True to character, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to dig in its heels and resist all calls for reform. It has now filed a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing almost all recommendations made by the Justice RM Lodha panel. To strengthen its case, the BCCI has got Tamil du, Mumbai, Punjab, Vadodara, Odisha and other state cricket associations to file their own challenges in the apex court. That the cricket establishment would fight back with all its might had become clear in the last few days after rounds of meetings and selective comments made to media-persons. The cap on tenures and age limits of cricket administrators, the bar on ministers and government servants to hold association posts, the rules of ‘one person one post’ and ‘one state one vote’, creation of players association and making the Right to Information (RTI) Act applicable to BCCI — each such recommendation has now been staunchly opposed. To counter the proposed bar on ministers becoming cricket administrators, the BCCI affidavit has invoked fundamental rights under Article 19 (1)(c) of the Constitution which gives citizens the right to form association or unions. The proposed nine-year tenure cap has been opposed with the argument that it is highly restrictive on the ‘right to get elected in a democratic fashion’ and ‘curb the enthusiasm of administrators to aspire for the higher positions in cricket administration’.
The Supreme Court on Thursday posed some tough questions to the BCCI as to why it is ‘so keen to have ministers’, how much money it has given to the states and whether there was any monitoring, why it wants the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to play only an ‘advisory role’ in its affairs. ‘You want free hand to deal with crores of rupees,’ the bench observed on BCCI’s argument against granting voting rights to the CAG. The BCCI then raised the bogey of the Intertiol Cricket Council (ICC)’s likely objection to CAG’s role in any re-structured cricket body as ‘government interference’. The BCCI’s argument against the ‘one state one vote’ recommendation is that some state associations enjoy multiple voting rights due to ‘historical boundaries’. Thus the Maharashtra Cricket Association has four votes because it incorporates three other entities — the Vidarbha Cricket association, Mumbai Cricket Association and the Cricket Club of India. The BCCI has opposed the recommendation seeking restriction of advertisements to drinks, lunch and tea breaks in matches, pleading that it will have a ‘crippling effect’ on its fincial health as ‘broadcasters will only pay a fraction of amount.’ The Supreme Court therefore agreed that this and some other recommendations could be sent back to the Lodha panel for reconsideration, fixing the next hearing on March 18.
Interestingly, it is the Bihar Cricket Association that has taken the BCCI head on, petitioning the apex court seeking implementation of Lodha panel recomendations. In its defence, the BCCI has referred to acting upon some recommendations like forcing several officials to resign because of ‘conflict of interest’ situations, appointment of an ombudsman at every annual general meeting, professiolizing its magement with a two-tier structure, and empowering its anti-corruption unit against match-fixing and spot-fixing. However, implementing other recommendations is ‘likely to interfere with good work being done in cricket administration and create all sorts of complications’ — the BCCI has pleaded, claiming that Team India became the top outfit due to its efforts. On February 4, the Supreme Court had sternly asked the BCCI to ‘fall in line’ with the Lodha panel recommendations which are ‘straight, ratiol and understandable and ‘deserve respect’. Mincing no words, Chief Justice TS Thakur had then warned BCCI: ‘Your members have been wielding power for long… The match is over. There will be no second innings here’. But it now appears that the BCCI is hunkering down for a dour, rearguard battle in its second innings to clutch on to its untrammeled power and privileges. It is now upon the apex court to ensure that winds of reform sweep the BCCI and there is proper development of state cricket structures.