Cobwebs and a website!

The BCCI fights to this day the sweeping reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee. More than a year has passed since the Committee of Administrators was constituted but its resolve and bite are rather weak now. It is all down to the Supreme Court. Until a new constitution is framed, the status quo is likely to persist.

Vinod Rai, the Chairman of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the Supreme Court, is irked by the BCCI’ attempts to stall the reform process.   -  AFP

Sometimes, it is the little things that matter. In the beginning of February, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) website went offline for about a day. Somebody forgot to renew the domain of bcci.tv; cue, confusion. The website was rescued the next day but the momentary uncertainty summed up the ongoing administrative chaos in Indian cricket.

Sometimes, one wishes the problems were just similarly benign. In January, an affidavit filed by the BCCI CEO, Rahul Johri, in the Supreme Court discussed the problems between the Chief Financial Officer, Santosh Rangnekar and Treasurer, Anirudh Chaudhry. Johri backed up Rangnekar’s earlier claim that the latter was subjected to death threats by Chaudhry; “if he had been in Haryana, the CFO would have evaporated by now and no one would have ever known of his existence”, the BCCI treasurer was accused of saying.

According to the affidavit, Chaudhry was even alleged to have asked the CFO to consume potassium cyanide. The atmosphere at BCCI, obviously, is rather poisonous. But how did it come to this?

More than 18 months on from the Supreme Court’s judgment which gave legal backing to the Lodha Committee reforms, the administration of cricket in India is much the same. Throughout the country, state cricket associations have barely embraced the revamp, as proxies of former office-bearers still call the shots and there is hardly any agreement over a new constitution.

The existing BCCI office-bearers have earned the ire of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators — chaired by Vinod Rai, its strength down to two — for stalling the reform process. Although the CoA lies weakened, in October last year, it had submitted a draft constitution which incorporated the Lodha Committee recommendations in toto.

Debating key clauses: At repeated hearings in the apex court, the BCCI office-bearers — acting President C. K. Khanna (centre), acting Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary (left) and Treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry (right) — have lamented the lack of consensus among member associations over the reforms. In truth, they are not championing the cause either.   -  PTI

 

Yet, at repeated hearings in the apex court, the BCCI office-bearers — acting President C.K. Khanna, acting Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary and Treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry — have lamented the lack of consensus among member associations over the reforms. In truth, they are not championing the cause either. Even now, there remains a debate over key clauses within the BCCI. This prompted the CoA’s latest move to curtail the office bearers’ powers – no sub-committee meetings can be called, appointments made, or travel and external legal expenses undertaken without the approval of Vinod Rai and co.

Curious move

While former and existing administrators continue to seek a compromise, it does seem to be a curious move on their part since a Supreme Court judgment is not exactly open to negotiation. Yet, words are often twisted to suit agendas. In July, Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s willingness to review the ‘one vote-one state’ clause, the elevation of institutions like Railways and Services to the status of associate members and the reduction of national selectors from five to three was interpreted by the dissenting camp differently. Now many among the old guard feel the whole process is open for compromise. However, a closer reading of proceedings in the Supreme Court reveals that view to be far from the truth.

The office-bearers who had to resign owing to the Lodha reforms now find themselves in the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s Management Committee, including former BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke, who was removed by the Supreme Court in 2017.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

 

Still, the delay in framing the new constitution has ensured that arbitrariness rules. Even the associations which claim to have implemented Lodha reforms have not extricated themselves from old networks. In some cases, the process was carried out merely to ensure that the BCCI’s periodic financial support continues.

The Maharashtra Cricket Association is a case in point. The office-bearers who had to resign owing to the Lodha reforms now find themselves in the association’s Management Committee, including former BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke who was removed by the Supreme Court in 2017. Although elections are due in April, they are unlikely to go through until the new constitution is put in place.

Massive debt

Sources revealed that Maharashtra was keen to show its acceptance of the Lodha reforms because it finds itself under a massive debt. Some have ascertained the figure to be in the region of 350 crore rupees, not to mention a hefty interest payout as well. The construction of the cricket stadium in Pune is said to have caused the funds crunch at the association. Maharashtra’s financial concerns may have been relieved for now but the progress of Lodha reforms has not actually gone through.

Although state associations continue to reap the rewards of BCCI’s financial growth over the years, large-scale developmental work is unlikely to be carried out in the absence of the central body’s periodic grants. Furthermore, certain administrators are kept in office as they are able to exploit their personal clout for the benefit of the state association.

That is believed to be the case at the Gujarat Cricket Association where only a handful of office-bearers resigned following the Supreme Court order in January 2017. President Amit Shah, vice-president Parimal Nathwani and joint secretary Jay Shah (the President’s son) remain in their posts, even though treasurer Dhiraj Jogani, secretary Rajesh Patel and vice-president K. L. Contractor gave up their office. As GCA prepares to build the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, the sponsors attracted by the Bharatiya Janata Party politician, Shah, remain vital to the project. The Shahs and Nathwani, though, fall foul of the cooling-off period clause.

