Two years after the formation of the Committee of Administrators (January 30, 2017) is probably as good a time as any to take stock of its impact on India's cricket eco-system.
Of course two years might not seem much in the cricketing history of a nation. But because the Supreme Court formed the Lodha panel in January 2015 and the Lodha panel itself submitted its report on January 4, 2016 this state of flux appears like it has been around for a very long time.
Significantly, in its two year existence, the CoA has not had a smooth ride. It started off as a four-person team with Vinod Rai as chairman. Of the other three, Diana Edulji had played cricket for Indian women while the other two, Vikram Limaye and Ramchandra Guha had made a name in other fields.
Rai, while speaking of his team had stated that they had "independent thought process. With the diverse experience, the COA is far more capable of objectively evaluating the interests of cricket in India than people who have been in the job for a long time." Along with that he had said the BCCI should "stop confronting and start talking."
Ironically both these statements have come back to bite the CoA, especially the second one. Much like the adage 'physician, heal thyself', the CoA, now reduced to two squabbling members, Rai and Edulji, would do well to take its own advice seriously.
Unfortunately, Rai, who had stated that he would complete his job of getting the BCCI and its affiliated units to accept the Lodha panel reforms and implement them by October 2017 has been found wanting.
In an interview to ESPNCricinfo, his comment "I am fairly confident that, going forward, if I have two more dialogues with them (state associations), we would be able to narrow down the issues" has simply not happened.
The state units have practical problems and unless these are sorted out by a judicial order or special general body resolutions in each unit the Lodha reforms seem stuck.
Thus far the Supreme Court does not seem inclined to pass a judicial order, probably because it could impact other bodies formed under similar societies, companies or association of persons act. It wanted the CoA to steer the state units and their parent unit, BCCI, towards accepting the reforms. But now a disunited CoA is itself like a body at odds with itself and this is hurting Indian cricket badly.
Its worst performance was the interaction with ICC. The world body saw an opportunity to cut India down to size and moved swiftly to smash BCCI's plan for a 'Big Three' scenario where India, England and Australia would play against each other more often, generate huge revenues and share it with others.
The ICC cut BCCI's share, distributed it among others and after the deed was done brought BCCI back to the table. In the voting that took place it lost 9-1 as the others gleefully grabbed the extra money that came their way. BCCI which hoped to get US$ 570 million was given 405 million dollars instead. Even this amount was allocated in a way that made it look like others were sacrificing their share to keep India happy!
The only way India could have brought ICC back to the negotiating table was to threaten to pull out of the Champions Trophy and other ICC events. But CoA members spoke irresponsibly that India would not boycott the event, come what may, and thus diluted BCCI's options. They later claimed that they said so in their personal capacity but the damage was done.
India could have used the threat to renegotiate a better deal especially as 80 per cent of ICC's revenue came from India. The country also spends a lot more on spreading, developing and playing the game. For instance, India have 37 state teams playing Ranji Trophy. On the other hand the Australian domestic format has a paltry six teams! The same number as New Zealand while Bangladesh have four teams competing.
Thus, India could really use the money for developing infrastructure. coaching camps, academies and its various state teams in the u-23, 19, 16 sections in both men and women's groupings.
This really was the biggest blow for Indian cricket and unless BCCI issues are quickly sorted out there could be more trouble when the next tranche of rights — 2023 onwards — comes up for negotiation.
In fact, the ICC after tasting blood even threatened to take away the next lot of World T20 and World Cup hosting from India if the Indian government did not give them tax breaks. However, probably sensing that Indian cricket circles had wised up and things were a lot different from when they had a free run just before the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, the ICC has lowered its tone substantially. But the fact that they threatened India while the CoA meekly accepted their diktats is a dark chapter in this on-going tussle.
These apart Indian cricket is facing a crisis to even run at current levels. There is a glaring shortage of grounds, curators, umpires, match referees and the like caused by the sudden explosion of matches following the inclusion of nine new state units. These can only be developed over a period of time. Expertise will take a lot more time and effort.
The problems are already showing: Far too many Ranji Trophy matches have finished within three days. Some, like the semifinal between Kerala and Vidharbha, inside two days as the quality of pitches were horrendous. So too some of the umpiring.
One of the coaches said that it would be worthwhile to check the number of LBWs among bat numbers 8,9,10,11 in junior cricket.
"Some of these umpires don't have patience and want to wrap up the innings quickly; thus the glut of lbws among lower order batsmen. Additionally it gives a false picture about the success of a bowler," he alleged.
One cricket association official said that state units were not running state academies to desired levels as they did not have money. The CoA was not releasing funds for development of the game, he said.
"The Virat Kohlis, Shubhman Gills, et al were developed patiently over 15 years. The last couple of years have hit scouting, training and developing young talent pretty hard. This will have an effect in the next four to five years."
"The CoA releases funds for matches. But that does not take care of overall wages, salaries, water, electricity, grass culture, fertilisers and soil. These are being done on a 'need-to' basis. This is one reason why pitches and outfields are in such poor shape in many centres. The situation at junior levels is very bad. The game is slowly being squeezed dry," he alleged.
Another pointed out that "there were ridiculous disputes like the one with MP cricket association over complimentary passes. MP refused to host the West Indies match unless they could dole out a greater number of complimentary passes to various service providers. That game was shifted to Vizag."
The issue concerning Puducherry where eligibility rules for local players were first relaxed and then withdrawn after other associations protested was shown as yet another example of CoA goofing up.
Detractors were also unhappy that the CoA's poor running of the game had caused confusion and angst in the selection of women's team coach.
"Where was the need for the CoA to get into this scrap? That was an administrative matter that the cricket committee ought to have sorted out," a cricket association official said.
State associations, the backbone of BCCI, are reeling from lack of clarity, direction and funds. Some are struggling even to pay salaries. In such gloom how can they work to promote and develop junior cricket, asked one official.
The general consensus is the last two years have been bad for the development of Indian cricket. The overseas victories by Kohli's team is driving and sustaining interest. But CoA disunity, fights and mismanagement is hampering the development of the game.
"Not a single worthwhile camp, academy, ground or initiative has come through the last two years," an administrator pointed out.
Perhaps the last word on CoA and these past two years should be with Justice RM Lodha himself. In a recent interview he said: "They are making a spectacle of themselves...If they can't function together, they should stop functioning and report to the court that they can't get along. ... You can't play with an institution like this. I don't see light at the end of this tunnel."
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