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As Missteps Become the Norm, Rudderless BCCI Finds Itself Facing Constant Embarrassment

The BCCI was never perfect, it will never be perfect. But not becoming a laughing stock is the bare minimum that can be ensured.

Baidurjo Bhose |Cricketnext |July 24, 2018, 5:57 PM IST
As Missteps Become the Norm, Rudderless BCCI Finds Itself Facing Constant Embarrassment

New Delhi: In a shocking oversight, the national selectors on Monday named Abhishek Gupta — serving an 8-month ban for a doping violation — in the India Red team for the Duleep Trophy. The error was quickly rectified but was only the latest in faux pas to come from the BCCI stable. Missteps seem to have become the order of the day in an association which was once termed by Justice Mukul Mudgal — head of IPL spot-fixing probe — as one of the better organised associations in the country.

From the Indian team management failing to understand the gravity of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s back injury to National Cricket Academy COO Tufan Ghosh brushing aside Wriddhiman Saha’s shoulder injury as ‘not life-threatening’, the selection of Gupta was another pit stop in this shambolic phase for the BCCI. Not to forget the allegations of the umpiring test being rigged that surfaced with the domestic season set to start in less than a month.

Quite clearly, the vacuum that has been created in the whole decision-making process of the BCCI is playing its part. The biggest fallout is the upcoming domestic season that appears to be in complete disarray. The Supreme Court appointed Committee of Admisitrators (CoA) approved the domestic schedule prepared by General Manager Cricket Operations Saba Karim without taking the office-bearers into confidence. With nine new teams in the mix — mostly from North East — questions of how and where would these teams play their games are still doing the rounds.

Even the concerns of technical committee chief Sourav Ganguly and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry were overlooked as the CoA succeeded in finally having implemented one of the reforms suggested by the Lodha panel — to include teams from the North East into the structure. However, in another embarrassment, some of these newly inducted teams have already thrown their hands up saying they don’t have the infrastructure or the financial strength to organise games at home or pick teams for the domestic season that starts next month.

“There has been a complete breakdown of relations and trust,” an irate BCCI official told CricketNext. “Thanks to the CoA’s conduct, the people who work at the grassroots and have over the years apprised the BCCI general body of the practical problems that have surfaced were ignored. Even when the members have tried to explain to the committee that certain decision need the approval of the general body, the CoA has taken it upon themselves to get things passed with the CEO Rahul Johri being handed signing authority. Even at the SGM, it was ensured that the general body didn’t have required data to pass decisions.

“Today we have a scenario wherein the treasurer signs documents under protest. A man of Ganguly’s stature has to come out and say that there were decisions taken at the technical committee meeting which were slightly different to the ones passed by the board. And then, you have the news of the umpires’ examination being rigged. So, where does the board stand and who is accountable?”

CricketNext reported allegations of the umpires’ exam being rigged and with less than three weeks left for the domestic season to get underway, it is a race against time for the board to salvage the situation. These issues rarely cropped up when MV Sridhar and Ratnakar Shetty were in charge and in fact, after Sridhar’s premature demise, Shetty was handed an extension by the office-bearers.

Often known as the man with the magic wand — for his ability to provide a solution to most problems — Shetty’s extension though was blocked by CoA and that has brought out a situation wherein there is still no clarity on the domestic season that is round the corner. 74 senior teams and over 150 age-group teams will be a part of the domestic calendar and yet, there appear to have been few steps taken to resolve the logistical issues that have cropped up.

The CoA’s mandate on being appointed by the Supreme Court after passing its order in 2016 was to implement the Lodha reforms, rework the BCCI constitution and supervise the functioning of the office-bearers. However, after two years and nine status reports from the committee, the Supreme Court has had to involve itself again, and ask the state associations to give suggestions on draft constitution of the apex cricket body.

Somewhat bemused by the turn of events in the last two years, a senior member of one of the state associations tried his best to decode the problems.

“The cookie was bound to crumble,” he said. “The BCCI has over the years seen a cohesive effort from both the office-bearers and the state associations to ensure smooth functioning. But ever since taking over, the CoA has hardly seen the need to consult us or take our suggestions. We would inform the office-bearers of the practical difficulties at the grassroots and they would act accordingly.

“But the CoA has seen the state associations and office-bearers as enemies. There was only one meeting with the state associations that I can recall. This was before the Champions Trophy when the office-bearers threatened to pull out of the ICC tournament. Apart from that, it has all been about getting their directives through mails. If you go through the minutes of the CoA meetings, you will see they are a curation of conflicting thoughts.”

The handling of key players such as Kumar and Saha has highlighted the current state of chaos. While the team management decided to play the fast bowler despite a back injury, Saha’s shoulder injury came a surprise to even the chief of the selection committee MSK Prasad. While naming the squad for the first three Tests against England, the official word was that Saha’s thumb hadn’t healed.

To add to the mental distress that Saha and his family might be facing, NCA COO Ghosh decided to play it down as a ‘non-life-threatening’ injury in a brusque interaction with a newspaper. Ghosh is no stranger to making perplexing decisions. Recently when the North Zone U-19 girls’ team was training in the Capital in May in scorching heat and Ghosh was asked about the planning process behind the schedule, he refused to comment.

For a board which claims to have a zero-tolerance policy to corruption and doping, the selection of Gupta was a major embarrassment. Once known for its solidarity, the board is now caught in a daily back and forth of allegations and counter-allegations, leaving little time to resolve issues that affect the conduct of the game. Key players such as CEO Rahul Johri have some answering to do as well, since he has been made the approving authority by the CoA and is a part of all decision-making by the board ever since the committee took over.

As a senior BCCI official had once said, the board was never perfect, it will never be perfect. But not becoming a laughing stock is the bare minimum that can be ensured.

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