BCCI vs Lodha: SC wants cricket to flourish, but board has a long way to go after verdict

The storm has broken through the door. Since the Supreme Court of India delivered its judgement on 18 July last year, which ordered the implementation of the majority of Lodha Committee’s recommendations, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was left with only one option – fall in line. Despite the obvious consequences which lay in front of the governing body, it chose to play what has been termed as an “obstructionist” role by the Lodha Committee.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

There were numerous attempts at delaying the inevitable. It was not the best rearguard effort on a turning track. The BCCI officials needed to accommodate the very serious concerns which surround its functioning. Rather, it chose to obfuscate the issue. It hid behind the successful performance of the Indian men’s team. The board even went to the extent of painting itself as the victim. It vigorously defended its antediluvian procedures. But time has finally caught up with the BCCI.

Acknowledging the little inclination on the board’s part to follow the order in toto, the SC decided on Monday that its patience could not grow thinner. The current Chief Justice of India TS Thakur’s tenure will come to an end later this week. This was the final hearing on the case he could have overseen. It was time.

In fact, there need not be any surprise on how this has panned out. The removal of president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke was a scenario easy to foresee. The SC, after all, was not going to overturn its own judgment in order to accommodate the BCCI’s concerns. While the BCCI office-bearers chose to hide behind the imperatives of the body’s constitution, any SC order was going to override that.

If the members of the BCCI did not want to follow the court’s order, it’s the duty of the principal office-bearers to weed the intransigence out. Instead, president Thakur and secretary Shirke demonstrated helplessness. Their reluctance to ensure that the SC’s order was implemented had been clear in their public pronouncements.

The resistance was foolhardy. Instead of cooperating with the necessary external scrutiny, the BCCI sought to close its ranks. In its recommendations, the Lodha Committee had set the terms of disqualification for any office bearer if he or she was not an Indian citizen, 70 years or older, a minister or a government servant, or had held office in another sports association. Furthermore, a cumulative limit of nine years had been set by the Lodha Committee for any BCCI official. The stringent criteria threatened the position of many office-bearers. But instead of embracing fairer administrative practices, the BCCI chose to see itself as the victim.

After the IPL spot-fixing scandal in 2013, the Lodha Committee was constituted to ascertain proper punishment for those found guilty. But its remit was also expanded to offer recommendations which would revamp the functioning of the BCCI. The body’s opaque procedure to deal with the spot-fixing scandal was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In a sense, Monday’s order is another vindication for Aditya Verma, secretary of the unrecognised Cricket Association of Bihar. His petition to the Bombay High Court, in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal, has led to the dramatic upheaval now. But as he eloquently once told The Indian Express, he had started with a different fight in his mind. “Sree Krishna demanded five villages for the Pandavas but Duryodhana denied him that and the result was the destruction of the Kauravas. In this ‘Mahabharata’, I just demanded affiliation for my Cricket Association of Bihar. The BCCI turned a deaf ear and the result was the complete overhaul of the country’s cricketing structure,” said Verma, weeks before the 18 July judgment brought legal validation to Lodha Committee’s recommendations.

Now that the BCCI’s nightmare has turned to reality, where does it leave the governing body? The rot runs so deep that it is difficult to ascertain who would be fit to lead the BCCI now. The SC has said that the most senior vice-president should take over the reins. But whoever will take the office will have to not only meet the eligibility criteria, but he will also have to give an undertaking which will promise that the court’s 18 July judgment will be followed.

Indeed, at the moment, it is tough to say with conviction who would that person be. While the daily operations can be overseen by BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, the SC has sought the services of amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium and Fali S Nariman for nominating a panel of administrators which would supervise the governing body until Lodha Committee’s recommendations have been followed. If history is a reliable guide, past cricketers may have to undertake the duty. Mohinder Amarnath’s name is likely to come up, if sources are to be believed.

Following the court order on Monday, Justice RM Lodha unequivocally expressed his approval. "It's a victory for the game of cricket and it will flourish. Administrators come and go, ultimately it is for the game,” he said. But before the sentiment finds a tangible shape, there is a lot of work to be done. The rot, after all, runs deep.

Updated Date: Jan 03, 2017 13:00 PM

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