BCCI issue tops controversies in Indian sport

There is no sport without controversy. And 2016 being the year of the Olympics, there were loads of it.

The Indian men's 4x400m relay team (from left), Arokia Rajiv, A. Dharun, Mohammed Anas, and P. Kunhumohammed, clocked a stunning 3:00.91s at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru in July, which made it the second fastest team in the world around that period.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

This is an institution that was once the envy of the sporting world, an organisation that had bag-loads of cash that it even began dictating terms to cricket’s world body, the International Cricket Council.

But what a stunning change!

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is now at the mercy of the Supreme Court and ironically, it has fallen into a pit of its own making.

For years, the BCCI has turned a deaf ear to its players; it even went to the extent of virtually gagging them. It changed rules to suit itself, favoured some States, did little to promote the sport on the global stage and kept away from the Asian Games.

And when the Supreme Court-appointed Justice R. M. Lodha Committee tried to set the house in order, revamp the Board and bring about transparency and accountability, the BCCI cried foul. It began running around like a confused chicken.

And after waiting for months for the Indian cricket body to implement fully the recommendations, the Supreme Court sacked the BCCI President, Anurag Thakur, and Secretary Ajay Shirke from their posts on January 2 for failing to make the suggested changes.“This is the logical consequence. Once the recommendations were accepted by the court, it had to be implemented,” former Chief Justice R. M. Lodha, the chairman of the Lodha Committee, said after the Supreme Court passed its order.

“There were obstructions, there were impediments ... obviously this had to happen, and it has happened. The Supreme Court itself has ensured that its order of July 18 is now enforced.

“It’s a victory for cricket and it will flourish. Administrators come and go, ultimately it is for the game.”

The BCCI’s current plight, where it has been told how its administrative set-up should be and how long its officials can sit on the board, should probably be the biggest churning the sport has seen.

The Supreme Court order will also have far-reaching implications and the other office-bearers of the Board and State associations who fail to meet the new norms will also be disqualified. It will also act as a guide on how all central and State sports organisations in the country are run.

More questions than answers

Olympic years frequently come with plenty of controversies and loads of disappointment. And 2016 was no different.

 

The Athletics Federation of India had a lot to handle this year.

Did runner O. P. Jaisha miss a fluid station or two during the course of the marathon, which saw the athlete suffer a blackout and collapse after the event at the Rio Olympics?

Did her Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev really ask her whether she would need personalised fluids during the course of the 42-km event?

The Rio Olympics are long over and many investigations have been held to get to the bottom of the huge controversy that erupted after Jaisha claimed that she could have died in Rio as she was not provided personalised refreshments during the marathon, but the questions still remain. And the blame has not been pinned on anybody.

Amazing performances and the big ‘push’

Then there was the spate of National records and world-class performances by our runners and jumpers in the run-up to the Rio Olympics.

The Indian men’s 4x400m relay team, dipping below the 50th rank in the IAAF’s world performance list for the last couple of years, had an amazing surge a few weeks before the Olympics.

The team, a Tamil Nadu-Kerala combination comprising Kunhumuhammed, Muhammed Anas, A. Dharun and Arokia Rajiv, clocked a stunning 3:00.91s at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru in July, which made it the second fastest team in the world around that period. No Asian team had run such a time in the last 18 years.

And there was Renjith Maheswary whose performance was also among the world’s best. The Kerala triple-jumper, who had a ‘no mark’ at the 2012 Olympics and who had not crossed 17.0m during the five previous years, suddenly became the third best triple-jumper in the world with a head-spinning 17.30m in Bengaluru in July as he made the cut for Rio.

 

Another athlete, Ankit Sharma produced an amazing 8.19m in long jump, while sprinters Dharambir Singh, Dutee Chand and Srabani Nanda realised that they could virtually fly when they turned in impressive performances.

Training in Russia!

Discus thrower Seema Antil Punia, the country’s lone individual gold medallist in athletics at the last Asian Games in Incheon in 2014, kept popping up in events in the US. And after qualifying for the Olympics, suddenly she went out of the radar and landed in Russia — a country which had been banned from the Rio Olympics by the World athletics body, IAAF, for its extensive doping programme — for ‘specialised training’ just before the Rio Games.

Exposed!

Weeks later, the series of disappointing performances at Rio exposed these athletes. Almost all the athletes who had come up with stunning performances failed to come anywhere close to their ‘best’ at the Olympics.

And with some big names like Asian shot put champion Inderjeet Singh and 200m National record holder Dharambir Singh and women’s relay runner Priyanka Panwar failing dope tests, one got the feeling what could have been the factor behind the big ‘push’ in Indian athletics for a brief phase before the Olympics.

Then, there was the huge controversy over the appointment of Ukrainian Yuri Ogorodnik — who was dismissed by the Sports Ministry after the 2011 doping controversy when six women’s relay runners failed dope tests — as the coach of the women’s relay team for the Olympics. And despite the relay team failing miserably in Rio, the AFI tried to retain him for the Asian and World championships in 2017. That had all the makings of another controversy.

Biggest disappointment

The no-medal show in shooting, boxing, tennis and men’s wrestling at the Olympics — only two medals, both from women (a singles silver in badminton from P. V. Sindhu and a wrestling bronze from Sakshi Malik), came from Rio — were among the biggest disappointments of the year.

India had won six medals at the 2012 London Olympics, and before Rio, sports administrators were talking of getting into double digits in terms of medals at the Games. The AITA’s decision to send Leander Paes to Rio — by going to the Games, Leander became the first tennis player to play in seven Olympics — also created controversy.

Rohan Bopanna, who had qualified for the Olympics after being ranked No. 10 in world doubles around the cut-off date, had made it clear that he was not keen on playing with Leander in the men’s doubles at Rio. The Indian pair eventually fell in the very first round. The sour episode and the pressure appeared to take its toll on Rohan, who was paired with Sania Mirza in mixed doubles.

Rohan and Sania, seeded fourth in Rio, raised hopes of a medal but there was only disappointment in the end with the two losing the play-off match for the bronze.

The suspension of the Indian Olympic Association by the Sports Ministry for controversially inducting Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala, two men who have corruption charges against them, as life presidents at the IOA’s AGM in Chennai, was also one of the major headlines of the year which has just passed us by.

Well, it looks like controversy and sport go hand-in-hand.