The bully that is the Indian board

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ICC’s diktat asking member boards to be free of government interference puts the BCCI’s intent under the scanner

Sanjay Jha
New Delhi

Illustration:Anand Naorem

IT IS a general perception that politicians have a knack for messing things up. If it wasn’t for the fact that Sharad Pawar was its president, ICC’s call asking member boards to be compulsorily free of government interference by 2013 would have received warm approbation. Not often does one witness self-actualisation from otherwise opaque institutions. Hence, the unalloyed cynicism.

Based on ICC’s diktat, three countries become susceptible to suspension: Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. India of course, has begun to bully its neighbours and forge newer alliances. It is also a calculated tactical move to pressurise the sports ministry to give BCCI generous accommodation, citing its international charter

BCCI, in any case, had stubbornly resisted registering as a national sports federation under government guidelines. As always, a case of hubris, coupled with infantile cussedness. But with all sports bodies likely to come under the RTI Act, BCCI must be sweating profusely. Its decision-making, whimsical fiats, and questionable commercial contracts (under IPL) could now come under public scrutiny. Thus, it cunningly navigates propaganda of the government-bogey, a convenient pretext to dodge incisive investigations. Governments are willy-nilly a part of sports administration worldwide; branding them as pesky pariahs is churlishness.

I had once written that it will be the leadership capabilities of the ICC — so far regrettably lacklustre and impolitic — and its ability to contain the recalcitrant BCCI on a wild run that will determine the future of world cricket. Because “cricket’s biggest challenge, ironically enough, emanates from its own two principal custodians”. That is now an inarguable truism.

During Pawar’s BCCI days, the joke was that the B stood for Baramati. Now, I in ICC stands for India

FIFA (what ICC lionises) is one of the most corrupt bodies in the world. Its recent bizarre allocation of Qatar as a World Cup venue for 2022 amidst bribery rumours exhibited its guzzling predilections, a shocking apathy to global public opinion. ICC in its current dispensation is equally outrageously scornful, and has the unfathomable propensity to live in a fool’s paradise. Sepp Blatter has been the “elected” FIFA president for 13 years and has made it a laughing stock, hitting self-goals with extravagant energy. Thus even the rotation system of ICC chief being scrapped, an otherwise rational principle, raises eyebrows. Given BCCI’s rising clout, it will officially monopolise ICC by getting “democratically elected” like Blatter. India’s stranglehold on the game is throttling international cricket; cricket, sadly, has no visionary guide.

Why should a cricket enterprise run by part time inept office-bearers managing large cash balances be allowed a free hand especially when it avails of large tax and duties exemptions, significant public resources in security apparatus and infrastructure? Worse, it has the cheeky temerity to use the term “India” even as it believes it is only a sacrosanct private society. Sports can be a sensitive asset having grave geopolitical ramifications that cannot be left to a Lalit Modi kind of self-appointed czar to handle. In banning Pakistan players from IPL auctions, Modi nearly created a diplomatic crisis. A mandatory but minimal government intervention is recommended.

Best practices, says the ICC, yet it unhesitatingly manufactures an “unofficial window” for the IPL, an obsequious surrender to the burgeoning biceps of BCCI. This ensures that the summer carnival gets back-door legitimacy. The UDRS decision, Daryl Harper’s scathing rebuke of India and FTP schedules reveal that the Indians are seen as the new nasty Mafia family in town. During Pawar’s BCCI days, a caustic joke circulated that the B in it stood for Baramati. Now the I in ICC stands for India.

As I write, it is reported that Pawar or former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh might contest MCA elections. Now go figure that one out

Sanjay Jha is founder, cricketnext.com.
[email protected]

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