Anurag Thakur: A sorry end to a promising start

Anurag Thakur was not a man in a hurry but he was more than committed to give the Board a professional look. In the process he lost a few friends, but stayed on course until the Board was rattled by the Lodha Committee recommendations.

Anurag Thakur, with all his experience as an administrator and politician, should have known the perils of defying the judiciary.   -  PTI

At heart a cricketer, a politician by compulsion and a cricket administrator by choice. For Anurag Thakur, life has always been in the fast lane. His elevation to the post of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s president was the culmination of a journey that had fast-tracked him to the most coveted seat in world cricket.

In junior cricket he commanded his place on merit; he made runs and secured a spot in the Punjab under-19 team. His first-class career, however, was nondescript.

Thakur, who loved the company of cricketers, continued his association with the game as an administrator. He left his mark as the president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, providing the hill-state with a world-class cricket stadium in Dharamsala. “I am proud of the fact that Dharamsala has a stadium that has earned praise from every cricketer who has played there. It was a dream for us at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association,” says Thakur.

Long time HPCA associate Sanjay Sharma has followed Thakur’s rise in cricket administration. “I have seen him interact with such enthusiasm that is rare in Indian cricket administration. He has a tremendous passion to serve the game and ensure that cricketers get the best of facilities. He gives his colleagues at the HPCA the freedom to express their opinion. It has been a wonderful experience working with him,” says Sharma.

Thakur, taking his cue from some senior cricket officials he had worked with, always wanted to prioritise the comforts and needs of the players. “The game is for the players. The game is made by the players. As administrators we have to provide them with the best and look after their interests. That is what I have looked at giving,” he says.

When he took over as the Board’s president, he had a challenge ahead of him. He had to restore the dignity of the Board that stood tainted by various controversies. It was a tough phase for Indian cricket, but he went about the job with the help of cricketers, who also realised that they had an administrator who valued the services of the players.

The best step he took was to promote junior cricket. He saw to it that India `A’ and the under-19 players got to play more competitive cricket. He convinced former India captain Rahul Dravid to involve himself with junior cricket and the results are there for all to see.

Thakur took personal interest in trying to improve the facilities for spectators. “Fans are our biggest supporters and stakeholders. We have to give them the best of facilities. Seats have to be numbered and facilities like food and water at reasonable rates should be provided inside the stadium,” he regularly told the staging associations. Thakur took time from his schedule regularly to interact with top players to bring about changes in the conduct of the game. “I am always open to suggestions,” he told the cricketers. The move to introduce domestic matches at neutral venues was his personal initiative. The decision, however, has received mixed reactions from the players.

Anil Kumble was inducted as the chief coach, a move that was brought about by Thakur, who also acknowledged Ravi Shastri’s contribution as the interim coach of the national side. During his time, the BCCI finally accepted the use of the Decision Review System (DRS), moving away from the illogical opposition put forth by the earlier Board administrators.

Thakur was not a man in a hurry but he was more than committed to give the Board a professional look. In the process he lost a few friends, but stayed on course until the Board was rattled by the Lodha Committee recommendations.

For all his good work, Thakur incurred the wrath of the judiciary for refusing to accept the reforms. “He was ill-advised,” says former cricketer Kirti Azad, who has been in the forefront of the campaign for reforms along with Bishan Singh Bedi. Thakur had his well-wishers in some stalwarts of the game like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Shastri, but there was overwhelming pressure from the Lodha Panel to accept the reforms.

Thakur found himself in the eye of the storm. He became the face of the Board in trying to defy the Lodha Panel reforms and finally his whirlwind tenure came to an end as he became the second Board president after N. Srinivasan to be unseated by the judiciary.

His advisers deserted Thakur when he was sacked as the Board president. Even the well-wishers observed that Thakur had erred in his judgement to defy the judiciary. The stand that Thakur took was at the behest of some officials who remained in the background.

After his exciting tenure in the Board, the sacking came as an anti-climax in Thakur’s career as a cricket administrator. His response to the ruling reflected his disappointment at not being able to carry on with some of his projects. But Thakur, with all his experience as an administrator and politician, should have known the perils of defying the judiciary.