There had been a warning. BCCI president Shashank Manohar, after meeting the Lodha committee in September, had told key officials that, unless things changed, the board would not last long. A few other officials, who had met the committee, also sensed that drastic changes were on the way.
Nevertheless, on January 4, India's cricket administrators were stumped. The Lodha committee, appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the functioning of the BCCI, had made public the 159-page report it had presented to the apex court that morning. The report, released by Justices (retired) R.M. Lodha, Ashok Bhan and R.V. Raveendran at the Teen Murti Bhavan in Delhi in the afternoon, contained radical recommendations to clean Indian cricket.
On January 5, the BCCI tours and fixtures committee, along with prominent office bearers, met at their Mumbai headquarters. Another meeting took place the following day. BCCI is expected to call a special general meeting within two weeks to discuss the report. There were, however, no formal statements, not even unofficial reactions. Now, a shaken BCCI looks to its president, Shashank Manohar, and the legal team to show the way.
The Lodha committee members had, in the report, complimented Manohar for addressing some of their concerns after he met them in September. The report said that during the meeting, when confronted with “various concerns which highlighted lack of transparency and lack of financial oversight over state bodies.... Manohar fairly conceded that these needed to be addressed.” However, it also said “while we believe that proposals [initiated by Manohar] are [a step] in the right direction, we find these are not comprehensive and substantive.”
The recommendations of the committee (see box), if implemented, will not only change the structure of the world's richest cricket body, but also close loopholes that administrators have exploited to stay in power.
Justice (retired) Mukul Mudgal, who had headed the committee probing the IPL spot-fixing allegations, said: “The recommendations are very good. It will be a challenge for the cricket board to duck the issues. The three judges have applied their minds to every rule.”
Among its many recommendations, the report said ministers should be barred from holding BCCI positions and suggested putting a cap on the age and tenure of the members. It also recommended a “one state, one vote” rule, which would give full voting rights to only one cricket association in a state. Some associations, currently full members but not representing any state, like Railways and Saurashtra, would be stripped of full membership. Some of these affected states are represented by powerful administrators like Ajay Shirke, Niranjan Shah and Manohar.
BCCI can be expected to oppose the recommendations regarding membership status and voting rights. Said a senior BCCI official: “If they have changed the membership status, the panel should also tell us how to decide which of the associations in Gujarat and Maharashtra will be full members.”
The “one man, one post” proposal will also face resistance. Many members, including BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, joint secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, also hold positions in state associations.
All BCCI members, however, have not rejected the proposals. Said a member: “A state like Gujarat has three associations and gets three times the subsidy that a lone state association gets. Also, with three associations, many more players from the state get an opportunity to play at the highest level.”
Another sticky issue is the proposal to scrap proxy voting in affiliate bodies. The Lodha committee found many instances of club activities interfering with cricketing concerns in state associations. For instance, in Delhi and District Cricket Association and Karnataka State Cricket Association, it was found that members who were not related to the sport were influential in electing administrators. In KSCA, such members were responsible for throwing out cricketers-turned-administrators Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath as they had introduced unpopular but efficient systems. “Associations function more as social clubs controlled by a few families,” the committee said.
The report urged the government to legalise betting and bring BCCI under the Right to Information Act. It also said that players should run cricket committees and activities. “The players who are the sport's biggest draw are not spared from the apathy of the BCCI,” said the report. “They are treated less like assets and more like employees and subordinates of those governing the game.” The committee has recommended the creation of a players association, whose members would find a place in the trimmed apex council, the body that would replace the BCCI working committee. The Lodha committee suggested setting up a steering committee, headed by former home secretary G.K. Pillai, to supervise the creation of the players association. “Overall, the committee has made recommendations in the right directions,” Pillai told THE WEEK. “Players should have a far greater role in how the game evolves. We will be putting our heads together on how to form a fairly representative organisation. The terms of reference have been outlined but we will need to go into finer details.” Pillai will be assisted by former cricketers Diana Edulji, Kumble and Mohinder Amarnath.
The Lodha committee, set up on January 22, 2015, met 74 individuals and had about 35 hearings. And, the painstaking work threw up some surprises. For instance, Justice Lodha said that questionnaires sent to former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya and secretary Anurag Thakur, on April 9, 2015, came back with “identical answers”. Apparently, the panel was shocked to see Dalmiya unwell and incoherent when he appeared at a hearing in Kolkata and wondered “how the BCCI was functioning and who controlled the board”.
With the submission of the report, the ball is now in the Supreme Court. Said a senior lawyer closely associated with the issue: “The BCCI [officials] should have taken action against Gurunath Meiyappan [in the IPL scandal]. They did not. Therefore, the Supreme Court had to do it. The BCCI did not act against [its former president] N. Srinivasan on the conflict of interest issue; the court had to do it. Now, if they don't accept this report, the Supreme Court will shove it down their throats.”
Interview/R.M. Lodha, Former chief justice of India
We got a 1940 model with a weak engine and dented body
Most respondents were surprised at the [Lodha] committee's knowledge of the finer points.
Yes, it involved a sport in which the entire population had invested their time and passion. This has nothing to do with adjudication. That bit was to do with Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra [in the IPL case]. This was a different ball game, so we had to be conversant with the nitty-gritty of the game. We adopted points on which there was a larger consensus and the feedback was tremendous.
What was the most startling revelation?
Surprisingly, we found that the top players, honest men of impeccable integrity, did not have any idea about the conflict of interest because of their dual or triple roles. The lack of realisation and awareness was a little surprising with one or two former captains. They were so involved in the game that they didn't know how conflicts arose.
Do you think the IPL was a game changer and that BCCI failed to evolve after it?
A lot of money came to BCCI because of the IPL, but there were problems before the IPL, too. The rules were such that it gave tremendous power to the president and secretary.
What was placed before us was a 1940 model vehicle. We found that the engine was not very efficient, it had become weak. The upholstery was distorted, and the body had dents and scratches. The engine is the structure and administration; the upholstery is the membership, where some members had more votes than the rest; and dents and scratches are incidents of match and spot fixing, and betting. We had to put everything in place. We could have gone for the quick fix, but we did it in such a way that it will run miles and miles without breaking down.
How was your interaction with the BCCI president?
He was very candid, positive. He had the desire to bring changes in BCCI.
The committee has said the government should legalise betting.
There is huge illegal betting going on. It means a lot of black money, and the powerful underworld comes into play. If it is legalised, there will be revenue generation for the state. What the state is losing would come to the state. Of course, it has to be structured in a way that nobody can misuse it.
BCCI always had a hands-off policy regarding affiliates.
Almost everyone told us that BCCI gave a good amount of subsidy [to the affiliates], but there was no oversight of the grants. It was all focused on voting.
If the revenue of the state association is from the money taken from the parent body, it has every right to know. The money cannot be allowed to go down the drain.
Experts feel the transparency clauses in your report are stiffer than those in the RTI Act.
Transparency cannot be measured in this or that form. Whether through the RTI or otherwise, the idea is to make the public aware of everything BCCI does. Transparency gives benefit. For example, the coal block allocations. Because of lack of transparency, the Supreme Court cancelled them [licences]. Now, when the government was transparent while auctioning coal blocks, it got more than Rs3 lakh crore.
[When] two IPL teams were suspended, BCCI had a transparent auction and ended up getting Rs360 crore. What is the moral of the story? Don't wait for judicial intervention. [By being] transparent, you get more and you give more.