Refusing to quit: The vice-President of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), Parimal Nathwani (third from left) and GCA Joint Secretary Jay Shah (left) take part in a foundation-stone laying ceremony of a proposed cricket stadium in Motera in January last year. Nathwani and Shah are holding on to their posts, though they were supposed to quit last year following the Supreme Court order.   -  AFP

 

However, even the partial ground conceded to the Lodha reforms in Gujarat was an eyewash as ex-treasurer Jogani now works as the CEO at GCA and other administrators continue to hold smaller offices. Former joint-secretary Hitesh Patel told Sportstar that even the players’ association has not been set up and anybody who tries to establish it will not be able to work with cricketers in the state.

Shedding further light on the arbitrary functioning within the body, Patel revealed that the 900-crore stadium in Ahmedabad has been supported with a loan worth 300 crores. “Once the current set of office-bearers go, how will the future administrators run cricket in Gujarat? All the money would have been used up.”

However, like most administrators contacted by Sportstar, Patel also harbours doubts over the viability of the three-year tenure limit. “If I start a project, it will stop if the new person does not share my vision.” But it needs to be said that, in Indian cricket, such power shifts are very rare.

As the tussle between the CoA and BCCI continues, confusion reigns. A source close to the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) revealed that despite the elections in 2017, ostensibly in line with the Lodha Committee recommendations, the current President and Secretary are not very sure of their roles — the old network hangs heavy. He added that things do not function smoothly anymore, citing the late announcement of domestic fixtures this season as an example.

Dissenting voices on the rise

Yet, even as cricket administration fails to come out of its age-old spheres of influence, dissenting voices are on the rise. The Punjab Cricket Players Association (PCPA) was set up last year to shed light on the irregularities in cricket administration. In light of the Punjab Cricket Association’s (PCA) failure to implement the Lodha reforms, the PCPA has been running a media campaign to show that the existing office-bearers are essentially working at the behest of influential men like M.P. Pandove and G.S. Walia — administrators now rendered ineligible.

Former India cricketer and PCPA president Bhupinder Singh Sr. lamented the state of affairs when he spoke to Sportstar. “The same old people are unofficially running the show. The elections were a farce. Nothing has been implemented. The PCA officials are promising positions to PCPA members (in order to weaken the opposition).”

As PCA is on relatively sound financial footing, it is under little pressure to accept the reforms immediately. Bhupinder Singh Sr. revealed that the delay in the framing of the new constitution is weakening the resolve of the protesting camp. “The Supreme Court is our saviour now,” he added, more in hope than expectation.

Speaking plainly: Kapil Dev once remarked with acuity, “I could hope to become the Prime Minister of India but I will never be a member of the Haryana Cricket Association.”   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

While it is only the apex court which can rule on the sticking points, a larger debate is worth having on what constitutes conflict of interest. As former Cricket Association of Bengal administrator Biswarup Dey pointed out, “Someone is doing commentary and is also an administrator. Someone runs coaching camps and continues to be an administrator. What is the meaning of conflict of interest? Nothing!”

In the absence of a clear understanding of conflict of interest, ad-hocism will continue to be in vogue. The situation in Bengal only conforms to the type.

According to the old CAB constitution, elections are supposed to be held every year. But the last election took place in July 2015.

“No accounts were passed, there is no secretary. If the budget was not passed, how will people have faith in the system? Without election, the budget cannot be formally passed. India is a democratic country but this is no democracy at all. This is not good or healthy,” Dey said sharply.

The arbitrary operations could be stymied by the implementation of the reforms but the BCCI has not shown willingness on its part, despite being afforded a generous amount of time by the Supreme Court.

Former cricketer P. R. Man Singh is also waiting for the apex court’s order as he hopes it will bring an end to the administrative crisis at the Hyderabad Cricket Association. Little seems to have changed in the past year; when Hyderabad hosted the India-Bangladesh Test in February 2017, the BCCI entrusted Ratnakar Shetty to oversee its organisation, in line with an order by the Hyderabad High Court.

However, the elections last year did not follow the Lodha Committee recommendations and chaos has reigned ever since. At a Special General Meeting in January, President G. Vivekanand claimed that the Lodha reforms were adopted but there were barely any hands raised in support when the procedure was put to vote. Vivekanand’s continuing animosity with former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin has won him no favours and it is not certain he will have the support of HCA members, if fresh elections were to be called.

Man Singh gave Sportstar the lowdown. “At the SGM, various clauses were not discussed. How can one say it was implemented? (Former President) Arshad Ayub and Vivek don’t let anyone speak. The meeting was ridiculous. The Apex Council has been there for a year but they have not gone through the accounts. According to the constitution, they need to meet once a month.”

