Former India captain Sourav Ganguly’s emergence as a unanimous choice to lead the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) shows the desperation among career cricket officials – an amalgam of politicians from different parties, cricketers with varying degree of achievements and others – to regain its reins from the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA).
Many have already succumbed to the temptation of assuming that he will succeed as board president just as he courted success as captain of the Indian cricket team. It is a romantic notion indeed, to believe that a former cricketer alone is best equipped to lead the board out of the quagmire of its own creation.
Clearly, board officials – and those who control the strings of the voting process – have indulged in tokenism by getting Sourav Ganguly to agree to head the board when as per the current rules, he will self-admittedly have less than a year in the hotseat before he heads into a cooling-off period. Hopefully, this surmise is wrong and his elevation is not tokenism, after all.
Ganguly as Short-Term President Doesn’t Sit Well
One can understand the desperation of those eager to regain their hold over the board, the country’s richest and most powerful sports organisation. But it is hard to fathom why Ganguly accepted the position for such a short term. It is likely that by the time he comes to grips with the pulls and pressures of running BCCI, he will have to vacate the post.
It is one of the most disappointing bits to emerge over the past couple of days. Beyond the palest shadows of doubt, anyone – not just a former India skipper – should remain board chief for the full duration of the tenure provided by the BCCI constitution rather than have to leave early.
To knowingly nominate Sourav Ganguly as short-term president does not really sit well.
The ‘cricketing’ reason for picking Ganguly is the fact that he has played at the highest level with much success and taken to cricket administration, having been identified by no less a person than Jagmohan Dalmiya to be given the baton of Cricket Association of Bengal.
Yet, the feeling is inescapable that career cricket administrators have decided to use Dada’s aura to suggest a bright new dawn in cricket governance, when you look at the dramatis personae plotting the transition.
Of course, it is also possible that the officials are hoping that he can convince the Supreme Court to go easy on the mandatory cooling-off period.
Ganguly Must Avoid the Minefield of Cricket Politics
For someone who went on record and said no politician was in touch with him in the run-up to the elections, Ganguly gave the game away by thanking Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur in a tweet. Few would have grudged the former India captain had he acknowledged that to the media in the first place.
What’s worse is that he was accompanied by Rajeev Shukla, another political figure, when he went to the BCCI headquarters to file his nomination. It is downright naïve to believe that politicians will cease to have an interest in the board simply because the highly-empowered Lodha Committee has envisioned barring them. They will find loopholes and retain control of the strings.
Ganguly will have to walk the tightrope with great care to ensure he avoids the minefield that cricket politics can quickly degenerate to.
He will have to be extremely mindful of what he says in the public domain, guarding against impulsive, spur-of-the-moment reactions. Then again, who knows this better than Sourav Ganguly.
Nurture First-Class, But Don’t Overlook the Hurting T20 Leagues
For him to say that this is an important time in cricket administration because of what happened in the last three years – beginning with the Supreme Court ordering the removal of Anurag Thakur as BCCI president on 2 January 2017 and the changes rung in to the BCCI constitution – is to relegate the IPL 2013 match-fixing crisis and its handling to the deepest recesses of memory.
To be honest, it would have been wonderful to have the BCCI president-in-waiting express some ideas about making first-class cricket more relevant to the fans. The day BCCI officials – former cricketers included – realise the importance of getting spectators to watch first-class matches, you can be sure that their vision is not controlled by commerce.
Yet, for Sourav Ganguly to identify first-class cricket as the priority area is also to overlook the damage that the mushrooming state Twenty20 leagues are wreaking. The BCCI does need to regulate these leagues so that it ensures that the netherworld does not make any inroads into the game that we all love so much.
There is no doubt that cricket is firmly entrenched in the social consciousness of the nation, not only when the Indian team does well in international contests but also when the most recent avatar of the game is played each year. It has not been threatened either by Olympic sports or by the invasion of multiple leagues in countless Indian homes via their TV sets.
It can only be hoped that Sourav Ganguly will play the innings of a lifetime and leave a legacy that would make more players of repute pick cricket-administration. Sadly, the 10-month tenure before he hits a roadblock, fashionably called cooling-off period, suggests that he has been sent in to bat in a Twenty20 situation at a time when a Test-match approach is needed.
(G Rajaraman is a Delhi-based student of sport who has been writing and commenting for 35 years. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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