BCCI AGM: Manohar's reforms are welcome but the board hasn't turned lily-white overnight

At the press conference following the BCCI’s Annual General Meeting, president Shashank Manohar was asked whether he found it odd that (essentially) the same set of members that was responsible for the BCCI’s image problems is now unanimous in saying the board should be clean.

Manohar’s response is instructive. “There are circumstances that force you to take certain decisions at certain points of time. But it is better that we should look ahead, not look at what has happened.”

What Manohar left unsaid is the circumstances under which all these changes are taking place. The Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee is busy preparing its set of recommendations to reform the way the BCCI functions.

 BCCI AGM: Manohars reforms are welcome but the board hasnt turned lily-white overnight

BCCI president Shashank Manohar and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur. PTI

Make no mistake, Manohar’s reforms, especially those dealing with conflict of interest, are both welcome and necessary. For too long the board has been a cushy cabal where everyone scratches everyone’s back and rules are winked more than followed. The BCCI had grown so brazen that it only formally amended its commercial clause to allow former president N Srinivasan to own Chennai Super Kings after the first season of the IPL.

In particular, the appointment of AP Shah, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, as its first Ombudsman, has the potential to transform the way the board functions. As an outsider with no constituency to placate, Justice Shah should be able to adjudicate free of fear or favour.

Already the changes have taken effect, with Sourav Ganguly choosing to give up his BCCI commentator’s contract to stay on the IPL GC, while Anil Kumble had to step down as the head of the board’s technical committee because he is employed by Mumbai Indians* in the IPL. Ravi Shastri is no longer a member of the IPL GC either, since he is now India’s Team Director. These moves are long overdue.

The biggest change of all is the nomination of Manohar as the board’s ICC representative, thereby ending former Srinivasan’s grip on the sport outside of Tamil Nadu. This was a necessary step, even if there is no love lost between the two. Manohar had called for Srinivasan’s removal before he returned for a second term as BCCI president. To backtrack now would suggest those words were only for show and undermine the BCCI’s credibility.

But it is important to remember these changes are not taking place simply because the members suddenly grew a conscience. For the BCCI, reforms it can control are undoubtedly more palatable than reforms imposed from outside. There is no telling how far the Lodha Committee might go or what changes it might impose. For an organisation that is used to cloaking itself in secrecy and operating as it pleases, that’s a scary thought.

The devil, as always, is in the details. While the ombudsman is an independent authority, Manohar said it was the board who would forward any complaints to him. Complaints would not go directly to Justice Shah. It is not clear if that meant the BCCI has the power to pick and choose which complaints are sent to the ombudsman, but if it does, the board will still retain control over the process and it won’t be completely independent.

Manohar also said the wording of the reforms were still to be worked out and it would take about two months to do that. “Language could change, but the intent would not change,” he said.

But language can also be made ambiguous, allowing for multiple interpretations.

Perhaps the best indication of how far the members are willing to go comes from the one amendment the members did not vote through. Manohar said the proposal to add three independent members to the IPL governing council had been deferred because the members wanted to discuss it further. Outsiders, especially those who could be privy to inside information, have rarely been welcome within the board.

To be sure, Manohar, and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, deserve credit for pushing to open the windows and bring a little sunshine into the board. Manohar has been a man of his word, largely implementing everything he said he would do when he took over a month ago. But to believe this is being done because the same members who profited under Srinivasan have now turned good Samaritans is to stretch credulity.

The board has always acted in the best interest of the board. In this case, it happens to be in the best interest of Indian cricket too. Whether this is the new reality remains to be seen.

*Note: The copy originally said Anil Kumble is employed by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. It's now been corrected to Mumbai Indians.

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Updated Date: Nov 10, 2015 11:00:50 IST