When asked if he wanted to succeed Shashank Manohar, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said: “The members will take a call.”
Rahul Johri has an unenviable job at hand. On June 1, he will become the first CEO of a “transformed” Board of Control for Cricket in India. On January 4, the Justice Lodha committee, appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the functioning of the BCCI, had submitted a 159-page report, containing radical recommendations to clean Indian cricket. The BCCI and state associations then filed their objections to the report in the court. However, with a judgment expected soon, the mighty cricket body stares at an unknown path ahead. Moreover, with Shashank Manohar quitting as BCCI president to contest the election for the post of International Cricket Council independent chairman, to be held via a secret ballot this month, the board will be in need of a strong leader.
Announcing Johri's appointment, the BCCI said: “He will be responsible for the functioning of operations, stakeholder management and building robust strategies for promoting the sport.” Or, as a top official put it: “Johri's job will be to get money from sponsors and broadcasters... and to take care of all this.” By “this”, he meant the changes likely to take place within the BCCI.
He would be reporting to BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur. However, if the Supreme Court agrees with the Lodha panel's recommendations, Johri will report to a proposed nine-member apex council. The BCCI will also appoint a chief financial officer, the hunt for whom is under way. According to the Lodha committee report: “The non-cricketing management will have to be by professional managers, headed by a CEO (who will act as a nodal officer), [while] pure cricketing matters (selection, coaching and performance evaluation) deserve to be left exclusively to ex-players.... The CEO will ideally be a person with managerial experience for five years as managing director or chief executive officer of a corporation with an annual turnover of not less than Rs 100 crore.”
According to the Lodha report, Johri will head six managers from streams such as operations, finance, technical, compliance (legal), human resources and media. His primary mandate, says the report, would be catering to fans and players.
Johri, 43, was chosen from candidates shortlisted by international headhunting agency Korn Ferry. He was with the Discovery Networks for 15 years and was the Discovery Networks Asia Pacific's executive vice president and general manager for South Asia. Industry experts say he transformed Discovery from an educational network into an 11-channel bouquet in five languages. A hard-nosed leader, he created content based on factual reality and moved the channels from free-to-air to paid.
A father of two, Johri hails from a political family in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Dinesh Johri, is a BJP leader who was a minister in the Kalyan Singh government in the 1990s.
Said a senior sports television industry insider: “Basically, his job will be to unlock the value of the telecast rights and understand the new-age media and digital platforms. These rights are the single largest revenue earner for the BCCI.” The broadcasting rights for the Indian Premier League are up for renewal in 2017; the BCCI's are up in 2018. “There is a lot of disruption in the media space with the 4G platform, and getting people on it will be far more exciting and a bigger revenue-earner than live television telecast,”he said, predicting “extremely interesting plays”.
Said a BCCI office bearer: “He will have to present the BCCI with different revenue streams in the next eight- to ten-year rights cycle. We would like to know other ways of maximising revenue. More importantly, he must have the capacity to stare down the broadcasters. He is considered a chilled out, nice, fairly social guy.”
The BCCI, meanwhile, is coming to terms with Manohar's decision. Many within the board said his departure at this juncture was “about personal choices over the interests of the BCCI”. Apparently, Manohar was waiting for the final verdict on the Lodha report, but the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing to June 30.
“The BCCI is a big organisation. There have been many senior heads of the board who left the post after six years,” BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur told THE WEEK. “It is clear that the organisation gives a lot of opportunity to people who have done tremendous work for the game and have understood the organisation's functioning.”
The new president will be chosen in a special general body meeting. And, among the frontrunners is Thakur, whose recent decisions have not been appreciated by several administrators. The factions led by former BCCI presidents Sharad Pawar and N. Srinivasan are his main opposition. Apparently, before the previous BCCI elections, Thakur had locked himself in his hotel room, ignoring calls from the Pawar group and making them sweat before finally filing his nomination for the post of secretary. When asked if he wanted to be president, Thakur said: “The members will take a call.”
Other names doing the rounds include Maharashtra Cricket Association president Ajay Shirke, who is a close confidant of Pawar and Manohar, and Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association secretary Rajeev Shukla. The latter, a Congress MP, is getting nods of approval from both the Pawar and Srinivasan camps. Both Thakur and Shukla are close to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who will yet again play a major role behind the scenes.
The BCCI, represented in court by senior lawyer K.K. Venugopal, objected to a number of recommendations.
The suggestion of one state, one vote, whereby only one association from each state would have voting rights and full membership status, violates their right to vote, said state associations.
Maharashtra and Gujarat have multiple cricket associations. Railways, Services and the Cricket Club of India also objected to their voting right being taken away.
Having nominees of the comptroller and auditor general in the proposed apex council, as the report suggests, would amount to interference by government. This could lead to de-recognition by the ICC.
The BCCI is a private body and the court cannot violate its autonomy.
Apart from the BCCI, state associations of Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Saurashtra also objected to the age cap of 70 years.
Restricting advertisements between overs would lead to enormous loss of revenue.
The BCCI also objected to the one man, one post recommendation and the one banning government officials from the board.