Control-freak BCCI loathe to reforms and that’s baffling
After the Supreme Court ordered dismantling of BCCI’s structure, various state cricket associations (including Mumbai and Hyderabad) are functioning under court appointed officials.
At ground level, India’s cricket’s landscape resembles a depressing war zone -- full of negativity. A helicopter view - looking at the bigger picture --shows it has strengths and functions in a manner truly its own, not according to any textbook.
In 1934, the newly-formed BCCI named India’s national championship after Ranji, a cricketer who played his last Test for England in 1902. This was a statement about an Indian mastering an English sport and those days Indian cricket was anyway dominated by princes. CK Nayudu was the greatest player at the time and in the last 50 years, Rajsingh Dungarpur, a prince himself, became the only cricketer to head the BCCI.
The BCCI today is a national cricket body wedded to ‘control’ which is going through divorce proceedings that threaten its power and authority. After the Supreme Court ordered dismantling of BCCI’s structure, various state cricket associations (including Mumbai and Hyderabad) are functioning under court appointed officials.
Despite the painful loss of power, the BCCI runs world cricket’s biggest empire in terms of sway, sweep and wealth. It stretches across the length and breadth of India (now even covering the once distant north-east), enjoys unconditional support of fans and has monopoly rights over a commodity that is recession-proof.
FLEXING ITS MUSCLE
Leveraging the mountain of cash at its disposal, the BCCI flexes its commercial muscle and chooses to fly its own flag. It defies Supreme Court directions for reform instead of complying and consistently rejects the Competition Commission (over monopoly control), the Information Commission/ Law Ministry (over RTI) and the Sports Ministry (over NADA/WADA). Cricket might be about straight lines but the BCCI is a master at running circles around its adversaries.
Besides controversies, a striking feature of Indian cricket is its size. Everything about it is mega. India’s has 37 first class sides; Australia six, England 18. One thousand senior players participate in multiple national tournaments and international cricket sits on this massive base, staged across 52 venues. No other country has more than 10 stadiums of this standard.
The amount of cricket played -- across formats, men/women, age groups -- is simply mind-blowing. India’s elaborate domestic structure, with tournaments starting with under 16 games, is a convenient ladder for talent to rise. There will be 2,017 matches held this season and the BCCI can rightfully claim to be the best event management company in the business.
DRESSING ROOM CONTROL
That BCCI chooses to ignore substantive governance issues and refuses to create a road map -- at senior/ junior level -- is baffling. Why must this leadership responsibility be abdicated to Virat Kohli the captain and Rahul Dravid the coach?
Kohli wants his competitive Indian team to win abroad; Dravid is preparing young talent for international cricket. Laudable goals both but a wider strategic vision needs to be created in the Cricket Centre, the BCCI’s headquarters, instead of the Indian dressing room.
Other matters too deserve to be on the agenda. The BCCI is an island of prosperity and power, unconnected to mainland India, happy to exist in its bubble. Australia and England choose a more inclusive approach to focus on ‘community engagement’. Even Canada has a MAD (Mum and Daughter) initiative to enlarge cricket’s fan base.
India has work to do for grassroots cricket and talent development. But before this outreach, it’s time to respect fans by providing them tickets, better facilities and a good ‘stadium experience’.
(The writer is a senior sports administrator and tweets @AmritMathur1. Views are personal)