Change is often accompanied by hope. When Sourav Ganguly became president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, there was hope. Hope that a Test cricketer would set things right after the BCCI had been embroiled in court cases and conflict of interest issues. Hope that someone outside of the board’s political system would help drive the reforms laid down by the Supreme Court and the Lodha Commission. Hope that domestic cricketers had someone in their corner.
In the end, none of this happened. Ganguly’s main interest seemed to be Ganguly. He was entangled in conflict of interest himself — endorsing a fantasy cricket league that was a rival to one of the BCCI’s official sponsors. He helped dilute the Lodha reforms along with the BCCI secretary, Jay Shah, son of India’s Home Minister.
Was Ganguly used by the old order to get its way — the BCCI is now virtually unrecognisable from its pre-reform days — and then discarded? If sacked President N Srinivasan continues to wield the sort of influence that kept Ganguly from contesting, then clearly nothing has changed. Like bowlers, administrators too have long memories. They can recall favours. (As an aside, you must feel a sneaky admiration for the man who just won’t go away).
Altered job description
Before the elections, Shah had the foresight to get his job description altered. The Supreme Court, as part of its rollback, stated the secretary will have “all powers in relation to cricketing and non-cricketing matters” and the BCCI will work under his “direct supervision, control and direction”. That is worth more than the runs scored or wickets taken by any player.
In this dispensation, the president doesn’t really have lots of power. Still, Roger Binny’s elevation is a reminder that sometimes nice guys do finish first. After bouts with egotism and personality cults in the BCCI, Binny’s appointment raises hope of a return to decency and decorum. His record as player, coach, selector, administrator is clean. He has been involved with the sport for close to half a century, and is both self-confident and self-effacing, a rare combination in Indian cricket.
He will be up against the usual political shenanigans in the BCCI, a governing body that deals in the billions of dollars. This attracts politicians, both major and minor who are only too aware of the influence and business opportunities that come with being associated with it. And the reflected glory that a winning performance by the national teams automatically bestows.
There is the World T20 in Australia currently on. Next year come the World Test championship final and the 50-over World Cup, the last-named at home. The BCCI is expected to negotiate a tax deal with the government or lose over $58 million. Cricket and business come together at every turn. There is too the question of balancing red ball cricket with its white ball cousins.
What is good for cricket might not always be what is good for the bottom line, and as the only international player in the new set-up, Binny will have to take a call on this if a situation arises. Thanks to the enormous amounts of money the BCCI generates, it rules the world game, and other countries toe its line. Power flows from the signature at the bottom of a cheque.
The big story of the new BCCI, however, is not the easing out of Ganguly, but the takeover by a single political party. For decades, BCCI saw political parties sink their differences and pull in the same direction. Rivals worked together in the BCCI even when they were at loggerheads in Parliament! This now changes.
The BJP takeover (all posts were unopposed, showing the backroom power of the old elite) is complete. Shah aside, the joint-secretary Devajit Saikia is an aide of the BJP Assam chief minister, the treasurer, Ashish Shelar is a BJP legislator from Maharashtra. The IPL Chairman Arun Dhumal is BJP minister Anurag Thakur’s brother. The odd man in is Congress’ Rajeev Shukla, the man “who gets things done.” He has always known which side his bread is buttered on.
The Binny-Shah combination is accompanied by hope too. But the bar seems to have been lowered recently.