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Three years ago BCCI was an object of ridicule at the ICC

india Updated: Oct 23, 2008 20:55 IST
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One of the major failings of the Indian cricket Board was a complete lack of transparency on both sides of the spectrum. It would not talk of the problems that existed and was equally shy of publicising its achievements. This changed when Mr. Pawar's administration took over because of certain reasons -- a combination of a commitment to change and a commitment to changing the way the BCCI was regarded internationally.

At that point, three years ago, we were horrified to learn that the BCCI was an object of ridicule at the ICC. The then ICC chief embarrassed us by saying the Board needed total restructuring and professionalism. He pointed out how unresponsive the Board was to communications from the ICC despite the CEO's public admonitions. Though we defended the Board and its officials, we knew change was needed. I'm glad that's happened.

Just a point: Some diehard critics dubbed my previous piece in these pages a PR exercise. Here, I'd like to reiterate that a healthy discussion is always welcome.

How the gaggle haggled

Meanwhile, as I rushed out of the last Annual General Meeting in a little under two hours, I was mobbed by a huge posse of print and electronic media outside Cricket Centre at the Wankhede Stadium. The questions were ones usually asked at AGMs of the past: Was the meeting adjourned or was there any court injunction against holding the election? There was disbelief, perhaps disappointment, when I said the meeting was over and I was off to catch an international flight!

Yet, I sensed relief too, that they did not have to hang around to keep track of grubby developments for days (or even months) like during the 2005 Kolkata AGM.

Even as a former BCCI president myself, I'd like to point out that things were different pre 2005. The Board was governed by an antiquated constitution penned by cronies from princely states to please their masters. It was feudal in character and tone, as it made the Board look more like an alumni body than an apex body to run cricket as the Chair literally held the whip.

I distinctly recollect Mr. Pawar telling the media after his contrived defeat at the 2004 Kolkata AGM that the Board's constitution needed to be redrafted, particularly the process of election, to be in tune with its democratic set-up. He was right.

Legal beagles

Ever since I came to the Board first in 1977, it's been sickening to watch members at AGMs haggle over half a day over who the real representative of a state association was. The Chair had the power to rule and the decision invariably depended on favouritism.

Redrafting the Board's constitution in the light of the recommendations made by former Chief Election Commissioner T. Krishnamurthy before the 2005 election was a major achievement. The two recognised legal brains in the board, Arun Jaitley and Shashank Manohar, plugged the loopholes while overhauling the constitution.

For instance, there were no more points-of-order over the election at the AGM. The list of eligible voters, with the names of representatives is up on the notice board in advance of the AGM and nominations are finalised after withdrawals on the evening prior to the meeting. Ergo, the Mumbai AGM was over in less than two hours.

Money matters

Some of the tangible gains over the past three years were all possible because of the systematic structure the Board created, leading to an equitable, judicious and totally transparent system of allotment of various rights. In this period, the Marketing Committee awarded rights to the tune of $3 billion, working overtime to make the tendering process transparent so that the rights were allotted after realising the prevailing marketable potential.

And the allotment was done in full media glare, not surreptitiously! In 2000, the media rights, worth (at a conservative estimate), Rs. 500-600 crore, were sold at a throwaway of Rs 225 crore despite vehement protests from members for not calling competitive bids or floating tenders, even when an open bid for Rs 500 crore was placed on the table. Five years down the line, the rights were sold for Rs 2,700 crore!

My critics might still say otherwise, but I'd also like to point out that they know as well as I, that prior to 2005, every time the Board allotted the rights, prolonged litigation followed and the legal cell was the BCCI's most active arm. The joke doing the rounds then was that the board put a caveat in court even before signing a deal!

Birth and re-birth

And then, of course, was the IPL. If, today, Lalit Modi is voted among the world's four most influential sports administrators, along with the IOC chief and FIFA president, it is a matter of great pride for the BCCI, and a pointer to his own marketing acumen.

The IPL incidentally, had a painful, decade-long prelude. When the presentation was made to Mr. Pawar on a flight from Mumbai to Delhi after the Champions Trophy final (in 2006), he thought it would revolutionise Indian domestic cricket, which badly needed a push to get it out of its inertia. His only misgiving was over its acceptability by members.

Two failed attempts had been made to launch city based and franchise owned teams in 1996 and '99. I had told him about how an earlier attempt to run an inter-city league was shot down when I was Board president in 1996. Two Harvard professors had conceptualised the format along the lines of major American leagues. I was in a hopeless minority as some weighty colleagues created a fear psychosis, saying that corporate franchise owners would take over the Board.

Later, the late Madhavrao Scindia was also fascinated by a first-rate proposal made by Lalit and backed it, but again, members were misled by influential others who cried wolf after it was agreed in principle to go ahead. Lalit had even lined up a broadcaster and sunk a million dollars to get the project off the ground. The choice of a media rights partner delayed the project. What made a vital difference this time was that the best people in the management were involved and Cricket Australia was convinced of its success. The rest, as they say, is history.