Rohit is still 70 per cent fit... ask him!

Interview/ Sourav Ganguly, president, BCCI

Sourav-Ganguly Sourav Ganguly, President, BCCI

The Sourav Ganguly era in Indian cricket administration has seen some pathbreaking decisions being taken. Just like the captain he was, Ganguly is leading the BCCI from the front, being the body’s voice and chief decision-maker. But he is also facing a myriad of issues.

With the 2020 Indian Premier League running successfully, Ganguly pushed for the Women's T20 Challenge matches to happen alongside it, even though IPL chairman Brijesh Patel expressed reservations. The four matches took place, but the perceived lack of effort to ensure the Indian women get game time has raised questions on how serious the BCCI is about women's cricket. The women’s demand for a one-point person—preferably a woman in the BCCI—to go to with their issues is still pending. With the BCCI operating with an interim CEO and Saba Karim, general manager, cricket operations, set to serve out his notice period soon, Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah will have to ensure that day-to-day management is back in the hands of professionals and that key reforms of the Lodha Committee are not ignored.

Ganguly's appearances in various advertisements while holding office has also raised concerns about conflict of interest. Moreover, Dilip Vengsarkar, former chairman of selectors, told a national daily that by making statements on selection matters, the IPL and player injuries, Ganguly was “undermining the credentials of the national selectors and the IPL chairman”.

Ganguly has dealt with critics in his own way throughout his career. Speaking to THE WEEK from Dubai, the BCCI president took the criticisms on the chin and attempted to clear the air on key issues. Excerpts:

You must be satisfied with the conduct of IPL 2020. What aspect of it are you most happy about?

Yes, I am very happy to conduct and complete a tournament in these testing times. What has satisfied me is the competitiveness. It has been a great tournament.

Did you or the BCCI face any challenges going into this season?

No, it has been very smooth. The most important challenge was to create a healthy tournament for everyone. To safely conduct a two-and-a-half-month tournament with 400 people involved has been remarkable.

All eyes are on the BCCI for what is next for cricket in India.

We could not have cricket activity because of Covid-19. We will slowly get back to cricket. We will organise our domestic cricket, then England tour India for ODIs and Test matches.

Some state associations have started local tournaments. Will you encourage more states to resume cricket activity after the IPL?

A bio-secure bubble is very important in the current situation. That is the first condition. I think it is still early to ask states to hold their own leagues because health issues are a bit uncertain. It is important to organise first-class cricket and then the England tour in a healthy and safe environment.

But if you are hoping to start the Ranji Trophy first, then the states will have to organise their pre-season training camps, trials and competitions.

Yeah, a lot of them are doing it. They have created their own safety parameters and their players are getting tested regularly. The SOPs have been forwarded to them on how to hold tournaments.

Is it true that if not for your insistence, the Women'sT20 Challenge may not have taken place this season, and that women are not getting enough cricket?

No, women will get a lot of cricket. It is not just me; the entire BCCI wants to see women's cricket go forward. We had challenges. So many tours got cancelled. Covid-19 has made things difficult for us. The women's game is very important.

But if the BCCI could create a bubble for the IPL, could it not have gotten the Indian women's team to England to play a series there like Pakistan did?

No, we could not because the Covid-19 numbers were very high. And, we did not want our women to take the risk. When the whole world is suffering, one small tournament would not have made a difference. The Women's IPL (T20 Challenge) was very important. We wanted to send our team to Sri Lanka, but their cricket board cancelled that. We invited the West Indies to India. But the WICB said Covid-19 numbers in India are very high so they did not want to come. We had all these issues to deal with.

There is a sense that there is not enough information coming from the BCCI—like injury updates of centrally contracted players like Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha. Is the BCCI lapsing into the old era of less communication?

We will slowly get back to cricket. We will organise our domestic cricket, then England tour India for ODIs and Test matches.

How is that? Who should know? We know, the Indian physio knows, the NCA knows. I think people don't know how the BCCI works. The BCCI trainers, physio and Wridhi himself know that he has two hamstring issues. People don't understand injuries, that is why they talk rubbish. Wridhi is travelling to Australia because he will be fit for Tests. He is not part of the shorter formats. For the entire duration of the IPL, Indian physios and trainers were in Dubai. Dr Nitin Patel is managing injuries and monitoring it all.

But what about Rohit Sharma? You and the BCCI said he is injured, but he played for Mumbai Indians immediately after that.

Rohit is still 70 per cent [fit]. Why don't you find out from Rohit himself? That is why he is still not picked for the ODIs and T20s down under. He has been added to the Test squad. Certain things are confidential in a board. [We] don't need to tell everything, but things are going on.

What about more communication with the states? It has been scarce till now.

Of course, it will be given once dates [for domestic tournaments] are ready, when we are absolutely sure it is safe for everyone. We have to create bio-bubbles for 38 teams—20 players each, plus support staff and officials. It is not easy.

When will the BCCI hold its general body meeting? Many sports federations have done so online.

We will have the AGM after Diwali. The Registrar of Societies of Tamil Nadu, where the BCCI is registered, has stopped AGMs from being held online due to a court order. We will get it done.