At 41, he is already an accomplished politician, having been a three-time Member of Parliament (MP). He is also head of the BJP’s youth wing, but to the world he is better known as a cricket administrator.
Just as he has accelerated his way up the ladder in politics, he has done the same in the cricket establishment, which many consider a far tougher arena to succeed in than the political battlefield.
Welcome Anurag Thakur, the second youngest ever president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The youngest ever and likely to remain so, was the articulate Fathehsinghrao Gaekwad, Maharaja of Baroda, who played first class cricket, was a radio commentator, managed the Indian team, and became the president of the Board at 33, an age when players think of scoring centuries and not heading the Board.
Fathehsinghrao managed the board from 1963 to 66, at a time when cricket was just emerging as a major sport in India. Its administration was feudal, elitist and controlled by those who had the money, power and clout to patronise the sport.
Anurag takes over its reins at a time when the Board is steeped in a different kind of crisis, despite many positive changes having taken place since the days of Fathehsinghrao. It is a crisis that is the result of the Board’s own blundering ways, that have led to a Supreme Court-monitored radical change of its constitution.
The Board is paying the price for allowing its former president, N Srinivasan, and owner of the IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, to exploit the lacunae in its constitution to ride rough-shod over everyone else. The transgressions of a few, the Board would say, have led to a situation where they are now helplessly waiting for the Supreme Court to deliver its verdict on the Justice Lodha panel recommendations.
This is not a piece about all that is wrong with the Indian Board; one has written enough on that and will do so in the future too. This is a piece about the challenges the Board is facing at a time when Anurag has taken over its command and whether he will be able to usher in the change which everyone else but the Board seems to desire?
He has taken over from the man whom the Board, including Anurag, trusted to oversee this change smoothly. Shashank Manohar, some would say, chose to move away to greener pastures, leaving behind men like Anurag to deal with the problems besetting the Board.
To be fair to Anurag, he is the one who was among the first to raise the banner of revolt against the functioning of Srinivasan, admitting publicly that mistakes were being made. He was the joint secretary of the Board at that time. Within less than a year, he has risen to become its president and has a wonderful chance to show the world that he meant what he had said in the past.
Anurag, more than anyone else in the Board, should realise what it means to come from a smaller state which was grudgingly granted affiliation by the Board in 1984 and should understand the significance of one state, one vote. He also comes from a state that has immensely benefitted from the equal redistribution of the Board’s profits to member states, regardless of their size and cricketing strength.
There is also no doubt that Anurag, because of his political affiliations and his own dynamic approach, has changed the face of Himachal cricket. He is young and, unlike many others in the Board, should be connected with the ground realities.
In the backdrop of the Justice Lodha panel recommendations hanging like a sword of damocles over the Board, Anurag has got an opportunity to not resist change and usher in the reforms that will enhance the image of Indian cricket.