The Lodha Committee’s status report, highlighting how the Board of Control for Cricket in India has failed to adopt the recommended administrative reforms, has left the game’s officials in a quandary. In a 79-page report filed in the Supreme Court, Justice R.M. Lodha has said the BCCI’s current office-bearers would have to relinquish their posts for the proposed changes to be effected. Lending greater force to the punch, Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur said the BCCI elite would have to “fall in line, or else we will make them fall in line”. The provocation for these firm strictures was the BCCI’s Annual General Meeting in Mumbai on September 21, where a slew of decisions were taken, ranging from the nomination of Sharad Pawar as ‘alternate director for International Cricket Council meetings’ to the appointment of new selection committees. The actions were seen as a failure to heed the Supreme Court. When the Lodha Committee green-lighted the BCCI’s AGM, it was with the caveat of sticking to appraising the year 2015-16, but the board discarded the retrospective gaze and instead looked ahead. The appointment of selection committees, to cite one example, went against norms set by Justice Lodha, who had recommended a three-member panel. The board stuck to the status quo of having five.
Wednesday’s developments in court now put the BCCI in a piquant situation. The BCCI’s elbow room has shrunk, and it is expected that the chastised board will toe the line, though it has time till October 6 to file a reply in the Supreme Court. This sorry state of affairs couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment. India has a home season bounty — 13 Tests, including the match that concluded in Kanpur this week, and an imminent Ranji Trophy schedule. Now there is the risk of disarray. The sport is perhaps India’s best-governed, but the administrators refuse accountability. The cricket schedule (domestic and international) is well- drawn, former cricketers get a generous pension, young players find financial security in the Indian Premier League, and there is much to cheer in Indian cricket. But a refusal to embrace transparency and the lack of respect for the ordinary fan have been emblematic of a feudal mindset that guides cricket’s officialdom. BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke has been quoted as saying the board did what it felt was best for the game; BCCI president Anurag Thakur has often declared he is out to clear “wrong perceptions”. Their intentions are, however, yet to be matched by their actions. They need to take care they do not precipitate what could be the most serious crisis yet for Indian cricket.