The excitement and interest generated in India by the ongoing football World Cup has put cricket, for a change, in the background. The Indian cricket team, accompanied by captain Virat Kohli, has embarked upon a very crucial tour of Ireland and England. But the usual buzz surrounding their departure was missing and they barely found a mention in the Indian newspapers on account of football.
Indian’s tour to England is very important, as apart from establishing their superiority as the number one Test side in the world, the team also needs to erase the memory of the defeat they were subjected to during their last visit there.
The present Indian team looks quite formidable. They are a well-balanced side with plenty of strength and options in all the departments of the game. The lengthy tour starts on a perfect note with a series of limited-over matches before culminating into the real battle -- a five-Test series. The Indian support staff and coach Ravi Shastri will need to play a major part in ensuring that the level of enthusiasm, grit and intensity to achieve their goal remains positive all through the long-drawn tour. Fortunately, India will be playing during the second half of the English summer. While the weather will be much warmer, the unpredictability of the English climate will always remain a crucial factor.
The Indian cricket scenario on the field is not a problem, but off the pitch it is a different story altogether. The unpleasant and direct confrontation between the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has become very unsavoury and is worrying for the future of the game in the country. The Supreme Court has let this issue linger on unnecessarily for nearly two years after it had issued the judgement. The Lodha Committee recommendations, with a few modifications, were to be followed and the COA was to implement them expeditiously. But the powerful individuals of the BCCI have, by every means possible, delayed the inevitable and opposed carrying out the recommendations on some pretext or the other.
The next hearing by the Supreme Court is set for July 5, 2018. The time has come for the highest judiciary body in India to once and for all put the matter to rest as every delay is pushing Indian cricket many years behind. The administration of Indian cricket at the BCCI as well as the state associations is in complete shambles. This internal battle between the BCCI and the COA has made the Indian cricket board a vulnerable target. The world cricket body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), is seeing this as a golden opportunity to place itself in a strong position vis-à-vis India, the golden goose of cricket revenue. The late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi put it very nicely during one of his talks many years ago. He said the ICC is the “voice of cricket,” whereas India is the “invoice of cricket.” Now the ICC wants to control both these factors and India seems to be handing them to the ICC on a platter. The irony is that a former BCCI president, Shashank Manohar, who now heads the ICC, will be the executioner. A familiar situation that has haunted India on many occasions in the past. The representatives of India attending the ICC meetings, without a strong backing at home, may become soft targets for the wily ICC board members. In the last ICC meeting, while deciding the distribution of revenues to the member countries, India lost around $200 million out of the earlier promised amount.
The BCCI’s present weakness is also perceived by its once allies and the support from them, which India enjoyed earlier, is fast diminishing. The ICC in July will push the agenda of tournaments and activities beneficial to them and this will severely impact the revenue of the BCCI. Therefore, it has become imperative for all the administrators involved with Indian cricket to stop bickering amongst themselves and protect the finances due to Indian cricket, especially as 80 per cent of world cricket’s earnings comes predominantly from India.
Cricket operations at most state associations are being severely affected. The lack of clarity has brought about a complete breakdown at most centres. The former powerful individuals at most associations are still flourishing and ruling the roost, through their trusted relations and lieutenants. Cricket, as the Lodha committee recommendations stipulate, should be run by cricketers. But at present this is far from becoming a reality.
The turmoil, however, has led to associations such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Maharashtra approach their respective high courts and request them to put an independent administrator to run the show. The courts have done this in the case of the first three associations mentioned above and one hopes that a similar verdict will be announced when the case comes up in the Mumbai High Court for Maharashtra on July 6, 2018.
Having played for and captained the Maharashtra cricket team, I am saddened to see how local cricket has drastically dwindled. Players are barely playing six to seven matches in a year. The association is in a state of complete penury.
The success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Indian cricket team has hidden the enormity of the problems that the game is facing in the country. The Supreme Court needs to understand how important and essential its final verdict is for Indian cricket. Another postponement of the date by it will be disastrous for the game, both domestically and internationally. Indian cricket on the field is in the hands of Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli. However, cricket off it is left to the Supreme Court. And one hopes the apex court finally hits the ball into the stands.
(The writer is a former India cricketer)