Finally, common sense has prevailed. And it needed Supreme Court’s amicus curiae PS Narasimha to help the Committee off Administrators (CoA) of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to make a sound, practical decision to lift the suspension imposed on Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, pending the appointment of, and adjudication, by a BCCI Ombudsman.
BCCI’s decision to fly Hardik Pandya to New Zealand at the earliest will allow the Indian team to resume its quest to find that right combination that can take it the distance in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales. It should never have been the case for the players to be asked to fly back pending inquiry.
This decision was something that the Supreme Court-appointed CoA should have made in the first instance. Its lack of clarity and vision and inability to embrace a common-sense approach or consistency in its decision-making process have come through tellingly. And, much of this is rooted in the deep divide that exists in CoA.
Had it not been so divided, CoA might have been able to make practical decisions. It is a travesty that those who were brought in to set things right have contributed to more chaos within the portals of BCCI administration. Instead of setting good examples and moving on, the CoA members are digging themselves in and committing the same mistakes as those they were meant to overhaul.
It is for this reason alone that the Supreme Court must appoint a third member to the CoA soon so that there is no administrative hiatus because of the divide that has pitched former Comptroller General of India (CAG) Vinod Rai on one side against former India captain Diana Edulji on the other side. Their squabbling has dragged on for far too long and must be brought to a swift end.
Come to think of it, the BCCI’s first response came from its CEO who issued a show-cause notice to the two players asking for an explanation and asking them to return to India from the tour of Australia. Curiously, he seems to have made no mention of the rules under which he was asking for them to return home.
There can be no doubt that BCCI’s legal advisor Indranil Deshmukh’s suggestion that CoA adheres to the procedure laid down by BCCI’s Constitution was right. After all, BCCI has been rapped on its knuckles by the Andhra Pradesh and Bombay High Courts for setting up investigation panels without following its own rules.
It made the CEO send another notice with the appropriate mentions of the rules under which the action was being initiated. It would have been apt, however, for Indranil Deshmukh to suggest to the CoA that it could decide against the imposition of a suspension pending the inquiry, especially since the Board does not have an Ombudsman in place.
The Ombudsman, whenever appointed and conducts a hearing, would need to remember that the two players have already been kept out of six one-day internationals. These must be taken into account when the final order is made. Else, there could be a hypothetical situation in which the two players become unavailable at the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The CoA’s decisions to impose and revoke a suspension has also exposed of how the BCCI constitution, drafted by the Lodha Committee, has bunched all misconduct or indiscipline or violation of BCCI Rules and Regulations in one quiver. The demand that all disciplinary proceedings be dealt with similarly has led to the players’ provisional suspension.
Does loose, crass talk on a TV show demand as severe action as match-fixing or embezzlement or sexual harassment or corruption? Why does BCCI constitution insist that the Apex Council impose a suspension on the concerned member, administrator, player, match official, team official or other individual associated with BCCI without taking prima facie gravity of the alleged offence?
These are questions that the CoA — and hopefully, someday soon, the BCCI Apex Council — must consider and rewrite the constitution suitably. Not all offences should need suspension of individuals before their cases are heard by the Ombudsman. The Hardik Pandya-KL Rahul episode should serve as an eye-opener to wizards who lay down statutes.
Be that as it may, the present case has shown that no matter who is in charge of BCCI – career administrators or Supreme Court-appointed officials – they can be prone to severe inconsistencies when it comes to following a set of laid-down rules. It really does not matter what name they go by, cricket administrators can cast rules and common sense aside when making decisions.
Hopefully, even before the case is heard and an order delivered by the Ombudsman, the players, not just Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, would have learned some lessons. Even if they claim that they did not ask to be installed role models, they must realise that it makes sense to be on guard. Perhaps no player will say things that can be construed as crass, racist, misogynist and offensive.
Surely the players will be wary when making comments in the public domain. From suggesting that those are fans of cricketers from other countries should leave India and emigrate to those nations, to loose, crass talk should have no place in the world of cricket where fans swing from idolising to outraging in keeping with evolving social media trends.
Thanks to the amicus curiae, common sense has prevailed. Better late than never.
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Hardik has not bowled regularly for India and his Indian Premier League (IPL) side Mumbai Indians since returning after undergoing a back surgery in 2019.
Pandya played five games in the UAE leg of IPL without a lot of success save one game against Punjab Kings which he won with his batting and didn't bowl a single over as anticipated
India have also sent back four of their designated net bowlers back to India as the tournament proper starts on Sunday.