at the 'Emergent Working Committee' meeting of the BCCI on 30 September, 2016 to disburse large funds to the various member associations. You are aware that by way of this Committee's direction dated 31 August, 2016, no further decisions were to be taken regarding the future apart from routine matters. The disbursement of these amounts are not routine, and in any case, not emergent." He concludes his communication by saying, "any violation of this direction will be placed before the Hon'ble SC for appropriate directions."
Thakur cannot understand what stops the Lodha Committee from reaching out to them (BCCI) and have a dialogue before issuing such extreme directives.
The standoff between the Lodha Committee and the BCCI is getting sharper by the day. The ultimate casualty could be the game, which the nation loves so passionately.