Troubled by the recent Supreme Court diktat banning anyone from holding a post in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) beyond nine years, those who lost their chairs are ganging up to circumvent the order.
The move is pushed by Chennai-based N Srinivasan, the former BCCI president, who has asked like-minded friends to meet up in Bengaluru in order to find a way out of what he has already described as a "contentious order", claim sources within the board.
Backing Srinivasan is his trusted lieutenant, Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) secretary Kasi Viswanathan, Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) treasurer Biswaroop Dey, and Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) secretary Brijesh Patel, with the letter being instrumental in organising the logistics for said meeting to be chaired by Srinivasan.
Interestingly, the move is said to have the tacit support of ousted BCCI president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke, both comfortable with the Srinivasan gameplan to take the “next logical step to retain control of the board”.
Their armour: Srinivasan still has the votes on his sides, and wields considerable clout within the board, and many state bodies will listen to him and rebel against the order. Buoyed by the statistics, Srinivasan has asked them to revolve the debate around the fact that while retired Justice RS Lodha favoured an 18-year term for board officials, how did the Supreme Court squeeze it to nine years?
Srinivasan has reportedly explained to his associates in the board that even the Indian Constitution does not bar a person from holding a post more than nine years. So how come the country’s apex court was pushing such a judgement?
Srinivasan wants to be back. He has already indicated his willingness to return to the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) where there is no age limit. Some of his associates have even indicated a rebel board and raising nation-wide protests against the Supreme Court order. How this is to be done is what the cricket veteran and golfer from Chennai is currently figuring out.
That he would not take the Supreme Court ruling lying down was evident, because Srinivasan had given enough indications to his associates in the board that he wasn't yet ready to throw in the towel. It is reliably learnt from sources that Srinivasan, after studying the Supreme Court judgment, called up his friends, even offering them airfare and hotel stay for the meeting, because it was “his meeting” and that BCCI funds cannot be used to host such an event.
It is also learnt that Srinivasan has asked BCCI officials to adopt a total rebellious attitude, and remain non-cooperative during the forthcoming ODI series between India and England. “Leave everything to the Supreme Court, let them find officials to conduct the matches,” is his mantra to his band of brothers, claimed sources.
A number of former BCCI officials, including some who recently resigned, have agreed to attend the meeting. “On paper it is an informal discussion but it will have strong ramifications. Srinivasan wants a way out of the mess and retain control,” said the source.
Former Indian player and Lok Sabha member Kirti Azad – who has been at the forefront of BCCI’s spring cleaning – said he was aware of the meeting, but not very worried. “The lamp brightens up when it is about to die, that’s what is happening with them," he said.
Azad, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad, said he had one, small worry. “They have a significant control over the votes, there are chances that they could push their candidates and hold sway over the board, (especially since Srinivasan has become the key figure in BCCI again, to decide the way forward) let’s see what emerges from the meeting.”
The game is not yet over.
Former Indian cricketer Surinder Khanna says he would rather comment once the meeting is over, because there are enough chances of hostility from the board due to the Supreme Court’s decision.
“They would not take it lying down and would definitely circumvent some rules,” says Khanna.
He says, for the record, the administrators will take charge, (after 19 January). However, in order to implement the Lodha reforms, a host of changes must happen within the BCCI. Primarily, the members and officials will have to work together to change the board's constitution — which requires a three-fourths majority.
“But as of now, I am not worried, I am happy the country’s topmost court has pushed sweeping changes in the board,” said Khanna.
But all is not over for the BCCI old guard.
BCCI insiders say this is where Srinivasan hopes to win, because as things stand, at least 17 state associations will still say a definite ‘no’ to the changes. If that happens, the ball could be back in the SC's court, which had made it clear that “all the office bearers of BCCI and of its affiliated State Associations who fail to meet the norms recommended by the Committee and accepted by this Court, shall forthwith demit and cease to hold office”.
Meanwhile, the BCCI president, 11 vice presidents, secretary, four joint-secretaries and treasurer, have all become ineligible following the Supreme Court order. A Special General Body meeting has been planned during the first week of February to decide the way forward.
As of now, things look muddy again. But Srinivasan is not worried, he knows he is in a game which – unlike other sports – is the only one that binds politicians from all parties. Therefore, he will not face too much opposition to his special, informal meeting.
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