A series of strange decisions of by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) has flummoxed the Indian cricket community and millions of fans. Their one-upmanship against the acting officials of the Board of Control for Cricket has worsened the situation.
The CoA was appointed with the sole purpose of implementing the recommendations of the Lodha panel and hold election under the new constitution. But after almost two years, the CoA is doing everything except what it was supposed to do.
On January 30, 2017, the Supreme Court had set up a four-member panel comprising former Comptroller & Auditor General Vinod Rai, historian and distinguished academic Ramachandra Guha, banker Vikaram Limaye, and cricketer Diana Edulji. Rai heads the panel.
Guha, who is also a cricket chronicler, stressed the need to co-opt at least one former Indian male cricketer; his suggestion was not accepted. He resigned just after two meetings, as he was not comfortable with the atmosphere.
A few months later, Limaye too quit; he too couldn’t stomach the sledgehammer approach of Rai and Diana. They brushed aside every suggestion. Acting officials of the BCCI have proposed many names to fill the vacancies of two members but the CoA doesn’t seem interested in it.
So, the now two-person panel has a 70-year-old retired bureaucrat and a 62-year-old former Indian women cricketer, neither of whom has a first-hand experience of the demands of contemporary cricket which these days is played virtually throughout the year; even the summer-break has the 45-day domestic IPL T20 tournament. Instead of focusing on its mandate, it keeps fighting with BCCI officials, trying to curtail their powers. This is hurting the functioning of the BCCI.
The Indian team’s South Africa and England tours were marred by losses but there were also off-field stories, particularly bitter fights among the players’ wives. Infighting, backbiting, and demand for a separate manager for cricketers’ wives and kids invited criticism.
Before the Australia tour, the coterie of head coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli raised the demand to have family around them for the entire tour. This is a decision that cricket boards around the world make, but here it was the CoA that took the call. Then it advised Kohli to behave properly. This eliblockquoted reaction in the social media that CoA acting like a headmaster.
Before the Lodha committee, the National Cricket Academy (NCA) was the go-to establishment, its directors being experienced cricket administrators who had also played the game at the highest level. The former national captain Dilip Vengsarkar (the only Indian to score three centuries at Lord’s) was appointed as director of the NCA a few years ago, but he was sidelined; he quit in frustration. With cricketing matters constantly being referred to the Supreme Court, there is no system to ensure that there is no decline in the standards of institutions like the NCA.
The problem is not just confined to the working of the two CoA members. The Supreme Court had directed that all states, including those in the North-east where there is no cricketing culture, should play first-class cricket in the domestic Ranji Trophy tournament. But there is not much cricketing infrastructure in the region. The BCCI is not only struggling to locate venues for the 2018-19 season but is also finding it extremely difficult to fix dates for an already over-stretched schedule where matches have to be supervised by an inadequate number of umpires and officials.
Things were hardly perfect at the BCCI before the intervention of the Supreme Court. However, the BCCI does deserve some credit if India are now the number-one Test team in the world. But, with the CoA coming into being, decisions are getting postponed. A naive and random search for perfect solutions is undermining what was put in place over the decades.
BCCI state units had approved at a special general meeting (SGM) the new contracts of Indian players, proposed an enhanced pay scale for domestic players, and suggested strict directives to stop corruption in state T20 leagues among others. Members also put on hold the appointment of Ajit Singh as the new chief of the Anti-Corruption Unit, as proposed by the CoA, and rejected the idea of granting the Ranji status to Uttarakhand. However, the CoA retaliated and turned down the proposals.
The CoA, however, questioned the validity of the SGM, Accordingly, it has directed that no office bearer/committee member/employee/consultant/retainer/service provider shall in any way implement, act further to, or in aid of any resolutions that may have been passed during the aforesaid meeting. This has resulted in standoff between the CoA and the BCCI.
It is shocking to learn that such decisions as the implementation of anti-corruption protocols and participation of uncapped players are all being stalled. The message that the CoA is sending across is that important decision less important than the egos of its two members.