Board back to playing old games, president leading the show
Nothing seems to have changed in a landscape that was plagued with multiple conflicts of interest which led to the Indian Premier League (IPL) betting and fixing scandal, court interventions and a new BCCI constitution. Going by what has transpired since the new set of office-bearers took over following the Lodha panel reforms, it is back to the same old business of a coterie taking all decisions.
The signs of what was to come were visible in the first general body meeting of the board itself, where not only were amendments to the new constitution passed, but sweeping powers were given to the office-bearers, making the nine-member Apex Council almost redundant. The Lodha panel had made this Council the supreme decision-making body of the BCCI.
The reason for creating the Council was to reduce powers that vested interests had usurped for themselves in the running of the board. This Council comprising five main office-bearers, two players representatives, a CAG and a board nominee was to function as a collective that would oversee the running of Indian cricket. As of now, the Council has met just once, right in the beginning when the Sourav Ganguly-Jay Shah combine became president and secretary. This new clique in the board got a resolution passed in the general body, that gave all the powers back to the office-bearers and reduced the Apex Council to a rubber stamp. All that it will be left to do is ratify decisions taken by the office-bearers, that too when they meet.
What should shock even the old-guard in the board is that there are many firsts being achieved that did not happen in the past. For instance, the selection committee meetings, it is being said, are being attended by both the president and the secretary, eroding the autonomy of the five-member committee.
Even more damaging is the fact that the BCCI president is endorsing controversial products like fantasy cricket leagues, that many worldwide believe encourage gambling. These are leagues that invite participants to make a combined playing XI before an international match and reward those whose players perform best in that match, with cash prizes. I am not sure if the board members and a proud Indian cricket community feel happy or squirm in embarrassment when they watch Ganguly appear in advertisements exhorting people to make their fantasy XI. He, as their brand ambassador, even makes his own XI before the match, acting more like a tipster than a responsible head of India’s cricketing administration.
What is very amusing is that Ganguly was accused of being in conflict of interest here, not because of this being an inappropriate thing for a head of the board to do, but because he was endorsing a fantasy league which is a business rival of a similar league sponsoring the IPL. Ganguly found no merit in this charge and has even debunked the very concept of conflict of interest which he thinks is creating hurdles in the promotion of the game.
One can understand that a player of his stature and repute will have many pre-existing contracts with companies wanting him to promote their products, including some media groups. Before jumping into cricketing administration, he should have realised that as head of the board he would have to put on hold, if not terminate, many of these contracts to uphold the integrity of the position he holds.
That he has chosen to turn a blind eye to these serious questions of ethics and appropriate conduct, does no good to the sporting community he belongs to and lends credence to those voices who believe sportspersons are no different from the society they inhabit.