“Tenures are finished, tenures are finished. You cannot go beyond tenure,” said Sourav Ganguly. He was speaking of the national selection committee, and may have been unaware of the irony.
For his own tenure ends next year, but he himself wants to go beyond tenure. The president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India seems more keen to sign on to the past than to the future.
This is a pity, because Ganguly is capable of shaking out the old and bringing in the new. He might, however, have given up some of the strength needed to do that by aligning with the old-timers who asked not what they could do for cricket but what cricket could do for them.
Glimpse into mindset
Whether the Supreme Court allows the BCCI to dilute its rulings or not, the proposed changes give us a glimpse into the mindset of the administrators. And it hasn’t changed in decades.
In effect these are:
1. We are in power, and we want to remain in power.
2. Remaining in power calls for compromises with others who also want to remain in power, as well as politicians who can smoothen the path to permanency.
3. We would like to make our own rules, even if some of these go against decency and common sense.
4. There is too much money in the game for sports administration to be left to professional CEOs and Directors.
5. We will make a fetish of “elections” and say “the people have spoken”, as though it is a state or national election, although in reality it is a small minority of people.
6. We will pretend, as a group, that cricket and cricketers are on top of the agenda, and if we say it often enough, we will be believed.
7. Anyone who doesn’t fit into the scheme of things will have to be eased out, squeezed out or bought.
8. We will (and this is the latest) exhibit greater patience than the Supreme Court and tire that body out. After all, the highest court in the land has more important things to deal with than deciding the arithmetic of a “cooling-off” period.
It is too early to say which of these Ganguly has signed up to, but the attempt to dilute the Lodha panel recommendations is troubling. Ganguly, as the new face of an old system, is a compromise he might not like to be identified with. It might also be the start of another round of SC v BCCI battles Indian cricket could do without.
If all this sounds excessively cynical, you only have to follow the events of the recent past. A successful player and captain becomes the Board president to much acclaim and fresh hopes (cricket fans are the most optimistic of people).
Perhaps he will clean up the administration. Perhaps he will change a system built on favours and political manoeuvres. He is young. He has no compulsion to be seen with the India captain and click selfies with him. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of the system from inside.
He understands where things could go wrong. He will not play favourites since that was his reputation when he was the national team’s captain.
Five years ago, he was in the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Mudgal Committee which began the investigations into spot-fixing in the IPL, so he has seen cricket from many sides.
Perhaps I am overstating it here. Perhaps Ganguly simply needs more time to set the house in order and it is for this unselfish reason that he needs an extension till 2024.
Perhaps India is not ready yet for the professional at the top of the administrative tree who is susceptible to regular appraisals, performance-based increments — with dismissal from the job being the other side of the coin.
The current CEO, who began well, and held things together in the confusing days when no one knew who was responsible for what, has had his wings clipped.
There is a fundamental divide between players and administrators on what constitutes success. Players look at performance, and security. Administrators tend to see everything in terms of revenue and the influence (and visibility) it brings. Which explains why both sides can claim to be successful at their jobs, and changes — even if by the Supreme Court — are dismissed as interference.
Ganguly has made much of the conflict of interest issue which, he says, has kept former players away from the Cricket Advisory Committee. This committee has little to do apart from picking the selectors and the coach, and can be safely scrapped. The Apex Council can do that job.
In the BCCI’s ideal scenario, the Supreme Court would withdraw, the officials would be allowed to go back to the bad old days and the huge amount of time, money and effort spent in reforming cricket administration would be written off as a bad dream.
Then, nothing would have changed in decades. The only difference would be that the subtlety has gone out of the manoueuvres.