Preservation of self-interest: State associations drive BCCI’s challenge to the Lodha panel report

If you expected the BCCI to simply roll over and go along with the Lodha Committee report, then you haven’t been paying much attention. There is too much at stake, there are too many officials at risk of losing their holds on the game, for the board to capitulate, despite the Supreme Court-sized deck that is stacked against them at the moment.

The BCCI’s decision to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court challenging the Lodha Committee report is therefore par the course, even if we don’t know fully know what the affidavit will say at this point.

Preservation of self-interest: State associations drive BCCI’s challenge to the Lodha panel report

Representational Image. Reuters

And, to be fair, there are genuine grounds on which to debate the recommendation made in the Lodha committee report. For one, the recommendation that advertising during the match be restricted to lunch and tea breaks, is, well, too restricting. While we can argue about how much money our cricketers need to earn, there’s no denying the money helps. Perhaps cricket can adopt a middle ground, where teams can take a couple of timeouts a session – we already have them in the shape of drinks breaks – so the losses to broadcasters and the board are contained.

The cooling off period between posts is another recommendation that has its flaws because continuity has its benefits. As long as there are tenure limits for every position, then the ability for any one person to (officially) influence Indian cricket is effectively time bound anyway.

Others are common sense reforms that the BCCI seems to oppose – such as 'one state, one vote', age limits and the application of the Right to Information Act. Just because cricket in India has functioned one way for decades, it is not a justification to keep doing things the same way. If that was the case, nothing would ever change. Tradition can be a useful guide but it shouldn’t be inviolate. The democratisation of the sport is long overdue in this country.

What is clear, however, is that the reforms are of greater concern to the state associations. The BCCI already has tenure limits and it has been difficult for any person to rule the board for very long. The state associations, in contrast, have been governed by the same person, or groups of people, for decades.

Accepting the Lodha Committee report would upend their entire way of functioning and end fiefdoms in one swift stroke. N Srinivasan, who has been president of the TNCA since 2002, would be ineligible to continue since he is 71 (the recommended age limit is 70). Niranjan Shah, who has been the king of Saurashtra cricket since 1972-73, is also 71, and would also have to leave the arena after more than 40 years of cricket administration.

Similarly, the Delhi & District Cricket Association, which is mired in its own corruption scandal, has opposed the elimination of the proxy voting system because its officials have benefitted immensely from it.

It would be rational to expect these officials to suddenly act against their own self-interest. Shah has already indicated he will not. According to a report in DNA, “both Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar have given clear indications that they are fine with the recommendations. But Saurashtra's Niranjan Shah, who has crossed the age limit of 70, looked in no mood to give it up.

"We will be filing an affidavit in Supreme Court," Shah later told reporters outside SGM venue.

How far the associations will get is another matter. The Lodha Committee spent a year coming up with its report. The Supreme Court has been overseeing the case for over two years. For them to walk back the report at this stage would be embarrassing at the very least and a sign of capitulation and weakness at the most.

Neither appears likely but where the BCCI is concerned, it is prudent to never say never. Still, at this point in the proceedings, the days of the Srinivasans and Niranjan Shahs of Indian cricket administration appear numbered.

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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2016 10:31:54 IST

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