India Today - - NEWS - ( Aroon Purie)

The phe­nom­e­nal rise of the Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia ( BCCI) over the last two decades ought to have been told as a story of un­par­al­leled suc­cess. In a game that had tra­di­tion­ally been dom­i­nated by the fi­nan­cial and ad­min­is­tra­tive clout of Eng­land and Aus­tralia for a cen­tury, BCCI’s emer­gence as the rich­est and most in­flu­en­tial body in world cricket de­fied the odds. Be­gin­ning post- lib­er­al­i­sa­tion, In­dia’s cricket ad­min­is­tra­tors lever­aged In­dia’s rapidly grow­ing econ­omy to at­tract vast sums of money into its most pop­u­lar sport.

Un­for­tu­nately, BCCI’s rapid rise was built on a weak ed­i­fice. The sums of money the board at­tracted and man­aged were of en­vi­able cor­po­rate di­men­sions. It made a profit ( or sur­plus, since it’s tech­ni­cally a non- profit body) of al­most Rs 400 crore in 2011- 12. How­ever, the gov­er­nance struc­tures— in­clud­ing norms of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity— em­u­lated the worst of a crony cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. Now, as In­dian cricket faces pos­si­bly its worst cri­sis ever, the ab­sence of a strong foun­da­tion in its ad­min­is­tra­tive body threat­ens to de­stroy the cred­i­bil­ity of the game that we are all so pas­sion­ate about.

Last week, we did a cover story on BCCI Pres­i­dent N. Srini­vasan who is at the cen­tre of the lat­est storm. Amaz­ingly, he con­tin­ues to cling on to his of­fice de­spite the ar­rest of his son- in- law ( who, de­spite of­fi­cial de­nials, was a key fig­ure in the Chen­nai Su­per Kings ( CSK) fran­chise owned by In­dia Ce­ments, a Srini­vasan- owned com­pany) in the IPL spot- fix­ing scam. What was most shock­ing was the ini­tial reaction of key of­fi­cials and mem­bers of BCCI. They all ral­lied around their tainted boss, ex­pos­ing a sys­tem— rather than a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual— that was re­sis­tant to ac­count­abil­ity. BCCI’s mem­bers are no or­di­nary cit­i­zens. Among the 30 vot­ing mem­bers are four Union min­is­ters— C. P. Joshi, Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah, Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia and Ra­jeev Shukla— and three prom­i­nent lead­ers of the lead­ing op­po­si­tion party— Arun Jait­ley and Naren­dra Modi are in fact po­ten­tial prime min­is­ters, while Anurag Thakur heads BJP’s youth wing. Day af­ter day, th­ese pow­er­ful politi­cians speak out about the need for pro­bity in pub­lic life. But when it came to BCCI, all ex­cept Scin­dia chose si­lence as their first- choice strat­egy.

What seems ap­par­ent is that ev­ery­one who has a role in BCCI has played some part in pro­mot­ing or at least en­dors­ing the flawed sys­tem in place. Af­ter all, no­body raised ob­jec­tions when BCCI’s con­sti­tu­tion was amended to al­low of­fice- bear­ers ( read Srini­vasan) to also have ac­tive busi­ness in­ter­ests in the game ( the CSK IPL fran­chise). Ev­ery­one could have got to­gether to force a thor­ough clean- up of the IPL af­ter the tainted Lalit Modi was re­moved from BCCI in 2010. Even now, as sup­port for Srini­vasan has be­gun to wane in the face of huge pub­lic out­rage, no­body is talk­ing about a fun­da­men­tal over­haul of the sys­tem. It seems that most peo­ple in the sys­tem have much to gain from the sta­tus quo. The pa­tron­age net­work is huge. The com­pro­mise is deep.

Our cover story, writ­ten by Deputy Edi­tor Ku­nal Prad­han and As­so­ciate Edi­tor G. S. Vivek, de­con­structs the beast that BCCI has be­come. It turns out that BCCI is run by the for­ma­tion of op­por­tunist short- term al­liances be­tween key mem­bers rather than rules and norms. There is much in­trigue and pol­i­tick­ing which oc­ca­sion­ally yield a spec­tac­u­lar ouster of some­one im­por­tant. That does not change the sys­tem.

In In­dia, re­form of­ten hap­pens in the shadow of a cri­sis. BCCI is not owned by any­one. It is a non- profit as­so­ci­a­tion formed for the ben­e­fit of cricket and must be trans­par­ent and con­form to norms of good gov­er­nance. This is the time to flush out the cul­ture of mu­tual back scratch­ing and restore the pres­tige of this au­gust body of In­dia’s pre­mier sport.


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