With the secretary suspended and the joint secretary’s post lying vacant, the situation at HCA is only giving strength to the need for reforms. Owing to poor organisation, the association has also seen a relative reduction in cricket matches when compared with previous years. Although the existing dispensation has admitted in the past that elections in 2017 were not conducted properly, there is unlikely to be a change until the Supreme Court delivers its much-awaited order. “I’m terribly hurt by the delay,” Man Singh summed up his feelings.

Conflict of interest

He is not alone. Aditya Verma, the man who arguably brought the BCCI to its predicament through his pursuit of conflict of interest within the cricket body, believes there has been no progress. “The Supreme Court said they wanted change. So, it’s down to them now. The CoA can do only so much, they are without weapons. The BCCI does not listen to them.”

Aditya Verma, Secretary, Cricket Association of Bihar (right), with a Supreme Court lawyer. Verma began it all.   -  V. SUDERSHAN

 

Verma’s petition in the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal had led to an end of N. Srinivasan’s time as BCCI President but it is a measure of the reforms’ limited impact that the latter remains an influential presence at the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. Nobody from the association agreed to speak to Sportstar, another sign of the opaque administration that has come to be the accepted norm there. While the cricket may largely be unaffected, the TNCA’s democratic credentials are less convincing.

In terms of the BCCI, though, Verma identifies Acting Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary as the key impediment to reforms. “Till Amitabh Chaudhary is there, there is little hope. I have seen him work for 16 years. Because of him, the Cricket Association of Bihar could not function. An inquiry should be set up. At the Jharkhand State Cricket Association, he is calling the shots even though he is not the president anymore.”

Verma is already preparing a case of contempt against the current BCCI dispensation. The violations he lists are many — Chaudhary is accused to have secured funds for JSCA despite the non-implementation of Lodha reforms; the acting secretary was also alleged to have fallen foul of the All India Services Rules for holding the JSCA President’s office longer than he was permitted; and the non-inclusion of Bihar in this season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy despite the Supreme Court order in January which directed the BCCI to accommodate the state’s team.

If one were to scrutinise BCCI Treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry and his parent body, the Haryana Cricket Association, the charges of maladministration will only grow. Haryana, notorious for its denial of membership to cricketers and a classified constitution, represents the worst excesses of Indian cricket. As Kapil Dev once remarked with acuity, “I could hope to become the Prime Minister of India but I will never be a member of the Haryana Cricket Association.”

Refusing to have a website

Chaudhry, the man nominally responsible to smoothen the passage of Lodha reforms nationwide, comes from an association which refuses to have a website in this day and age. Even on that count, Haryana falls foul of the Lodha Committee recommendations as every cricket body needs to have its own website. Chaudhry, of course, is also representative of dynastic rule in Indian cricket — he is the son of former BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who ruled the association with an iron fist; one-family rule has since become de rigueur in the state.

Evidently, there is still a lot to do. While the actors lie in wait for a judicial intervention, there is a cricket association which has quietly experienced a renaissance under the leadership of a retired judge. The Delhi District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) operations have been overseen by Justice Vikramjit Sen over the past year and his work has gladdened the heart of many cricket admirers in the national capital. Former player Kirti Azad is one of them.

“Once the administrative changes came through DDCA, it has turned downside up. The administrators have done a great job. Things are in perspective. There is transparency, finally.”

Getting the CoA nod: Cricketers who led Delhi were felicitated at a function organised by the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), in New Delhi on November 29, 2017. DDCA’s functioning, under Justice Vikramjit Sen, has earned the approval of the CoA too, while former cricketers in the state were particularly impressed by the much-delayed felicitation.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

 

DDCA’s functioning has earned the approval of the CoA too while former cricketers in the state were particularly impressed by the much-delayed felicitation of Delhi’s ex-captains in November last year at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium. While the relative success at the DDCA may have proved the doubters of judicial intervention in cricket administration wrong, benign ad-hocism cannot be a substitute to the reforms.

Azad did express his disappointment with the CoA chief Vinod Rai but also noted that if there was a regulatory body for all sports federations in the country, the Supreme Court would not have had to intervene in the BCCI’s matters. In fact, the central body’s delaying tactics only strengthen the case for an external watchdog; the former cricketer, though, is not surprised by the BCCI’s actions. “What do you expect of a spoilt brat?” Azad remarked sharply.

However, as has been the case during this long-running episode, Aditya Verma summed up the situation better than most. “Rajiv Shukla is still IPL chairman. Some players went to jail (for spot-fixing) but they came out on bail. The suspended teams (Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals) have come back into the IPL. Nothing has changed.”

Verma’s mention of the IPL is not out of context. After all, it was the tournament’s spot-fixing case in 2013 which set a chain of events culminating in the sweeping reforms which BCCI fights to this day. More than a year has passed since the Committee of Administrators was constituted but its resolve and bite are rather weak now. It is all down to the Supreme Court. Until a new constitution is framed, the status quo is likely to persist.

On the bright side, the BCCI’s website will be secure for a while.