The Supreme Court has named a four-member Committee of Administrators to run the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India as part of a continuing judicial exercise to reform the way the body is administering the game. While few will sympathise with the BCCI office-bearers who were removed for defying the court’s well-intended reforms, there is no escaping the feeling that it should have found a way of reforming the body without appointing its own administrators. Only one of the four appointees has played representative cricket, and it is arguable whether a public auditor, a cricket chronicler or a financial sector executive are the most suitable candidates to administer a body that oversees a competitive sport. In a country where there is no shortage of cricket experts and where many have the experience of having put bat to ball at some point in their lives, it is a glib assumption that a combination of eminence in some field and a passion for the game are sufficient to run a national sports body. The court could have asked the Board to come up with suggestions to draw up a committee of interim administrators from among former players and administrators with an established connect with the game. Also, by appointing a panel of its own, the court has rendered itself vulnerable to the charge of massive judicial overreach.
There is an undoubted element of public interest in the manner in which the highest court has engaged itself with the game’s administration in recent years. The objectives were laudable: cleansing the administration; bridging the credibility deficit built by reform-resistant administrators; and revamping a system fraught with conflicts of interest and unchecked commercialisation. Last year, the court declared that running cricket in India is a public function. Many felt the intervention was needed to keep the exploitation of cricket’s commercial potential honest, and run the game in accordance with its tradition and values. Then came the panel headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha and its sweeping recommendations for reform. The Supreme Court accepted most of the recommendations and made them binding on the BCCI. Thereafter, the reluctance shown by the BCCI to accept the Lodha panel reforms led to its president Anurag Thakur being held prima facie guilty of contempt of court. The situation is ripe for a new set of administrators and the next election, which will be overseen by the four-member committee, will throw them up. The big question, of course, is whether this will amount to a mere replacement of one set of office-bearers with another, or bring about a real and systemic change in the way cricket in this country is run.