Manohar’s crucial second innings

The newly elected Board of Control for Cricket in India President’s priority would be to improve the image of the Board and win back the confidence of the cricket fans.

N. Srinivasan and Shahsank Manohar.   -  Vivek Bendre

Sharad Pawar with Lalit Modi.   -  PTI

People acquainted with Shashank Manohar’s way of functioning as a cricket administrator only have encouraging and positive statements to make about him. The 58-year-old lawyer from Nagpur has held top positions in the provincial and Indian cricket boards and, indeed, he is not without any criticisms. A few of them have been quite scathing.

One of the few decisions that he was party to relates to the amendment of a rule in the BCCI’s Memorandum and Rules and Regulations that permitted a Board official to be part owner of teams in the Indian Premier League. The actual amendment clause 6.2.4 reads: “No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in any of the events of BCCI, excluding IPL, Champions League and Twenty20.”

Those were the nascent days (in 2008) of the IPL, and people such as Sharad Pawar, Manohar, N. Srinivasan and Lalit Modi formed a solid and powerful phalanx, as the wheels of the BCCI moved in the direction given by these four. In fact, Srinivasan bid for the Chennai franchise on the basis of the letter given by Pawar that there would not be any conflict of interest.

Although the BCCI went through the process of franchise auction, it was common knowledge that the teams went to people whose pockets were deep. Sources have often revealed that Manohar and Srinivasan were against the move to make Modi the IPL commissioner for five years, but Pawar’s opinion went in favour of Modi at a BCCI meeting.

Manohar and Srinivasan also resented when Modi, as vice-president of the BCCI, supposedly granted, unilaterally, a $3 million cash award to the Indian team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni that won the inaugural ICC Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, and also a cash prize of Rs. 1 crore to Yuvraj Singh for hitting six 6s off Stuart Broad in a single over. Again, the BCCI could not backtrack because the announcement had already been made; Manohar and Srinivasan were of the view that the approval of the Finance Committee and the Working Committee had to be sought before making such an announcement.

Things have changed a lot from 2008. Manohar is now back in the hot seat after being nominated by all six full members from East Zone.

The vacancy that arose following the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya had to be filled, and though Pawar expressed his interest to run the BCCI backed by Srinivasan, the responsibility eventually fell upon Manohar, who was persuaded by the Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, the BCCI Secretary, Anurag Thakur, and the President of the Maharashtra Cricket Association, Ajay Shirke, to take up the job. There were a number of associations on board before the nomination process was undertaken the day before the Special General Meeting (October 4).

Clearly, Manohar was upset that Srinivasan did not heed to his request to resign along with Shirke (treasurer) and Sanjay Jagdale (secretary) when the spot-, match-fixing and betting allegations became public and especially after Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan (the face of the IPL team, Chennai Super Kings) was arrested by the Mumbai Police.

For six years, from 2005 to 2011, Manohar and Srinivasan appeared to be excellent team-mates and provided stability to the Board by taking some tough decisions, including re-negotiating a deal with IMG for running the IPL though the conflict of interest amendment was a major blemish. On the other hand, Manohar, as President, had cancelled the proposal for two additional franchises when he learnt that the bids were not received at the BCCI office in Churchgate, but at a hotel that had virtually become a parallel office from where Modi used to function. Manohar backed his decision with some strong statements.

A few days after he turned 58, Manohar spelt out his plan of action to improve the image of the BCCI and win back the confidence of the cricket fans. He said he would bring measures to do away with the conflict of interest of administrators, staff and the players and their agents; tackle corruption in a pro-active manner and appoint independent monitoring systems for annual accounts of the full member units that receive subvention of Rs. 20 crore plus every year; appoint an independent ethics officer (ombudsman); publish any expenditure over Rs. 25 lakh and the by-laws on the BCCI website.

Manohar also expressed the lack of a strong bench strength, the absence of quality spinners and committed himself to make the National Cricket Academy more functional so that it can become the supply-line for Indian teams. He also announced that the national women’s team would be offered central contracts.

Some of the full members may frown upon Manohar’s plans, especially the affiliated units against whom there have been allegations of misuse of the subvention money. The BCCI has also empowered itself to take action against such units.

Manohar said he would put in place measures to prevent conflict of interest in one month and all of his plans in two months flat. “I will be in office for two years, but I hope to do all this in two months,” he said.

The newly elected BCCI President has important matters to deal with. Firstly, he has to take a call on the way forward for IPL 2016 because the Justice R. M. Lodha Commission has suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years. He has to take stock of the arbitration issue with Kochi Tuskers Kerala. A court appointed arbitrator has ruled that the BCCI pay a compensation of Rs. 550 crore to KTK because its franchise agreement was unfairly terminated.

There is also the issue of whether the BCCI would change its nomination to the ICC at the next AGM. The BCCI’s current representative is Srinivasan.

The first working committee meeting of the BCCI after Manohar assumed office for the second time will throw more light on how the Board plans to make its functioning transparent and accountable. The meeting is scheduled for October 18 in Mumbai.