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Why the SC Verdict on N. Srinivasan Is Important, Not Least Because of BCCI’s Pseudo-Problems

Srinivasan’s history of arm-twisting people into submission is valued highly by his supporters, who don’t take a benign view of the measures being used to halt Shashank Manohar’s reforms.

N. Srinivasan. Credit: PTI

N. Srinivasan. Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court of India stood its ground once again on April 10. Faced with the latest attempt to subvert the Lodha Committee’s recommendations for revamping the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the SC ruled that ineligible office bearers cannot attend the board’s meetings.

The latest order was necessitated after the current Committee of Administrators (CoA), represented by P. Chidambaram on Monday, requested the apex court’s intervention last week. The CoA sought an urgent response upon learning that the three office bearers – C.K. Khanna (acting president), Amitabh Choudhary (acting secretary) and Anirudh Chaudhry (treasurer) – preferred former BCCI chief N. Srinivasan represent the board at the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Dubai later this month.

Srinivasan met the trio on April 5 as he sought to drum up support for his candidature. While the CoA stuck to its argument that no ineligible person could be allowed to represent the BCCI or any state association, the office bearers sought various loopholes to push their candidate. The efforts are unlikely to stop even now as the SC will decide on April 17 whether Srinivasan is eligible to attend the meetings at the ICC.

The former BCCI president is ineligible to hold any office having passed the age stipulation of 70. He has also crossed the nine-year limit for office bearers at both the state and BCCI levels. Further, Srinivasan is liable to be found guilty of contempt of court as he is yet to resign as the president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA).

The SC had bestowed legal validation upon Lodha Committee’s recommendations on July 18 last year.

And despite the apex legal body foreseeing Lodha Committee’s influence to “be confined to overall policy and directions” in a January 20 order this year, it does seem curious that those who support N. Srinivasan’s candidature would believe that it meant that they could contravene the spirit of SC’s judgement from last July. Yet, they continue to make efforts to undermine the CoA and bring about a return of the old order.

The latest attempt to subvert the reform process saw the presence of Srinivasan, Niranjan Shah and T.C. Mathew at the BCCI’s special general meeting (SGM) in New Delhi on April 9. All three of them do not meet the eligibility criteria set out by the Lodha Committee. Yet, the BCCI office bearers sought to press on with the election of Srinivasan as their representative to the ICC. Importantly, none of the CoA’s four members were present at the meeting and the board’s CEO Rahul Johri gave it a miss as well.

According to reports, the meeting had been adjourned after it was decided by those present to wait for the SC’s order. But there was a subplot that may have given the Srinivasan camp cold feet. It is fairly well-known that not everyone is an admirer of the former board president within the BCCI. Hence, attempts were made to position an alternative candidate.

Consensus was drawn around Sourav Ganguly’s name, who currently heads the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). As the lobbying continued, it became a real possibility that Srinivasan may fail to garner the required 16 votes out of 30 to secure the win. Hence, there may be more to what meets the eye behind the adjournment of the BCCI SGM, which will now be held on April 17. Thanks to the SC’s latest order, though, Srinivasan will not be able to attend that meeting.

However, it is worth exploring why the BCCI office bearers are adamant to name him as the board’s representative in the ICC. Cricket’s global governing body is currently considering an overhaul of its constitution, which would considerably dilute the 2014 power grab by the boards of India, Australia and England.

The charge back then was led by Srinivasan, who has also held the office of ICC chairman in the past. After Shashank Manohar replaced him in November 2015, he chose a more conciliatory approach with other boards. This meant a move towards a more equitable structure of governance and revenue distribution. A report from ESPN Cricinfo laid down the proposed figures:

In that (previous) model, for gross ICC revenue of $2.5 billion, the BCCI stood to earn between 17.6-18% of the revenue (between $440-445 million). In the new model, at the same gross revenue, it gets 10-10.2%. That is a reduction in potential earnings of between $180-190 million. The percentage share does increase should the ICC’s revenue increase but it isn’t a large spike: if the ICC gets $3 billion as revenue, the BCCI’s share will be between 11.16-11.33%.

Although the BCCI still stands to accrue double the revenue as compared to the next body – the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – it registered its protest following the ICC Board meeting in February by calling the new model ‘arbitrary’. Although that’s a charge the ICC does not deny, as it seeks to arrive at figures through consensus, it is essentially replacing one arbitrary model with another. The BCCI’s immense privilege as the richest cricketing body in the world however means that it is unlikely to lose its leverage even with the new model.

The lead-up to the next ICC meeting was further complicated by Manohar’s resignation last month and his subsequent about-turn. When he resigned, it was seen by many as the BCCI succeeding in its attempts to push its case. However, Manohar’s popularity meant that a resolution circulated among ICC board members led to nine votes out of ten calling for his return. Now, he will remain in the job long enough to see his reform process succeed or fail.

To overturn the old governance structure, however, Manohar and his supporters will need to ensure that they can keep the numbers together. In February, the draft constitution was voted in with a 7-2 majority (Zimbabwe abstained). The overhaul will not go ahead without an 8-2 vote in its favour. Sri Lanka has stood steadfastly with the BCCI in its difficult times and it may not take a lot to get two more votes on this side. After all, if there are four votes against the resolution, the vote will not even take place.

This is where Srinivasan comes in. His history of arm-twisting other members into submission is valued greatly by the members of his camp. They do not take a benign view of the CoA’s conciliatory approach as it is not considered good enough to halt the reform led by Manohar. One can be certain that the latest SC order will not put the Srinivasan camp to rest.

There will be more strategic manoeuvres in the days to come but the SC can add an element of finality to the BCCI revamp on April 17 if it protects the sentiment of its landmark judgment from last year. There’s nothing to suggest at this moment that a surprise is in the offing.

Note: Shortly after this article was published, the BCCI announced that the date of the next SGM had been pushed from April 12 to April 17. The change has been made accordingly.