India’s Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, is going to be tested yet again in the coming weeks. This time not with a contentious religious or political battle but with a sporting battle that has refused to die down over the years in the field of cricket.
It all started with a corruption scandal in the IPL in 2013 which threatened to tear apart Indian cricket for good. It was only arrested by a timely intervention by the highest court in the land.
The faultlines in Indian cricket existed mainly from the way the sport was run in the country since 1929 to 2014 when the Supreme Court upset the applecart.
The Indian cricket board or the BCCI had not changed much in character since its inception, except moving into a plush office in the Wankhede Stadium premises in 2006 from a shanty setting at the Cricket Club of India (CCI).
World over the cricket boards and even other sporting federations including of the smaller sample size moved from happy-go-lucky amateurs to hard-nosed domain experts and professionals, who knew their subjects. The Indian sporting arena has, meanwhile, continued to be governed by the old system, where sport has remained a pastime among many other things that they did in their everyday lives.
The BCCI at its AGM in Mumbai on Sunday sought to perpetuate this very system. It is a travesty of our times that all the attempts to change the way sport and indeed cricket is governed in the country has reached a nought!
Some boards also now have independent board of directors, whereas India is seeking to hand back power to the states and members.
Indian cricket needed to hear from the AGM how there was to be a centralised plan to develop the game with a full-time Director of Cricket in charge of all Indian teams. This Director of Cricket would have appointed selectors, cricket committees and the coaches and support staff etc. Instead we only heard about a proposal to increase the term for the office-bearers.
This Director of Cricket appointment is long overdue, like a whole host of other appointments, but we instead heard nothing but more of the same like we had from 1929-2014.
The professionals appointed over the last few years, have been consistently undermined by vested interests. While those appointed may have committed errors, but to seek to completely dismiss the system followed by the world is a disservice.
For the record, everything around Indian cricket is being run by domain experts: coaching staff of all Indian teams, Rahul Dravid as Head of Cricket at National Cricket Academy and his team of coaches and fitness experts there, IPL is event managed by the internationally acclaimed IMG, indeed all the production staff, staff at the Cricket Centre, TV commentators amongst a whole host of others.
Indian cricket has at times fought the wrong battles.
With two major global events scheduled for 2021 and 2023, Indian board should be putting its focus on making the fan experience the world’s best.
India’s might in cricket comes from the fans and the price that their players derive as a result of the following of the sport in the diaspora. Indian cricket is because of the fans and the players. But sadly, while Indian cricket has chosen to remain in awe of the superstars, the fans continue to be those not counted.
We have felt undone by the ICC in board rooms, when that is simply not the case. There is no world cricket without India. It is a fact that is becoming clear not just on the field, but also in board rooms world over. Infact, world cricket is shrinking every day and the number of competitive teams is also decreasing.
At this time India needed to show its magnanimity in backing cricket as a sport. If the supply line from other countries dries up, there will end up being no sport called cricket.
Instead of understanding this basic fact, we have heard brave statements on cutting ICC to size and battling for India’s pride. There is no threat to India’s pride, we have to be secure about ourselves.
The most important person for India therefore is its representative to the ICC Board, rather than the Chief Executives Committee (CEC), because it is here where important matters are put to vote and decided.
The CEC usually deflects matters to the Board. But you do need a domain expert or rather someone who reads the papers before going in for a meeting. It is interesting that despite wild speculation, N Srinivasan has not been named India’s representative to the ICC Board. That should tell you a lot about which way the wind is blowing.
Over the years India’s representative at the CEC have left a lot to be desired except when Jagmohan Dalmiya and Srinivasan were ruling the roost. Elsewhere, even heavyweight politicians have found the going tough in ICC Board meetings, while some others made brave statements post facto, without any evidence to back up their diligence.
Real leadership of world cricket awaits India if it actually looks beyond the narrow prism of geographical boundaries.
Infact, it is within the grasp of Sourav Ganguly to show the world that he cares about the sport, even while he is safeguarding India’s interests.
Overall, Indian cricket is also set to let go of a golden chance to show the country that it can set a benchmark for all sports in terms of its performances both on and off the field.
Remember, if Team India off the field is not functioning well, the on-field performances will lead to no long-term success, we will just have to be happy with short-term gains, as always. It looks like we are forever condemned to being a nation of under-achievers in sports.
(Chandresh Narayanan is a former cricket writer with The Times of India, The Indian Express, ex-Media Officer for ICC and the Delhi Daredevils. He is also the author of World Cup Heroes, Cricket Editorial consultant, professor and cricket TV commentator.)