No back-foot strokes, just reform BCCI

Missing the woods for the trees appears to be fast acquiring the status of favourite pastime in Indian cricket circles. For instance, the machinations of officials and officers of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were overlooked and skipper Virat Kohli was popularly seen as the only one responsible for Head Coach Anil Kumble’s exit from the Indian dressing room.

Curiously, the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) appears to have been sucked in the dangerous pastime of missing the woods for the trees. Brought in nearly five months ago to administer change in BCCI portals, it has not made any headway in that direction. Instead, it has spent time and energy in lesser issues. Only on Sunday, did it finally assume a stern countenance.

Former Comptroller and Accountant General of India Vinod Rai called himself and his colleagues on CoA as nightwatchmen. Yet, instead of getting their feet wet in overseeing the transition within BCCI and its State units and putting structures and systems in place, it appears to have trained its focus on a lot of other issues.

Should the CoA have got into the task of asking the then Head Coach Anil Kumble to make a presentation about restructuring the pay package to players and coaching staff? Was it its lot to be so concerned about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s contract? Should it have been concerned about which legal counsel represents the Board before the Supreme Court?

Then again, should its Chairman be making public statements about Kumble continuing or not in his role as Head Coach? Should he have been commenting on what turned out to be irreconcilable differences between Captain Virat Kohli and the Head Coach?

The answer to each of these questions is a resounding no.

Until its meeting with State Cricket Associations on Sunday, it had made precious little effort to usher in change in the governance model? Why was there such a delay in understanding and enforcing the Supreme Court’s clear orders? In the past few months, BCCI has used the CoA’s diffused interest in the reforms to successfully divert attention to other areas.

The CoA’s mandate is to administer the reforms Supreme Court has ordered in BCCI. Clearly, it is not to seek to impress upon the Supreme Court on behalf of BCCI on the three contentious issues: one-state-one-vote; 70-year age cap; cooling off period. As anyone who has followed the case in the Supreme Court would know, the time for negotiations is long gone.

The Board had its chance, first with the Lodha Committee and then before the Supreme Court to present its arguments. Both preferred to over-rule the cricket officials’ representations and laid down the ground rules. The Board officials appear to be working towards convincing the CoA that the Supreme Court order was perhaps illogical and unfair to them.

The CoA finally woke up to the fact that it was falling into a trap of representing BCCI’s desperate point of view – howsoever fair the points may appear to be – before the Supreme Court, thus leading to more delays in implementing the orders. The manner in which BCCI has stonewalled the reforms process since the order was passed on July 18, 2016, would do the greatest opening batsmen proud.

In his media interactions, Mr Vinod Rai suggested that the CoA could not call the shots since whatever it said was contested by BCCI office-bearers or State Associations. He also said the CoA wanted to give sufficient time to State units to think how to go about it and make the necessary changes. Besides, he said CoA would attempt to get  them to make changes rather than imposing things on them.

Clearly, Mr Rai – like Ram Guha wrote in his letter after quitting the CoA – believes that the Supreme Court wanted CoA to implement the Lodha Committee ‘recommendations’. If he has been quoted right, he appears to have overlooked the small matter of the Supreme Court having embraced the recommendations in toto, and ordered these to be implemented.

The sooner CoA gets its focus back on the Supreme Court’s order to bring in the reforms the better it will be. That Indian cricket needs a better governance structure has been clearly established by the Apex Court. Neither the Lodha Committee nor the CoA have been able to get down to the brass tacks in bringing in the desired change in the BCCI’s State units and in BCCI itself.

It can start by asking the state units to fall in line and setting them firm deadlines. Empowered by the Supreme Court, it must ensure that each State Cricket Association rewrites its constitution in keeping with the order of the Supreme Court. That will ensure that the representatives sent by these voting units are compliant and thus those elected to BCCI are compliant as well.

The failure of the Lodha Committee first and the CoA now makes it seem as if the task of re-engineering BCCI and its units will have to be overseen by the Supreme Court itself. If it does not find the time to manage that, we will see status quo prevailing within the rank and file of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. And that will be because CoA has missed the woods for the trees.

This article was originally published in the Op-Ed page of The Tribune on June 30, 2017 and can be found here (http://epaper.tribuneindia.com/c/20188825)