The lame duck Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) have one very important function not to perform before the Supreme Court comes up with a draft constitution for the BCCI in two weeks' time: Under no circumstances must they sign the Participating Nations Agreement of the World Test Championship (WTC).
There are serious reservations about the WTC, particularly with broadcast rights and hosting of the final. Only a duly elected, full-fledged BCCI could be trusted to do right by Indian cricket.
The moth-eaten BCCI and CoA had failed to protect Indian cricket’s projected share of ICC’s revenue for the period 2015 to 2023. Hence they must not enter into any more agreement with ICC. Instead they should leave the WTC issue to folks with greater nous and negotiating skills. It was the lack of these skills that let India down very badly during those tumultuous weeks preceding the Champions Trophy.
Significantly, on Thursday, the SC in its observations has acknowledged the importance of experience by indicating that it could reconsider the three-year cooling off period for BCCI office-bearers as recommended by the Lodha Commission. It said the cooling off period would not come into force if the office-bearer was contesting a different post.
This would make substantial difference, especially with regard to continuity and experience in dealing with other boards’ officials and also ICC. Continuity would also enable the incumbent to be realistic of his own organisation’s strengths and weaknesses and thus negotiate accordingly.
The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) tellingly submitted that the cooling off period would only spoil the rhythm and experience garnered by the office-bearer and added that a person’s tenure should not be a “start-stop-start-stop” matter.
The SC Bench also observed that the 'one state one vote' clause did not appreciate age-old association that a few units had with BCCI and their contribution to the development of Indian cricket. Likewise, the role of Indian Railways, Services and Universities in nurturing and growth of the game needed to be taken into account.
Besides the cooling-off period and 'one state one vote' issues that could well be altered when the draft constitution comes out, the additional solicitor general, Tushar Mehta’s argument that “if a person was fit and the people want to elect him back to office, how can the court stop them from doing so?” was interesting.
He asked what was wrong in having an elected representative above 70 years of age when some of them had made decades worth of contribution to the game?
It would be fascinating to see how this argument is handled. Would the courts accept that invaluable experience and knowledge should not be thrown away? Surely, even if those above 70 are not permitted to contest elections, their services could be utilised as consultants or advisors.
In fact it would be extremely silly and self-defeating to discard someone with exceptional skill, experience and ability just because he was above 70 years of age. A way must be found to accommodate extraordinary skills.
The court also indicated that it might agree for a five-man selection committee. The Lodha panel failed to appreciate that this was an administrative matter best left to those running BCCI. If more states and hence more teams are permitted to play in the national championships, there certainly would be many more matches to follow.
BCCI should be left to find its own solution to the increasing number of players and matches. The administrators should decide whether they needed three, five or seven selectors or appoint numerous talent scouts to travel across this vast country to watch matches and track players’ progress.
Perhaps someone saw that Australia had just three selectors and decided that was the system to be implemented for India. But Australia have just five teams engaged in first-class cricket while India have 30 teams. This could soon become 37 if the North East states are given first-class status. So how will three or five selectors be sufficient? May be more would be unwieldy. But that should be BCCI’s call to make and it should be allowed to evolve into a feasible system.
Thus after numerous court hearings, arguments and pleas it looks like some of the more contentious issues of the Lodha panel report might get modified to the satisfaction of a majority of the stake holders. This should be welcomed.
Basically Indian cricket needs to be put on its feet as soon as possible and the draft constitution might well be the start of a new innings. It may be bad news for other nations’ boards and ICC. Their free run on Indian cricket is about to end.