The Indian cricket Board’s unprecedented defiance of the Supreme Court order seems to be a clever ploy to project itself as a victim of judicial overreach. It could also be a bid to buy time, hoping that they can use their political influence and get the sports bill passed in Parliament that would overturn most of the SC rulings.
It sounds strange that many of those who welcomed the Justice Lodha panel’s recommendations as a step in the right direction, are now saying that the judiciary should step back a bit. Among a few set of recommendations that the board has a problem with are the ones that threaten a wipe-out of its present set of office-bearers, be it in the states or at the top. They and those who support them are equating a few individuals with the institution and believe that a team which calls itself India is a private body and should be left to its own devices, whims and fancies to control cricket administration in the country.
There is no doubt that the cricket administration is far more receptive to the needs of the sport in comparison to other sports and India is among the best teams in the world. But that does not give them the license to run the sport as if it is their personal property and remain opaque and closed to public scrutiny. There is a reason why the judiciary stepped in, as the sport was dogged with allegations of match-fixing, financial bungling, misappropriation of funds and the profits the Board made were being squandered by many states for the benefit of a few individuals.
All that the Lodha panel has done is to make recommendations that adhere to the best practices of corporate/public governance. Those who are crying foul and saying it amounts to nationalizing cricket, should read these recommendations again.
Far from nationalising the sport, these recommendations go to the other extreme and are trying to make the Board absolutely free of government interference. By barring ministers and serving bureaucrats from becoming office bearers, it is cutting off all government ties with the Board. Many would see this as an infringement on the fundamental rights of an individual, but the excesses of the Board have reached a stage where a complete surgery is the only way out.
That is the reason why even if this verdict is a judicial overreach, it is being welcomed by most. Cricket in India has strong roots and it need not fear a well-meaning and well-thought out change, even if it is radical in its conception. By throwing roadblocks in its implementation, Board officials are harming the cause of the very sport they profess to serve.