New broom to sweep BCCI clean
After emerging as the consensus candidate, Shashank Manohar gets to head the faction-ridden Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) for the second time. Promising a slew of reforms to clean up the way cricket is played and administered in the country, Manohar has two years as interim BCCI president to carry out his mission. Topmost in his agenda is appointing an independent ethics officer or ombudsman who can look into complaints about conflict of interest. This continues to be a serious issue with the Supreme Court recently rejecting BCCI’s petition to review its landmark judgment on January 22 this year — in which it had struck down an amendment to the BCCI constitution’s clause 6.2.4 that allowed board officials to have a commercial interest in the IPL and the Champions League T20. This rendered rayan Srinivasan ineligible to contest elections for BCCI presidency so long as he was involved in ‘conflict of interest’ as owner of IPL franchise Cheni Super Kings (CSK). After Jagmohan Dalmiya took over as president, the BCCI had in July last asked its members and representatives of state cricket associations to sign a declaration stating they had no conflict of interest. But this directive was resisted by some of the associations, so Manohar, succeeding the recently deceased Dalmiya, will have to stand firm on this issue.
Known as ‘Mr Clean’ during his 2008-11 stint as BCCI president, Manohar has now mooted another reform to hold state cricket associations accountable. He intends to appoint an independent auditor to approve the accounts of state associations, which are receiving funds to the tune of Rs 25 crore every year from the BCCI. Further grants will be released only after accounts are approved, while anomalies will invite strict action. If Manohar does crack the whip, the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) along with some other state associations, will have to put their houses in order after years of misappropriating BCCI funds. With the game of cricket itself thrown into disrepute after the spot fixing scandal hit the sixth IPL edition in 2013, the new BCCI president has identified corruption as a major threat. Since the BCCI does not have powers to probe allegations of wrongdoing, Manohar says he intends to ask the Central government whether the board can tie up with an investigating agency. As of now, the BCCI is planning to lay down norms and measures to prevent corrupt practices and educate cricketers. While opposing the applicability of Right to Information (RTI) Act on the BCCI, Manohar has admitted public disenchantment with the board because of its closed, opaque ways. He has therefore proposed putting more BCCI information in public domain, like the board’s constitution and memorandum of association, as well as its yearly balance sheet and any expenditure above Rs 25 lakh on the BCCI website.
As far as purely cricketing matters are concerned, Manohar has announced the long-awaited central contracts for women cricketers, eleven years after the system was introduced for male cricketers. While it is hoped that this measure will give a degree of fincial security to women cricketers, the board also needs to look into grant of one-time benefits to deserving former women cricketers who have fallen on hard times. It remains to be seen how the revamped BCCI actually goes about making Indian cricket competitive as well as clean, like checking the drift in the tiol Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. The new BCCI president has bemoaned the absence of genuine spinners among the new crop, while worrying about finding replacements for the current players. Whether Shashank Manohar will get a free hand to push through his reforms will depend on how he reaches out to this cricket-obsessed tion at large, as well as his ability to negotiate among the powerful factions in the BCCI. Long identified with the Sharad Pawar camp, he maged to garner the support of the faction aligned with BCCI secretary and BJP MP Anurag Thakur, apart from the unstinted backing of newly-appointed Bengal cricket association chief Saurav Ganguly. While the powerful Srinivasan faction backed off to let Manohar go through as the only nominee, its role will be vital in the coming days as the new BCCI president begins his cleanup act.