Glimpses 2019: Sourav Ganguly walks the tightrope as BCCI president

Ganguly's entry may have given the BCCI a boost, but its issues are far from over

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly | Salil Bera BCCI president Sourav Ganguly | Salil Bera

In October 2019, the ever risk-taking former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly started a new innings. After a stint in the Cricket Association of Bengal, leaving him with just 10 months to play his first innings in Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), Ganguly plunged into the politics of the sport as the “unanimous” face of the cricket administrators, backed by both the old guard and the current Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who has emerged as a major power centre in the BCCI post the demise of his cabinet colleague Arun Jaitley.

On the cricket front, Ganguly has led from the front, like a true captain; on the administrative front though, he is walking a fine line straddling the demands of the old and the new order. The old order here being the veteran cricket satraps in various states and the new order being the new political-power centre that has emerged in Indian cricket.

For many years, former Union minister, the late Arun Jaitely, was part of the BCCI as well as an advisor and mentor to many cricket administrators. Following his demise this year, the space he has left vacant has been filled up by former Gujarat Cricket Association president Amit Shah.

Within the BCCI, Ganguly has made it very clear who is the boss. The professional management of the Board led by its CEO which became all powerful in the absence of a constitutional check in the last three years is now no more at the forefront. The Lodha reforms vested a lot more powers in the CEO's kitty―the Board is looking to switch the balance of power back in the favour of the president and secretary.

On the reforms front, it took many patient hearings from court-appointed amicus curae and mediator P.S. Narsimha to get the state associations to bring their individual constitutions in line with the Lodha reforms; not to mention the multiple warnings by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) to not allow those who had not done so to attend the BCCI General Body Meeting. Some like the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) and Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) resisted till the very last moment. When they found the brinkmanship battle was lost, only then did they join the ranks of those who had adopted the new constitution. Attending and voting in BCCI meetings is, historically, a very big deal.

After three whole years, which included a battle fought inside the court and outside it with the Supreme Court appointed CoA, a slew of litigation followed and the BCCI constitution was brought in line with the SC-approved Justice R.M. Lodha reforms. States forced to draft individual constitutions were also brought in line with the reforms and the General Body Meeting took place at Indian cricket's headquarters in Mumbai on October 23.

Wearing his blue blazer which he proudly wore as captain and an Indian cricket team member, Ganguly represented the “ideal” choice for a board looking to reestablish its credibility. Another former Indian cricketer and veteran administrator Brijesh Patel, backed by former Board president N. Srinivasan, was also in the fray for the president's post, but a late charge from Ganguly with backing from Shah and another former Board president Anurag Thakur swung things in his favour.

Ganguly leads a team of new and young faces, but one undeniably underlined with shades of nepotism. Jay Shah was elected BCCI secretary: he was the joint secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association prior to this. Arun Singh Dhumal was elected Treasurer―he has been running the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association affairs after his brother and Union Minister for state for Finance Anurag Thakur stepped aside. Mahim Verma, from Cricket Association of Uttarakhand was elected vice-president while Jayesh George of Kerala Cricket Association was elected joint secretary.

The apex court had accepted in totality the recommendations made by the Justice Lodha Committee for a more transparent, professional system of administration, and ever since it passed its first order on July 18, 2016, the court has diluted some reforms related to the number of national selectors, cooling off period etc. However, the battle between the BCCI, state associations and the court hasn't ended yet. After getting a relief of 18 years in total―both at BCCI and state level―the Ganguly-led BCCI now wants the cooling off period to be removed entirely for the post of BCCI president and secretary only so that Ganguly and Shah could get full terms as president and secretary. It also wants further clarity on the Conflict of Interest clause which has led to many top cricketers from taking on responsibilities in Indian cricket in different capacities.

The move initiated as per agenda for the BCCI AGM held on December 1, has been widely criticised by pro sports reform lobby including Justice Lodha himself. Though the Board took a cautious step stating it to be subject to SC's approval rather than altering the constitution on its own, it realised that the matter, which is still pending in court, might not be legally tenable.

Meanwhile, the state associations are battling on a different front in the Supreme Court―they continue to argue that being autonomous bodies in their own rights, their constitution cannot be mirror image of the BCCI constitution. Therefore, the SC order violates their rights under Article 19 1 (C). The final order on these interim applications is still awaited.

Also awaited is the appointed of the new Cricket Advisory Committee and the senior selection committee. The impatient murmurings over the delay by Ganguly-led team are growing louder by the day.

Will Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah duo get an extended term courtesy a benevolent Supreme Court? Or will their tenure end abruptly in mid 2020? It remains to be seen.