It does not matter. If Sourav Ganguly met Home Minister Amit Shah, and even worked out a deal to become the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, it does not matter. Perhaps he might campaign for the BJP in the elections in West Bengal, perhaps not. It does not matter.
In another ten months, he will no longer be president (he begins his three-year cooling-off period then), and is free to do what he wants. If Ganguly then dips his toes into politics, that shouldn’t take away from the here and now.
In fact, it is after he steps aside that the political manoueuvers in the BCCI will get even more interesting. Jay Shah, son of the Home Minister, also has roughly the same period of time as secretary before his cooling-off period kicks in. It might mean that Brijesh Patel, who was inches away from the top job before Ganguly breezed through, might get it as reward for pulling out of the race.
The Lodha Commission, the Supreme Court, the Committee of Administrators, the rule changes, the uncertainties and confusion, the irrelevancies and tough talk merely held BCCI politics in a state of suspended animation before things returned to being feudal and familial. But it was fun for a while contemplating the prospect of change.
All those holding their breaths can exhale now; the suspense is over, things are back to ‘BCCI normal’, which is different from the regular normal.
Cause for celebration
The elevation of Ganguly is cause for celebration, though. He brings to the job a combination of youth (he is 47) and independence that augurs well for a governing body that has often been mired in age and inter-dependence. He can make cricketing decisions without having to justify it to those who haven’t had his experience on the field of play. He is, for example, in favour of day-night Tests, and has called it “inevitable”.
In the past, the authorities have resisted the idea. This approach, says former England captain Mike Brearley in the recent edition of Wisden India Almanack, is “narrow-minded, short-sighted and selfish”. Especially when Test cricket needs to do everything it can to bring people back into the stadiums.
Ten months is a good period to focus on changes, especially if there is no pressure to form fresh alignments for the future. BCCI office-bearers have usually been in permanent election mode, pleasing one lot of people for their votes, ensuring politicians are kept happy and generally doing everything to hang on to their seats. Justice Lodha’s recommendations have put an end to that.
Or so it seems at this point. Yet, there is always the possibility that a Sports Bill could be passed in Parliament that could alter everything; or a united BCCI could work towards changing its new constitution even if it means more legal battles.
Ganguly’s stated intention to better the lot of First Class cricketers — he can also include umpires and groundsmen — is commendable. He will count on the support of his secretary and the Apex Council. Perhaps they realise already, like their predecessors did, that they ought to hang together lest they hang separately.
Secretary Jay Shah, in his 30s, brings down the average age further. He gets a chance to show that being a minister’s son is not his only qualification for the job, although it helped. He was the joint-secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association where his father was president.
Ganguly, who encouraged players from non-traditional cricketing centres and made a success of his job as captain will now have a team from non-cricketing traditional backgrounds (politics, business, etc.) in his new avatar. As captain he was responsible for cleaning up the mess following the match-fixing scandal that kept Indian cricket on edge at the turn of the century.
Conflict of interest
He has promised to look into the question of conflict of interest which he thinks has deprived Indian cricket of the services of past players. As a practical man, he will know that sometimes when there is, technically speaking, a conflict, it shouldn’t matter so long as it does no harm. As suggested in these columns, the phrase “material difference” can be introduced into the rule thereby acknowledging the conflict of interest, but making it clear that it does no harm.
The CoA itself appointed the same man as both ethics officer and ombudsman, for instance, but was quick to pounce on conflicts of interest elsewhere. One of its members continued over the age of 70, but didn’t think the rules applied to him. Such things tended to confuse rather than clarify.
Ganguly will have to deal with both the effects of the previous regime’s intransigence as well as the CoA’s reactions that were indistinguishable from those of the organisation it was trying to clean up.
It will not be easy, but if, till the issues are resolved, the BCCI leaves politics at the door, then Sourav Ganguly will have a cricket-crazy nation’s gratitude. Once again.