The Board of Control for Cricket in India has only itself to blame for its present predicament. Its president and secretary have been removed for defying the Supreme Court’s order to accept reforms suggested by a court-appointed committee. And its president, Anurag Thakur, now faces legal action for contempt of court as well as prosecution for perjury. None of this would have happened had the BCCI shown some sense of responsibility and a vision for the future, and recognised the fact that the highest court was only seeking to reform the manner in which cricket is administered in the country. In the court’s view, the appointment of the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee and adoption of its recommendations were part of a project to bring transparency and accountability to the BCCI.
While the court expected cooperation and compliance, the BCCI responded with obstructionist tactics and defiance. It was therefore inevitable that the court would seek to send out a message that it will not brook any wilful defiance. Despite the court making the Lodha panel reforms binding on the BCCI through its July 18 verdict, the BCCI appeared to defy it. It cited as one reason difficulties in getting its affiliated State units to accept the reforms, but at the same time made at its Annual General Meeting in September some decisions that were not in tune with the panel’s recommendations. The price of such defiance is clear: the Supreme Court is now going to appoint a committee of administrators to supervise the board’s affairs.
Mr. Thakur’s position is especially unfortunate. As a young sports administrator, he was presented with a great opportunity to lead cricket administration into a new era in which Indian cricket’s on-field achievements would be matched by the Board’s transparent and accountable functioning. If only he and other affiliated units had accepted the reforms, influential individuals who had held sway for decades would have been replaced by fresh talent, and the seemingly unending tenure of some would have been cut short. However, by defying the court in the name of protecting the sport’s autonomy, Mr. Thakur has courted a double blow: the loss of power and authority as well as imminent punishment. His equivocation on whether he invited the International Cricket Council to say there is governmental interference in the BCCI’s affairs has led to the court hardening its stance against him. It is not clear what course of action, if any, would now mollify the Supreme Court and help them escape its wrath. A bitter lesson has indeed been taught, but it is uncertain if it has been learnt.