Sourav Ganguly has been Indian cricket's crisis man in the past. During the darkest phase of cricket in India - post the infamous match-fixing scandal that rocked the country in the year 2000 - it was the 'Bengal Tiger' who was given the reins to lift the side. And he did the job handsomely. From the famous Kolkata Test victory in 2001 to memorable overseas wins in England and Australia, Ganguly and Co were a feared unit as the captain rekindled the love for the sport in India.
For a man of such leadership and with an astounding knack for administration, it was only natural that he was the pick once again when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was going through another crisis. The 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal snowballed into a major headache for the cricket board, leading to bigger and unexpected changes in its structure.
The Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee proposed sweeping changes to BCCI's constitution and functioning. Subsequently, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai was given the command by the apex court to implement the Lodha reforms.
The COA's 33-month tenure at BCCI, however, was a mixed bag. While the administrators drew up the new constitution for the board, the leadership wasn't always as desired. The differences between Rai and co-administrator Diana Edulji always played out in the middle while it was felt from the outside that BCCI was slowly losing its clout in International Cricket Council (ICC). The board was voted out on the new revenue model proposed by ICC in 2017 and saw its income coming down.
The richest cricket board in the world was in the need of an assured leadership to steady the boat amid choppy waters; a president who would have been loved by the fans, administrators, and office-bearers equally. And there was only one name possessing all of those qualities. It was under these circumstances that Ganguly emerged as the consensus candidate at the BCCI election in October 2019 with the coming together of old guard Anurag Thakur, N Srinivasan, Niranjan Shah, and Rajeev Shukla factions.
This, despite the fact that Ganguly would have to demit the office in July 2020 due to the 'cooling-off' period rule, went on to show the importance he held as a candidate. Ganguly held posts (secretary and president) in the Cricket Association of Bengal for the past five years before becoming BCCI president and as per the new constitution, an administrator can only serve six years on the trot at the state association or the board or a combination of both. After the completion of six years, the administrator has to serve a mandatory 'cooling-off' period.
In his maiden press interaction as BCCI's boss, Ganguly charted out his priorities that included taking Indian cricket forward, getting India their due from ICC, improving the domestic cricket structure et al. He was also quick to get off the blocks, giving us the feeling that Anil Kapoor gave us in the movie 'Nayak'. Within 10 days of his appointment, the former India captain met the current captain Virat Kohli to discuss the road map for Indian cricket. He announced that India would be playing their first day-night Test — which was played at Eden Gardens against Bangladesh in November, he went to meet National Cricket Academy (NCA) head and his former teammate Rahul Dravid to discuss ways to improve the academy, the conveyor belt of talents.
The biggest of the moves came during the Annual General Meeting in December when the Ganguly-led BCCI decided to dilute several of the Lodha reforms including amending the 'cooling-off' period rule and giving BCCI the power to change their constitution without SC's permission. However, all of the decisions have to be ratified by the apex court itself.
Under Ganguly, BCCI also began to flex their muscle to ICC. From staying non-committal to the international council's plan of having a flagship event every year in 2023-28 cycle to the ongoing tussle over the 2021 T20 World Cup in India, the board has consistently stood firm on what it feels is the best for cricket in the country. According to a report, BCCI secretary Jay Shah has also proposed a new revenue distribution system to ICC that is certain to take care of India's interests.
Ganguly's tenure so far has been an eventful one from all imaginations considering it also saw the indefinite postponement of IPL 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The BCCI, however, just a week back, filed a petition in SC seeking approval for the extension of Ganguly and Shah's tenure. This is a second such petition after the one filed in December, which never came up for hearing. If the current petition also doesn't come up for a hearing or the verdict doesn't come in favour of BCCI, then Ganguly would have to relinquish his position next month. In the meantime, there are also talks that the former Bengal cricketer could replace Shashank Manohar as ICC chairman which indicates that BCCI is already preparing for Ganguly's exit.
If Ganguly is forced to quit as BCCI president next month then he will leave with a lot done but still without touching one of his most important and initial promises. Even before he took over the president's post and even after his appointment, Ganguly regularly iterated and reiterated that his "biggest priority will be to look after first-class cricketers". He said it will be "the first thing" he will do (after becoming president). He proposed a contract system for the first-class cricketer to provide them financial security. And there's no better person than the bold and determined Ganguly to do something good for players, after all, he was one of them just a few years back.
However, we have not seen much or heard of about progress on the contract front in these last eight months. It's no secret that few of the posts in BCCI lie vacant with appointments on hold in anticipation of the SC ruling but they did find the time to devise a new revenue model for ICC. Similarly, Ganguly must press harder to give a real shape to his idea before his tenure gets over as there's no better person than him to make the proposal a reality. The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could present itself as a blockade but a delayed start for the contracts could become the solution.
At the same time, Ganguly should also consider another important issue before demitting the office. There's been a growing call for Indian players to be free for playing in foreign T20 leagues and Ganguly must do all in his power to do the right thing. Then, there's the demand for a women's IPL. Such a tournament would provide the necessary fillip to women's cricket in India to reach the next level.
A nine or ten months tenure is never going to be enough to do everything, however, if it's to get over next month, Ganguly, a perpetual players' captain, should look to leave behind a memorable legacy with players at the centre of it.
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