Anurag Thakur’s innings in BCCI; fast furious, short-lived (News Analysis)

Shimla, Jan 2 (IANS) Dethroned BCCI President Anurag Thakur’s innings in Indian cricket was just like a T20 match — fast furious but short-lived.

Before he could score well, the match was over and Thakur, one of the BJP’s most flamboyant MPs and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) president, was forced to retire hurt.

After being removed from the post of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President by the Supreme Court on Monday, Thakur said it was not his personal battle with the court and his commitment to cricket would remain the same.

The apex court removed both Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke for their failure to implement the Justice R.M. Lodha committee recommendations on bringing about structural changes in the running of the national cricket board.

Thakur is on the sports pages these days. Earlier, he was in the news for political reasons too.

In his home pitch in Himachal Pradesh, the ruling Congress has tried to put stumbling blocks in his political marathon.

They fired corruption charges at him and his family, including his father Prem Kumar Dhumal, two-time former Chief Minister, in the past four years of its helm led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

Since his maiden victory in a parliamentary by-election in May 2008, Thakur, who was re-elected as HPCA president last year for the fourth time in succession since 2000, has been targeted by the Congress for being high-profile and jet-setting, and for rubbing shoulders with high and mighty, says a political observer.

“Unlike his father, Thakur doesn’t command much influence in his home constituency Hamirpur. In fact, it was Dhumal who devoted his maximum time and energy in the constituency to ensure repeat of his son, third time in a row, in the last (2014) general elections,” a senior state BJP leader told IANS.

But Thakur’s dedication to the cricket world took him on creating modern infrastructure in the small hill state.

He has to his credit developing five stadia, including the world-class showpiece stadium in Dharamsala, and one cricket academy in the state capital.

The Rs.100-crore ($16 million) stadium in Dharamsala first figured on the international cricket map in 2005 when it hosted a warm-up tie between the touring Pakistan team and the Board President’s XI.

After the Congress formed the government in the state in December 2012, the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau had filed a case of cheating and misappropriation case against the HPCA.

The government also alleged wrongdoing in the allotment of land to the HPCA for constructing a residential complex for players near the Dharamsala stadium, some 250 km from the state capital.

The state later got the sanction to initiate proceedings against Dhumal for allotting the land during his regime to the HPCA, led by his son Thakur.

The vigilance department also booked Thakur and his youngest brother Arun Dhumal for allegedly grabbing land near Dharamsala by forging revenue records.

Some of the cases are still pending in various courts.

To bring the HPCA under its ambit, the state assembly in April 2015 passed a bill by voice vote that brought 42 sports bodies, including the HPCA, under the state government’s control.

Speaking in the house, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had said the land was allotted to the HPCA by the previous BJP government for constructing stadiums not even at throwaway price but at a lease of just Rs 1 a year.

Thakur’s association has developed the Luhnu ground, which is ringed by backwaters of the Bhakra Dam in Bilaspur, besides developing the Amtar, Gumma and Una grounds.

Thakur’s cricketing journey began at the age of 14 as a player. He led the Punjab U-16 team that won the All India Vijay Merchant Trophy. Later, he captained the Punjab U-19 and North Zone U-19 team that won the All India Championship.

At the age of 25, Thakur was elected the HPCA president, the youngest to head a state cricket association affiliated with the BCCI.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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