Minutes after filing his nomination papers, Sourav Ganguly made a startling admission to media that 90 percent of his Apex Council members were new to BCCI administration. The import of that statement struck only later and a pen-sketch of some of the Apex Council members published alongside reveals that they would need to shape up incredibly quickly or they will be forced to rely on guidance from friends and relatives from outside the purview of the Lodha-reformed system.
It would be unfair to state that the reforms have pushed BCCI and Indian cricket from out of the frying pan into the fire considering that Ganguly and team are yet to get down to brass tacks. But with three of them, including the president himself, on an extremely limited tenure owing to cooling off issues, it remains to be seen how many of the decisions taken are well thought out or argued.
Ganguly has rightly sounded the bugle against ICC. Almost all, except for a few members of CoA, felt that the world body was wholly wrong in depriving India of their fair share of revenue. Those put in charge of Indian cricket used convoluted arguments for bowing to the diktats of ICC. Ganguly, by drawing attention to the injustice, has brought the issue back to the centre table.
Even otherwise, an anxious ICC has already tried to push through a debatable FTP before the Apex Council could take guard. The BCCI, though, is yet to put its signature on the agreement which was hastily drawn up in the hope that the Apex Council could be browbeaten into accepting it.
Ganguly, by voicing his disapproval of the CoA-approved revenue-sharing deal, has signalled that he was not only aware of the issue but proposes to set it right. That should assuage the fears of many Indian cricket followers who believed that the powers that be were suckered into a deal.
Having said that, one disturbing lacuna in the Apex Council is that it has no members drawn from cricket-savvy associations whose legacy is quite impressive.
Mumbai, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi not only have a strong cricket culture, but they have also produced the best cricketers and have systems that continue to heavily impact Indian cricket.
On the other hand, there are representatives from cricketing lightweights such as Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala with the IPL Governing Council even having Khairul Jamal Majumdar of Mizoram in it.
In fact, their stint in BCCI’s top committees might well serve as a journey of discovery for many of the chosen ones. Would Indian cricket be benefitted by the lack of experience? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, old fears that the Apex Council will be in a state of constant flux because of the cooling-off clause in Lodha reforms has already come true. Even before they understand the system and learn the ropes, three key members, Ganguly, Jay Shah, and Jayesh George would have to quit the Apex Council by this time next year. Their replacements will be in a similar situation in BCCI’s never-ending cycle of musical chairs, or revolving door, if you please.
Here's a quick look at the new officials-elect:
Sourav Ganguly (President): The 47-year old former India captain and twice-elected president of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) succeeded the late Jagmohan Dalmiya in 2015. He was in CAB’s working committee since 2012-13 and its joint secretary from 2014. This stint in CAB administration has ensured that he gets a mere 10 months as BCCI president before the mandated cooling-off period of three years kicks in.
Ganguly has served in the IPL Governing Council, headed BCCI’s technical committee and also the Cricket Advisory Committee. Hence, he brings administrative experience and enthusiasm to the post. His close proximity to Dalmiya would have further exposed him to the ways of cricket administration. If the charismatic Ganguly is able to get out of his cricket playing mind-set but use that experience diligently to wear the hat of an administrator, he could contribute substantially in putting BCCI back on track.
Mahim Verma (vice president): His father PC Verma had worked hard to put Uttarakhand on the national cricket map even before it was carved up as a separate state in 2000. Unfortunately, Uttarakhand cricket was dogged by factionalism before a patch-up was stitched together. Mahim does not have too much of experience as cricket administrator as he was appointed the secretary of CAU only last month. The state got full membership of BCCI in August after it adopted the Lodha-mandated constitution and elections were held in September.
Jay Shah (Secretary): When Jay Shah, son of India’s powerful home minister Amit Shah, did not seek re-election to Gujarat Cricket Association recently, it was a pointer that he would play a major role in BCCI administration. Jay Shah had been involved in GCA for five years as joint secretary and as such has less than a nine-month stint as BCCI secretary before he goes off into cooling mode.
Thus far he has worked in the shadows of his father who had earlier served as GCA president. Jay Shah, though, is credited with having a hand in the on-going construction of a massive cricket stadium in Ahmedabad. It remains to be seen if he can carve out a niche for himself in cricket administration.
Jayesh George (Joint Secretary): He is another official who will serve in the Apex Council for less than a year. The 50-year-old George has been around for more than five years as Kerala Cricket Association office-bearer. He has publicly stated that he would like to focus on junior cricket as well as make the Thiruvanathapuram cricket ground a Test venue. He does not have time for either, but if in the past five years he had worked hard on Kerala junior cricket the results should start showing about now.
Arun Singh Dhumal (Treasurer): His family has been involved in running the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) for at least a couple of decades. Arun is the younger brother of Anurag Thakur, former BCCI president and current Minister of State, Finance in the central government.
Arun has had little or no experience in cricket administration. He took over as head of HPCA last month only because his elder brother, a sitting MP, was debarred from cricket administration and attending BCCI AGMs as per Lodha reforms. Arun, though, is here to stay. He has attended BCCI meetings as HPCA representative in the past.
He can stay in office as BCCI treasurer for the whole three years of the current tenure and even seek re-election if he so desires. He would also be in a position to be elevated to either secretary or president in the future.
Prabhtej Singh Bhatia (Councillor): The youthful Bhatia is a beer baron who brought the joys of wheat beer to many parts of north India. He is the son of former Chattisgarh Cricket Sangh president Baldeo Singh Bhatia. However, it is the junior Bhatia who runs the state association now. He was educated in many places — Bengaluru, Shimla, Gurugram and UK — and alternates time between Delhi and Raipur. Still in his 20s, he probably is the youngest member of the Apex Council.
Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy are the men’s and women’s ICA representatives in the nine-member apex council. They will be joined by a representative of the CAG.
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