The Supreme Court of India, in its ruling on October 21, 2016, limited the financial freedom of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) until it complied with the recommendations of the Lodha Commission, setup to transform cricket governance in India.
The New Zealand media picked up the speculation that the Black Caps’ ongoing tour of India may be cancelled.
The Lodha Commission, headed by former Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, submitted a report in January 2016, recommending sweeping reforms to shake-up cricket governance in India. The BCCI has been resisting the verdict.
The BCCI prides itself of the command it has in World Cricket.
After decades of dominance by its English and Australian counterparts, BCCI has become the authoritative figure within the ranks of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Such is its influence that it dictates its own terms, defying the norms of the general rule book. For example, it chooses not to use the Decision Review System (DRS) in a bilateral series, or have ‘strategic time-outs’ in T20 games for commercial benefits.
This commercial dominance has been a catalyst to a remarkable shift in Team India’s overall performance. Gone are the days of nervousness where games involving the boys in blue were subject to uncertainty and trepidation. Now, the Indian team is in the top league in all formats of the game.
A glut of troubles
Amidst all this glory, the BCCI has unfortunately been embarrassed very often on the world stage.
Cricket is perhaps the only sport of India with a true patriotic fervour of its people. Yet, BCCI continues to be mired in controversies, be it with the ICC or with the Indian judicial system.
The Lodha Commission was established for a very good reason – to focus on the irregularities of BCCI, especially because of match fixing and corruption that became more common after the advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In July 2015, the Lodha Commission gave its final submission and placed a ban of two years on IPL franchises ‘Rajasthan Royals’ and the highly successful ‘Chennai Super Kings,’ which boasted of Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at its helm.
Structure and Constitution
Basic structural and constitutional issues were identified, such as the absence of representatives from states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and six North-Eastern states, even though there are 30 full time members in BCCI.
A notable yet bizarre irregularity is that BCCI is still registered as a society under Tamil Nadu Society Registration Act. State Associations are all registered under different types of establishments.
The Lodha Commission wants to rectify these irregularities by ensuring that each state is represented by only one member (and therefore one vote) and an associate member status is given for smaller states so that their views may be considered.
This would bring about uniformity in BCCI’s constitution.
BCCI’s governance was noted as particularly poor by the Commission.
For example, the President of the Board has all powers of management including selection of teams and the power to veto the Selection Commission.
The absence of women in the organisation has been noted.
The Commission highlighted the contentious issue of unlimited term for office-bearers; worse, there are no grounds for disqualifications on which an office bearer must demit office.
The Commission has recommended an Apex Council comprising nine members including the President, who will all collectively share the powers.
It has also recommended the appointment of a CEO and the term of office-bearers to three years, limited to two continuous terms. In addition, no person can hold two posts at the same time.
The Commission has also said that ministers and government officials should not be included in the BCCI governing body. The current President is a Member of Parliament.
Indian Premier League
A range of sensible steps have also been suggested for Indian Premier League (IPL) management. To counter match-fixing issues, the Commission’s view is that it should be made a criminal offence and betting should be legalised except for players and those people covered by the BCCI and IPL regulations.
In September 2016, ICC refused to be embroiled in the controversy.
Its current President is Shashank Manohar, a former BCCI President, highly regarded for his stance on logic and rationale in the sport.
The spirit of Lodha Commission report accentuates the need to reform cricket in India by eliminating poor governance.
However, BCCI has been fighting tooth-and-nail to resist the recommendation and of late has been cherry picking recommendations.
Its disregard for the legal mandate is incomprehensible.
After all, most recommendations are logical and necessary.
On September 28, 2016, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur warned BCCI of its resistance as the September 30 deadline approached. On missing this deadline, the Court ordered the financial lockout.
This report may set the landmark for reforms in other sports bodies in India.
The challenge at hand is to see it implemented.
BCCI president Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke are to meet the Lodha Commission before November 3, 2016 to report on progress.