The Bhandarkar Road, on the fringes of Deccan Gymkhana area, is a hustling stretch in Pune. The spot reverberates with sights and sounds. The smell of Irani chai from the neighbouring Cafe Goodluck is like a hypnotic induction. It will, automatically, draw you towards the junction — packed with students from the nearby Fergusson College, doctors from Gupte Hospital and young cricketers, who either train at the Gymkhana ground or the PYC; both within 500 metres.
But the noise subsides once you enter the lane opposite to the electricity board office. It is a dead end, but the last building on the street has injected life into cricket in Maharashtra. Abhay Apte — the president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) — calls the shots from the ground floor. Exactly a year ago, on January 6, 2017, he was granted the presidency at an Executive Council meeting. He replaced the former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary and his ‘old friend’ Ajay Shirke.
READ: Maharashtra Cricket Association ‘adopts’ Lodha panel reforms
Last week, the MCA adopted the recommendations of the Justice R.M. Lodha committee at its Special General Body Meeting under the tutelage of Apte. Being an advocate, he was earlier a part of the BCCI legal committee. He knew the nuances of Lodha reforms.
For the sake of funds
The event not only put an end to a long-standing conflict, it is expected to pull in funds for the association too. “For one-and-a-half years, there were no funds coming from the BCCI. Though they were kind enough to help us in extreme situations, but it was time to put an end to the status quo. It was in the interest of our association. A few may feel the old scheme had more advantages, but there were people who thought otherwise too. Our decision, thankfully, was unanimous. MCA comes first,” he told Sportstar , sitting in his cabin, with a mountain of All India Reporter books in the shelf.
The BCCI has been debating about the Lodha Committee report since the last 18 months. On October 1, in a press release, the board stated that they have adopted “important recommendations” suggested by the Lodha panel, but at the same time, they had reservations about the 70 year-age cap on administrators, nine-year tenure accompanied by a cooling period every term and the one-state-one-vote policy. “It was accepted with certain modifications. As far as the state associations are concerned, the Honourable Supreme Court had said that unless you undertake and support the reforms, along with any new orders which may be passed on the subject, you will not get funds. The associations who will agree will have the funds,” he reminded.
BCCI sources said that apart from Maharashtra — Vidarbha, Tripura and Kerala have accepted the compliance. Goa is also in the process.
The MCA was prompt to reshuffle their office to fall in line with the Lodha reforms. “On Jan 2, 2017, when the large judgement was passed on the subject, we made immediate changes. All office bearers who stood disqualified, as per the judgement, vacated their positions and new people were elected. Even I have not completed one year as an office bearer in any capacity. A fresh committee was formed. Cricket is our main objective and we want to spend on that,” said Apte.
It is learnt that Shirke, who had reservations about certain sections of the Lodha report, was co-operative in the act. “He is still a part of our General Body. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that he was co-operative in getting the resolution passed.”
For the road ahead
The MCA will now approach the BCCI for grants. “Now that we have become a compliant association, we will function accordingly. We have had internal discussions on several matters. There is an FD which is to be liquidated too. With this positive step, I am certain that the finances will be streamlined,” he added.
Being an old member of the Deccan Gymkhana, where he once served as a chairman, Apte is also known to the Maharashtra cricketers. “Kedar (Jadhav). Ankit (Bawne), Rahul (Tripathi) all know me well. Even Shashank Manohar is a good friend of mine. Whenever he is in Pune, he has been here,” he said, pointing to the array of luxury cushioned chairs in the room.
Ever since he took charge, Pune hosted two ODI matches and a Test, along with the entire IPL season. Rising Pune Supergiant even reached the final, where it lost to Mumbai Indians by a whisker. “We also got the semifinal of the Ranji Trophy. It is a long process. We have started working in a scenario where everything is uncertain. We don’t know Lodha committee kahan tak aayega, kitna implement hoga and what will be the next orders. This is an association of many people, including the BCCI. Every month, there is a new event to be addressed. Every stakeholder in the state association also needs to be addressed. I am trying to deal with one issue at one point,” he reasoned.
IPL has been a boon for the MCA, but this time, since Rising Pune Supergiant is defunct, there is still no news of matches being allotted. “IPL definitely helps in funds. The best part is cricket being played on the ground throughout the year. Pune has been an active centre and the tournament uplifts the morale of the game as the next generation is only looking at T20. On top of that, ours is an association that doesn’t need complimentary passes. It is less compared to other centres,” he flaunted the democratic approach of MCA towads cricket fans.
Nonetheless, the major bouncer in Apte’s presidency has been the Pandurang Salgaoncar pitch-fixing issue. But he dealt with care. “He was suspended with immediate effect as you know. I did it to keep the reputation of the game intact, I don’t want to allege anything. The International Cricket Council is investigating and we will await their report,” he sounded firm.
The gargantuan monitor on the right side of his table, connected to the laptop, is usually used to read drafts of cases. Now it seems that he needs to increase on his hard disk space. Cricket has crept in.