India’s cricket bosses, who steadfastly refused to change their century-old rules of governance, will now be forced to change. When the recommendations made by the RM Lodha panel were approved by the Supreme Court in July last year, it was clear that the top court was not stopping at ending conflict of interest in the world’s richest cricket association. In the aftermath of the 2013 IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal, the Supreme Court stated that the BCCI was discharging a public function and even though it wasn’t dependent on government grants, it was accountable to the public and the country’s law. The removal of former cricket strongman and Chennai Super Kings owner N Srinivasan as BCCI boss was the first step to reform a BCCI that has often been branded as a “cosy” club where power circulated in the hands of a vested few.
Srinivasan wasn’t found to be corrupt but his biggest mistake was that he didn’t punish Gurunath Meiyappan despite knowing that his son-in-law, a CSK team official, was indulging in betting. The Lodha panel was an extension of the Mukul Mudgal committee that probed the IPL scandal. Lodha’s proposals, which were made binding on the BCCI, made the Board mandarins squirm. Saying its autonomy was being challenged, the BCCI found several Lodha proposals hard to implement.
For almost six months, the BCCI refused to accept the age and tenure cap and the one state one vote policy. This was expected. States like Maharashtra and Gujarat have multiple votes and they have often played kingmakers. Justice Lodha suggested a rotational voting policy, that wasn’t acceptable.
A clutch of senior administrators read the Supreme Court mood very well. Sharad Pawar, who is 76, quit as Mumbai Cricket Association president. Anurag Thakur, only 42 and the BCCI’s youngest president, wanted to fight it out. And lost out.
It doesn’t really. Since July third week when the court proceedings began, India have played three long series – versus West Indies, New Zealand and England. Virat Kohli’s young Turks did not lose a single Test in 2016 and ended the year as the world No. 1.
There was personal glory too. Ravichandran Ashwin won two ICC awards – Cricketer of the Year and the Test Cricketer of the Year -- for the first time after Rahul Dravid in 2004. Kohli’s was named ODI captain of the year not only by the ICC but by Cricket Australia as well.
Cricket won’t stop. Fans won’t stop paying their way in as long as Kohli scores a century and Ashwin runs through opposition.
As one of the judges said: “Administrators come and go. People come to watch the cricket stars. Anurag Thakur’s sacking is a template for other sports and a victory for cricket at large.”