While corruption and fraud within the BCCI has tainted cricket in the country, the Supreme Court’s latest move is a welcome step towards cleaning up the sport.
The Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to the senior management of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The top court has entrusted the task of overseeing Indian cricket to Vinod Rai, the former comptroller and auditor general (CAG), who will now head a four-member body of administrators that will together run the BCCI. The Supreme Court has also appointed the former women’s cricket team captain, Diana Edulji, historian Ramachandra Guha and IDFC managing director, Vikram Limaye to the committee. This will surely initiate the much-needed cleaning that Indian cricket requires.
The latest development is a logical outcome of the court’s final judgement in the BCCI vs CAB case – pronounced on July 18, 2016 – and the further clarificatory orders given on January 2 this year. The BCCI leadership spread confusion at every stage, leading the Supreme Court to strongly disapprove of their conduct. Even now, as past-masters in double speak, those who regard India cricket as their jagir, or fief, have not accepted defeat.
It is significant that in recent hearings, the attorney general, Mukul Rohatgi, has also jumped into the fray. While declaring that the government has no love for the BCCI, he has seemingly come out in defence of three government bodies – the railways, universities and services – who have been relegated to associate status. While speaking for restoring the votes of the three entities, the AG suddenly started batting for BCCI, stating that India’s image has taken a battering by the court’s adverse judgment in this case. He also argued that the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) – already charged with grave misconduct, malfeasance and financial fraud – was a company under Section 25 of the Companies Act and that remedies against it were enforceable only under the Companies Act.
What the AG conveniently forgot to mention was that the DDCA president, under whose watch all the loot and plunder took place, is currently the union minister in charge of finance as well as corporate affairs. When 200 letters, messages, meetings and repeated pleading were not acted upon by him at that time, can one have any expectations from him in his current role as minister? The AG does not even talk about the hundreds of crores that have been ferreted out through sham companies for bogus work. The Delhi police and the Central Bureau of Investigation, despite having all the evidence, are simply trying to push all alleged criminal activities in DDCA under the carpet. To make matters worse, the Delhi police commissioner, who sat on all investigations for eight months, has now been made director of the CBI.
Another senior advocate and a former UPA minister, Kapil Sibal, does not know whom he is representing. One day he represents the BCCI, another day he represents the Baroda Cricket Association, and on some other day, he speaks on behalf of another cricket association. In the end, however, he only keeps speaking for the BCCI and for it to be given the power it had before. In effect, all these big lawyers keep trying to prove to the Supreme Court that a grave miscarriage of justice has been done to a handful of administrators who have given their lives to running and developing cricket in India. To prove their point, they even allude to sacrifices made by these administrators who gave up their successful businesses in tailoring, stationery shops, draper shops, retail shops etc.
Also, each of the office bearers of BCCI and state units says aloud – ‘We respect the Supreme Court verdict. But, there are practical difficulties in implementing them.’ They hold their meetings and decide not to implement the court’s judgment, and get an expensive lawyer to list excuses before the court. The BCCI arrays the most expensive counsel to keep implementation of the judgment at bay. They have a vice-like grip on state associations, yet they keep expressing helplessness in bringing the state units around to accepting the court’s judgment. The president of the BCCI lies through his teeth and wants the ICC to help them by objecting to a part of the judgment, whereas the secretary makes every effort to puncture England’s programme by requesting the English Cricketing Board chairman to call off the ongoing tour.
The sad part is not that the most adversely impacted freeloaders will have to make way for more professionals and well-meaning cricketers in the BCCI – the sadder part is that their defiance is continuing. If only some of these administrators are jailed for contempt of court, sanity might return to the proceedings.
A former Indian captain has asked for reforms like those recommended by the Lodha panel in all sports federations. What has led to this awakening? And why was he then opposing these very reforms earlier? Some people squeeze the system for their own aggrandisement. When they are confronted with certain loss of face, they start singing an altogether different tune. Ambivalence or sitting on the fence is not an uncommon trait in most humans. We tend to wait to take the final call till the very last minute, only after we see the winner. Switching towards the winning side is a common failing.
To suggest taking away the extra votes which have played havoc with the balance in the BCCI will lead to falling standards in the Ranji Trophy is like clutching at straws. New states carved out of bigger states are doing fairly well. Assam, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh are all doing fine and are making a real impact in domestic cricket. I will not be surprised to see Nagaland, Assam, Sikkim or Bihar winning the Ranji Trophy in the next few years if they are given a chance. Why should we assume that there will be progress only under the current dispensation which gives primacy to a few states? Is it because it is easier to control the BCCI by just lining up the three government votes behind whomsoever the government of the day wants to support.
If a player helps the opposite team, he is called a match fixer. We have already seen several cricketers being hauled up for match fixing – at least there is some social disgrace they have to eventually face. But the administrators, lawyers and even government legal luminaries are not bothered about social grace and are trying to repeat the same defence over and over again. The BCCI has already paid hundreds of crores in legal fees, trying to defend an indefensible case and are holding on to their chairs in hope, more than conviction.
Three office bearers who have already spent a major part of their lives ‘serving’ cricket, are still waiting to occupy the BCCI’s presidential chair. These office bearers are also waiting to be nominated as India’s representatives to the ICC’s meeting on February 2, despite being clearly ineligible under the Lodha guidelines. They are aware that except India, all other countries are represented by their respective CEOs.
Four years back, I had asked a question in Lok Sabha about the multiple cases of fraud happening within the BCCI and the DDCA. The ministry of corporate affairs assured me that they have asked the ministry of sports to draft a separate law on sports. They were also to ask all sports bodies to uniformly register under one authority. Four years on, despite my repeated letters and reminders, no law is in the offing.
Even the committee that has been formed by the sports ministry with 25 Olympians and internationals including myself, is not likely to lead anywhere. For one, it is not tasked with discussing the Lodha guidelines. Secondly, the committee contains some names who have been against the current Lodha recommendations regarding age and tenure guidelines in the past.
But, my struggle has certainly been vindicated. While I continue to face several defamation cases instituted by vested interests, I have full confidence in the top court to ensure transparency and fairness in the running of sports in India. These personal fiefdoms and family pocket boroughs will have to be wound up. The earlier these guys understand this basic principle, the better it will be for them, as well as, all sports federations.
For now, let us thank the Supreme Court for upholding the people’s faith in justice. But the struggle to clean up cricket and sports in India must go on till the time people of integrity are in charge of running all sports.
Kirti Azad, a former cricketer, is a BJP MP.