If you listen very carefully, you just might be able to hear the sound of hundreds of BCCI and state cricket association officials whimpering all over the country.
That’s because the Justice Lodha Committee report takes a sledgehammer to the cricket board’s formerly impregnable fortress and would replace it with one of the most progressive and equitable sports governing bodies in the world.
The Committee has rightly paid no heed to history, precedent or person in its recommendations, saying so in remarkably direct terms.
“At a time when the nation’s highest court has been compelled to find that the game has fallen into disrepute, only extraordinary steps will bring it back from this chasm. We are conscious that some of our proposals may evoke varied responses, but the collective conscience of this Committee is clear that tough measures are called for to restore Indian cricket to its pinnacle of glory."
“Individual interest will have to be sacrificed for the sake of the institution, and no exigency of convenience or convention shall stand in the way of a whole scale structural overhaul.”
The result is a set of proposals that hit all the right notes and leave no aspect of Indian cricket untouched. The Committee hasn’t simply looked at the way the board functions, it has looked at the way the sport is governed and played in the country and decided, audaciously but rightly, that it all had to be shook up.
If I said I saw this day coming, I’d be lying.
The Committee has, of course, proposed a completely new governing structure for BCCI in order to create space for professional management and to prevent any one individual from dominating the board as former president N Srinivasan did.
Separating the cricket functions from administrative functions and the IPL from everything else are further common sense proposals that would make BCCI officials look silly if they were to oppose them.
Among the more cheer-worthy proposals is the creation of a player’s association, something Indian cricket has desperately needed to bring balance to the relationship between administrators and players. The BCCI has overtly and covertly prevented such an association from rising in the past, thereby making it difficult for the players to speak with one voice.
Not only would an association allow the players to bargain collectively in order to secure the best commercial terms for the players, it would also get to nominate members to the Apex Council, including one female member, giving the players representation in BCCI decisions. This had been a huge glaring hole in the way the board has operated so far.
The BCCI is also a sexist organistion in many respects – it is run entirely by men – and having a woman on the Apex Council would be a historic first step to changing that (though much, much more would need to be done to completely transform it, of course).
There are two other heavy-hitting recommendations that warrant mentioning. The first is that, since the matter is currently sub judice before the Madras High Court, the Committee has recommended “that the legislature must seriously consider bringing BCCI within the purview of the RTI Act”. While this would have obvious benefits, unfortunately, shielding themselves from the glare of the RTI Act has been a priority for BCCI officials, a number of whom are politicians with considerable influence in the corridors of power. Getting them to vote against their own self-interest is extremely unlikely.
The other is the clause that would prevent a minister or government servant from becoming a BCCI office bearer. Too often political power has often been a crucial determinant in cricket body elections and patronage a key bargaining chip. Cricket has also often been used as a platform for politicians to gain a national profile or burnish one.
For example, in the Great Tamasha, Sharad Pawar tells author James Astill that “I take half an hour a day on telephone or internet for ICC work. That's easy enough. And when I was BCCI president, one full day in a month, mostly on telephone, giving instructions.”
Now imagine Sepp Blatter (ignoring for the moment his ban) saying he needed just 30 minutes a day to run FIFA or Thomas Bach saying that about the IOC and you get the idea.
Removing ministers and government servants from the game would allow others with possibly more genuine interest, the will to improve the game and the capability to do so, to be part of the system.
Now the Lodha Committee recommendations are not binding on the BCCI. That decision falls to the Supreme Court. My hope is they will say yes. To everything.
And then the real celebrating can begin.