Lodha Panel's recommendations for Apex Council and granting full member status to northeastern states must be thrown out

  • Vedam Jaishankar
  • May 6th, 2018
  • 10:43:15 IST

Had the Lodha Panel banked on diverse views, the current cricket imbroglio would probably have been non-existent.

Instead, nearly three years (14 July, 2015) after the Supreme Court-appointed RM Lodha Committee slapped a two-year suspension on Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings for alleged involvement in betting, those two teams are happily back in IPL while it is the BCCI which remains a largely dysfunctional body.

The BCCI logo at the organisation's headquarters in Mumbai. AFP

The BCCI logo at the organisation's headquarters in Mumbai. AFP

Tellingly, Indian cricket continues to be in the hands of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) whose chief Vinod Rai is just a few days shy of his 70th birthday. Should he quit, as per the Lodha Committee age limit norm of 70 years, the CoA will be reduced to a solitary member in Diana Eduljee.

It was obvious from the start that a few Lodha Panel recommendations needed to be reworked and it is probably with this in mind that the three-man SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Deepak Mishra, asked BCCI and state associations to come up with suggestions. These are to be handed over to the court this week by amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam.

While much of the focus has been on the one-state, one-vote issue — with almost everyone insisting that the three founding associations respectively in Maharashtra and Gujarat retain their votes — the granting of full member status to the North Eastern states of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh seems to have slipped under the radar. This needs to be urgently reviewed.

None of these states has a cricket culture, let alone structure or infrastructure. That being the case, granting full status will only play into the hands of seasoned cricket politicians within BCCI.

For years, BCCI had wisely followed a system whereby none of the five zones could unilaterally seize control of the Board. This system worked very well in ensuring that all five zones had an equal say in administration and in the development of cricket.

But now the unexpected move to bless NE states with full powers would not only upset this balance, it could lead to the creation of letterhead associations. Further, it would bestow unnecessary powers to those without a skin in the game. This will invariably work to the detriment of Indian cricket.

Here it would be pertinent to point out ICC’s way of tackling a similar challenge. As per their constitution, they have 10 full members and 40 associate members. The 10 full members divide 75 per cent of the votes among themselves while the remaining 25 per cent votes are divided among the 40 associate members. This ensures that the full members control the outcome of ICC deliberations.

Ideally, the NE states ought to be given associate status with certain deliverable guarantees underwritten into it. These could include fielding teams in all age groups, conducting age group coaching camps, local school and college tournaments and leagues. East Zone associations enthusiastically batting for full status for NE states could do the hand holding. The NE states’ progress and performance could be reviewed every five years and weightage in terms of votes and administrative heft be given accordingly.

Additionally, Indian Railways and Services, who were downgraded to associate status must be reinstated. They have promoted the game for decades, besides providing jobs to thousands of budding cricketers and sportsmen (Incidentally, MS Dhoni was a ticket collector in Railways during his early playing days).

The recommendations on the formation of state or even national Apex Council must also be thrown out, particularly the restriction on number of committee members. How can one size fit all, especially when a state as large as Uttar Pradesh has 75 districts and 18 divisions while Goa had just two districts! The number and composition of this committee should be left to each state association to work as per their requirements.

The Lodha Panel believes that professional administration would do the trick. The reality is that there is not a single institution or body in India which is professionally run. So, why run an experiment with a popular sport like cricket where there is plenty to lose? Try the pilot ‘professional administration’ in tennis or hockey before scaling it up for cricket.

Another recommendation that needs to be re-looked is age-limit. Cricket administrators are not called upon to bat or bowl. So why this age limit of 70 in a modern era where Indians are hale and hearty even at 80? For instance, the Advocate General of India who is extremely sharp and brilliant in his line of work, KK Venugopal, is 86 years of age. There are many arbitrators who are over 70 years of age. The president of India, Ram Nath Kovind, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, is himself 72 years of age. So this selective introduction of age limit only for BCCI seems illogical.

On the other hand, BCCI needs seasoned, experienced folks to neutralise the grave threat to India’s pre-eminent position in world cricket administration. The CoA’s inability to avert the snatching away of BCCI’s share of revenue when ICC brazenly dismantled the ‘big 3’ concept is too recent to warrant recall. There will be more insidious attacks on BCCI’s revenue streams and only old, wily hands can counter these.

Here it must be mentioned that it is nobody’s case that corrupt office-bearers be protected. Rather, let there be a super audit of all state associations. Throw the guilty behind bars. But don’t smash the entire super structure just because a few rogue elements have sticky fingers.

Tenure restrictions also have to be re-worked. The SC has already stated that the nine-year limit of tenure for office-bearers of state association and BCCI would be run separately. And that’s ideal. But this rule should be done prospectively rather than retrospectively. It would ensure that there is proper grooming and a smooth handing over of power. Else, there would be a power vacuum and it will be filled with novices and green horns.

It would be reasonable if the nine-year cycle were brought into force from 2021 after a completely fresh set of office-bearers is groomed and brought into power at state level.

The alternative is Indian cricket’s equivalent of scorched earth.

Updated Date: May 06, 2018 10:43:15 IST

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