BCCI vs Lodha panel: How board president Anurag Thakur has found himself cornered

The repercussion of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president’s resistance to Lodha panel reforms took a serious and nasty turn when he, Anurag Thakur, was held to have committed perjury by the highest court of the land.

The grave offence could land him in jail and the Supreme Court said as much.

 BCCI vs Lodha panel: How board president Anurag Thakur has found himself cornered

The SC said BCCI president Anurag Thakur had committed perjury. AFP

“Prima facie Anurag Thakur committed perjury,” Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said and suggested that Anurag Thakur “ought to absolutely apologise” if he wanted to escape. “These kinds of things don't help. Please don't force us. You go to ICC and ask for a letter so that you can return to say BCCI will be out of ICC. The whole object was to stop court. This seems to be a lucrative business and everyone wants it to go on.”

Immediately, Kapil Sibal, appearing for the BCCI, said his client was “ready to apologise”.

The court's observations came after the Lodha panel's lawyer alleged that Anurag Thakur had lied on oath to the court.

It may be recalled that the ICC in 2011 had sought to put in place legislations that would curb or end government interference in the running of national cricket boards.

Till then, the Bangladesh Cricket Board president used to be appointed by the national government.

Sri Lanka’s Cricket board members would be elected, but all major financial expenditures had to be approved by the government. Besides the sports minister had to ratify national squad selections and could also make changes to the team.

On one occasion the Lankan sports minister inducted Member of Parliament, Sanath Jayasuriya, into the team although the selectors had dropped him following poor performance.

In Pakistan, their board chairman would be identified and appointed by the president of Pakistan, who also served as the all-powerful chief patron of the board.

This sort of interference by governments percolated into some other national boards too before the ICC came down hard on it by introducing a new clause, Article 2.9.

It read: “Where a government interferes in the administration of cricket by a member, including but not limited to interference in operational matters, the selection and management of teams, the appointment of coaches or support personnel, the executive board shall have the power to suspend or refuse to recognise that member.”

Apparently when the BCCI was in the eye of the storm in India, erstwhile president Shashank Manohar had held that including a representative of the Comptroller of Auditor General (CAG) in the apex council would amount to government interference.

Anurag Thakur wanted to latch on to that and sought a letter from ICC, where Manohar was now the chairman, stating that implementing Lodha panel reforms amounted to interference in BCCI affairs and that it could lead to the ICC derecognising BCCI.

Manohar not only refused to give him the letter, but according to media reports, the ICC stated that “the ICC understands that following an order of a country’s highest court doesn’t amount to succumbing to government interference. So there’s no flouting of ICC guidelines in following orders of the court, since there is no provision of acting to the contrary.”

Recently the Nepal Cricket Association was banned for almost similar reasons. Nepal’s National Sports Council formed an ad hoc committee to run CAN. The elected CAN president filed a case challenging NSC’s decision and the same is still in court. The ICC suspended Nepal for breach of Article 2.9 (quoted above).

Anurag Thakur was probably expecting a similar treatment which could then have helped the BCCI to ask the Lodha panel to lay off.

But it didn’t work. Instead, when the court asked if he thus tried to thwart its working, Anurag Thakur in October filed an affidavit saying he never asked the ICC for a letter warning BCCI that implementing the Lodha recommendations amounts to “government interference”.

He held that he merely brought to Manohar’s attention his stance when he was president of the BCCI.

Without commenting on the right or wrong of either it must be pointed out that as far as the BCCI and its senior office bearers are concerned there are no permanent friends or enemies. Thus it is not clear if Anurag Thakur and Manohar were in the best of terms when the letter issue first cropped up between them. Obviously at this point of time these two have fallen apart considerably.

Indian cricket followers would recollect that Jagmohan Dalmiya and IS Bindra were once very close before they fell apart acrimoniously and then got back together again later. Likewise, N Srinivasan was a very good buddy to all the board honchos till the others ganged up to get rid of him. Ditto the case with Lalit Modi.

The BCCI lawyer in this particular case the Congress’ Kapil Sibal and he is defending Anurag Thakur, who belongs to the rival BJP. This sums up the temporary nature of truce or enmity within the BCCI.

Therefore, what was said to whom and at what point of their personal equation with each other is probably very crucial, even if irrelevant in the eyes of law.

At this point the hard facts are: Anurag Thakur has prima facie committed perjury and unless he apologises he could go to jail. And obviously you can’t have a jail bird or one accused of perjury heading the BCCI.

Thus what started off as a spot-fixing charge against Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has meandered into something else altogether. There’s probably plenty more twists to come. Watch this space.

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Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 20:58:23 IST