Kolkata: Sourav Chandidas Ganguly stood tallest at a loosely-structured but impact-making conclave of the past and present administrators of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Mumbai Sunday night, but an effort was initially made to keep him away from the president’s position.
ThePrint understands that the 47-year-old Ganguly, an iconic former captain, was first asked to choose between the vice-president’s post or chairmanship of the IPL’s governing council. Naturally, he declined.
Apparently, Ganguly left the conclave and went back to his suite at The Trident’s Nariman Point property. Around 9 pm, the script began to change, and Brijesh Patel, assumed to be the preferred choice of influential former administrators such as Narainswamy Srinivasan for the top position, began losing out.
In a public show of support, however, Srinivasan was present both when Ganguly filed his nomination and when he addressed the media. This is how it often is in politics, not that the games played in the BCCI are less than what most politicians indulge in.
Srinivasan, who has helmed both the International Cricket Council and the BCCI, is ineligible to again become an administrator.
The West Bengal angle
Instead of the president’s post, Patel has got the chairmanship of the IPL’s governing council and the hardly-known Mahim Verma (Uttarakhand) the vice-president’s position.
Union minister Anurag Thakur’s younger brother, Arun Singh Dhumal of Himachal Pradesh, will be the new treasurer and Jayesh George (Kerala), the joint-secretary. Thakur was the BCCI president when the Supreme Court removed him in January 2017.
Verma and George became office-bearers largely because many experienced administrators got bowled out by the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations, which form the basis of the Supreme Court’s drastic order of July 2016.
Moreover, some may have been reluctant to leave their home associations, thereby giving up power, for the sake of serving in the BCCI.
It’s not confirmed, but the indication by some is that a call or a message from Union home minister Amit Shah, in all probability to Thakur, ensured that Ganguly got the top post.
Ganguly is revered in West Bengal, where elections are due in 2021. That’s not insignificant as the BJP has been trying to woo him, despite the “excellent” relationship he shares with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee, in fact, helped install Ganguly as the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president after the demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya. He has to resign from that position, which could go to the late Dalmiya’s son, Avishek, the current CAB secretary.
As for the BJP, it continues to search for a face in West Bengal which is high both on credibility and popularity. Ganguly fits the bill on both counts. What next, then?
That Shah would actually play the biggest role in the selection of the next set of office-bearers had been reported by ThePrint. His son Jay will be the next secretary of the BCCI, which is as big a development as Ganguly’s elevation.
Like Ganguly, Jay Shah’s tenure will only be until the middle of next year as, by then, both are going to complete six years as administrators. Jay Shah recently quit as joint-secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association.
All Zones, by the way, are represented in the office-bearers’ line-up. Of course, what cannot be missed is that in Jay Shah and Dhumal, the BJP has an indirect, but very strong, presence.
What next for BCCI
It will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold in the BCCI. Specifically, whether a move is initiated to amend its constitution and do away with the mandatory three-year cooling-off after six years as an administrator.
However, any amendment passed by a three-fourths majority at an AGM/SGM will need the approval of the Supreme Court.
So, to that extent, the BCCI administrators have lost their independence after the Supreme Court accepted almost all the recommendations of the Justice Lodha Committee.
Ganguly (the 32nd full-fledged president) and the four other office-bearers assume charge on 23 October, which will mark the end of Vinod Rai’s regime. Appointed by the Supreme Court to head the Committee of Administrators in January 2017, the former civil servant has had an eminently forgettable innings at the BCCI.
Such has been the mess, with Rai and professionals such as CEO Rahul Johri calling the shots, that one of Ganguly’s first comments were: “The house needs to be set in order… Hopefully, in the next few months, we can bring normalcy back… There was an emergency-like situation in the BCCI.”
It’s an indictment of Rai and his fellow-administrators as also acting BCCI president C.K. Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry.
Challenges for Ganguly
The administration aspect apart, two major challenges confronting Ganguly are the quality of wickets and the general well-being of first-class cricketers, which few administrators have addressed with seriousness.
As the BCCI’s constitution stands today, Ganguly has little time before the cooling-off provision comes into effect, next July.
Besides giving up the CAB president’s post, Ganguly will have to step aside from the mentorship of the Delhi Capitals and stay away from wearing the commentator’s hat as well.
Conflict of interest complaints were raised by a petitioner and the BCCI’s Ethics Officer, Justice (Retd) D.K. Jain, gave Ganguly the “benefit of doubt”.
Back in 2000, Ganguly got the India captaincy after the Hansie Cronje scandal. It was a critical time for the sport, not just cricket in India, and he was able to help keep interest alive. October 2019 and beyond is no less an important period.
Expect Ganguly to play another scintillating off-drive or to step out and put one miles over the sight screen. Only question: How long will his innings last?