He is straightforward, sometimes blunt. And, he is Nagpur's most popular personality. More popular than Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. Hail an auto-rickshaw, ask to be taken to Manohar’s residence-cum-office, and the driver will not even blink. When Manohar was elected BCCI president for the second time, people thronged Nagpur's Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport to welcome him.
But, power has never swayed the 58-year-old lawyer. He answers his landline himself. Elected with a mandate to clean up the Board of Control for Cricket in India, he has hardly been home since he took guard. Ask him how many days he has been home, and he laughs sheepishly: “I don't know”.
He has initiated steps to ensure better communication from the board, and transparency and probity in its workings. But, the stiffest challenge is from state associations and officials who have never cared to be answerable to the public.
His responsibility has doubled, as he has also replaced N. Srinivasan as International Cricket Council chairman. As chairman, he is brainstorming to find a solution to Pakistan’s demand that India to play a bilateral series. The series was promised in an MoU signed by Srinivasan. Many in the BCCI believe that the MoU was a sweetener to swing Pakistan's vote in favour of the Big Three—Australia, England and India. Under Manohar's watch, there could be a major shift in India’s approach to the ICC and other member countries.
THE WEEK caught up with Manohar in Nagpur, ahead of India's third Test against the Proteas. Edited excerpts from an interview:
You were not keen on becoming BCCI president. What made you change your mind?
I had initially declined the offer [second term]. Then, seniors on the board forced me to change my mind. The board has given me a lot in my life. And, now, the board is having a difficult time. So, if I can give something back, why not? I should not run away from the challenge.
It is said that you accepted the chair, but set conditions vis-a-vis cleaning up the BCCI.
I did not set any condition. That is not the way to run an organisation.
Is it a perception issue about the board or is there a deeper rot?
No, there is not much of a problem. It is about public perception. The board had put everything under wraps. So, no one was aware of what was going on. We are bringing in more transparency.
What do you want to do differently in your second tenure?
I do not want to do anything differently. I work in the interest of the board, and I have no personal agenda. When I go to an institution, its interest is paramount for me.
You made many changes to the BCCI—to its constitution and working. Were these changes made to fight the perception issue or because the board is a public body under Article 226 of the Indian constitution?
According to me, the perception had to change. The Article 226 issue was there earlier, too. People can file litigation if they want to. That the board is a public body was decided in 2004-05, in the Zee case.
The old rules prevented board presidents from serving consecutive terms. It was self regulatory. The new rules have relaxed that clause.
The old rule gave three years to a president, the new one gives [up to] six. If a president is running the board well, then his hands should not be tied [citing the cap]. Because, ultimately, the individual is elected.
In any case, only two presidents have served two terms—Jagmohan Dalmiya and I. No one has abused that provision yet.
Is your biggest challenge cleaning up state associations?
The board does not interfere in the administration of state associations. It is for them to run their organisation. If we start doing this, then there will be demands to sort the running of clubs at the micro level. How far can you go?
But, many affiliates clear accounts of multiple years in one go. AGMs are held irregularly.
These accounts will now be audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. I am not a chartered accountant, so I have appointed a top auditing company. We have made a provision in the constitution for this. State associations cannot do their own thing. And, no one can then say BCCI can 'control' all these things.
How did your meeting with the Justice R.M. Lodha panel go?
It was a very good one, but inconclusive. The panel wanted to meet me again, but they have not called me back yet. An institution must be run cleanly. There should not be any favours in an institution, as it is not a private fiefdom.
A concern of the panel was that the board and its affiliates have different constitutions.
It would be impossible to achieve uniformity of constitutions. Institutions at every level were registered 80 years back. So, they are governed by different constitutions.
For example, the Mumbai Cricket Association has clubs as its members. The Vidarbha Cricket Association has 1,200 members—65 are clubs and the rest are individuals. A VCA rule says that all players from Vidarbha be made members.
The system of proxies is a bane for the state associations.
Under the Companies Act, you have to give proxy. It is a constitutional right of the affiliate. Associations like the Delhi and District Cricket Association are registered under the Companies Act. People [holding] proxies should not hand it over.
Will there be more additions to the conflict of interest rules announced by the board?
Law is always evolving, never stagnant. When situations arise, rules get modified.
There is a feeling that the new conflict of interest rules have hit players more than administrators.
That is because players are more involved than administrators. Players are wearing different hats, so the rules are hitting them harder. I do not sit in a commentary box or write columns. I do not take money from the board. Yes, there are certain administrators wearing different hats. They will have to suffer, too.
Administrators wearing multiple hats, too, can abuse power. There are cases where office bearers’ sons are playing for the state.
You cannot stretch conflict of interest to absurd levels. You can even say that because I am the BCCI president I can call any Ranji Trophy selector and influence a selection. Conflict of interest has to be direct link, not a remote one.
Pakistan Cricket Board's Shahryar Khan and you have had talks. Is India playing Pakistan in Sri Lanka?
It is the government’s call. The series must be cleared by respective governments. Did I ever say that we will be playing Pakistan in Sri Lanka or Bangladesh?
As ICC chairman, how do you view the Big Three dominating other members?
I am opposed to the idea of Big Three. This concept cannot be there in an organisation. No one can be Big One, Big Two or Big Three. All members are equal in an organisation.
Will the board support day-and-night Tests with the pink ball?
The board will take a decision, as and when the issue arises.