IT’S NOT GOING TO BE EASY
The Supreme Court-appointed administrators are going to face tough challenges in their bid to cleanse the cricket board
As the dust finally settles on the SC direction appointing Vinod Rai, Ram Guha, Diana Edulji andVikramLimayeasinterim administratorsoftheBCCI,itis essential we turn our attention to the challenges they are likely to face. What is the primary task at hand? Clearly it will be to implement the Lodha reforms in totality. And if the buzz within the BCCI is anything to go by, the administrators will have to do so forcibly. Ousted office bearers and men who now stand disqualified will do everything to put a spanner in the wheels. With Amitabh Choudhary and Anirudh Chaudhary from among the old guard still around, the administrators will not have it easy. In a conference call on Sunday convened by Amitabh Choudhary, which interestingly was also attended by ousted and disqualified office bearers (that it was a contempt of court is a different matter), it was decided that the BCCI would nominate Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke as representatives to the ICC. It was also decided to put forward the name of N Srinivasan, but he later on declined anticipating a backlash. This is evidence that the BCCI, still, is not inclined to implement the reforms. Thereiscontinuousandcontinuingresistance and that’s not something the interim administrators will find easy to deal with.
The second most important challenge is to ensure that the IPL, India’s signature cricket tournament, is held on schedule. Nothing in terms of planning has happened yet and the franchise owners are yet to be notified about the auction date. The auction, which was initially planned for 4 February, had to be rescheduled and it is now likely that it will be held towards the end of the month. Not a single IPL contract has been awarded and a tournament of this scale requires months of planning, which the administrators will now have to do on a war footing.
Given Rai’s experience and given he will be assisted by Rahul Johri and his team, it is not beyond them. But as I have said already it will not be easy. State Associations are still controlled by the old guard – evident from their AFP choice of representatives to the ICC, and there will be serious reluctance to following directives related to the smooth conduct of the IPL.
Johri,amanwhohasconductedhimselfwith much dignity and grace in the last few weeks, will have to take up the bulk of the responsibility. None of the administrators have any experience of running a cricket body and it will be on Johri to hand hold and initiate them in the initial few months and weeks.
While doing so he will also have to move on with the IPL tender process, which is expected to fetch the BCCI a couple of billion dollars at least. And this, it can be said, will be a defining moment in Indian cricket. If the tender process goes through smoothly and if the BCCI is able to generate serious monies as is expected, the game will have come out triumphant and freed of the clutches of the old guard. It doesn’t require a Srinivasan or a Thakur or a Shirke to generate money. The IPL brand is robust enough for companies to agree to pay the premium dollar. It will also send out a very strong signal that individuals will come and go but the game will go on without any disturbance.
The administrators will also have to clarify a number of key questions. With the SC stating that the total tenure for an administrator is 9+9 years and not the 9 as was stated in the January 3 order, questions arise over the nature of the cooling off period as well. Can an administrator move on to the BCCI after he has served his state for a 3 year term? If he gives up his responsibilities in the state association(whiletakingovermanagerialresponsibilities in the BCCI) will that be deemed as a coolingoffperiodinthestateassociation?Can Anirudh Chaudhary, who is already 3 years and 3 months into his role, continue or will cooling-off be imposed immediately?
Finally and most importantly, how long will the interim body take to implement the reforms? They are ‘interim’ administrators and cannot be in their positions for ever. But how quickly can the reforms process be completed? It is essential India sends a full-time elected person to the ICC annual meeting in June for many key governance decisions are likely to be taken there and an interim person will find it impossible to deal with the situation.
On the field of play, India has rarely has it as good as it is now under Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble. The team is playing superbly and we are firmly perched at the top of the ICC Test standings. But off the field, the tumult continues. And will for a time with the administrators trying to find their feet. But with each of the administrators having a proven track record in their field and with Johri and his team there to help, there is hope that the cleansing is finally going to be underway.