Supreme Court has given Cricket board long rope (Column: Just Sport)

The Indian cricket board is stretching its tussle with the Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee to a bizarre level.

The Board is left with little option excepting to get ready for a panel of observers to oversee its working. It is unhappy with the name suggested by the Lodha panel and on its own it does not want to suggest any names.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court seems to have given the board a long rope. Things have come to such a pass that the apex court held board president Anurag Thakur guilty of perjury prima facie and told him to apologise to avoid going behind the bars.

The board’s lawyer, the high-profile Congressman Kapil Sibal, promptly said his client would apologise for saying something which amounted to lying on oath.

Thakur in October said in a sworn affidavit that he did not approach the International Cricket Council (ICC) to state that the Lodha Committee recommendation of incorprating a government accountant on its executive amounted to government interference.

Shashank Manohar, who was board president and Thakur his secretary before he quit to takeover as ICC’s first independent chairman, refused the letter. For good measure he made Thakur approach him in public and that was enough for the apex court to pull up the young board chief.

The ICC made it clear that the court’s order cannot be seen as government interference, though Shashank himself as board president had aired a view similar to that of Thakur’s. Shashank tried to wriggle out saying he had said that before the court ruling.

Five years ago, the ICC brought in a regulation to end government interference in appointing members of cricket boards in South Asia and Southern Africa. Barring India, all the sub-continental boards functioned at the will and pleasure of their governments.

There have been whispers in the board that the Lodha Committee is being advised on cricket matters by some of its former chiefs and a veteran cricketer.

The board members are miffed over Shashank’s role in particular, but then there are no permanent friends or enemies among cricket administrators, though they all would like to be seen as members of an old boys association. Equations keep changing as fast as chaning garments based on personal ambitions.

The apex court appointed the Lodha Committee to first decide the quantum of punishment for two franchises — Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals — which were pronounced guilty of spot fixing and betting by their owners.

From there, the committee moved to the governance model of the board and saw a whole load of rubbish in its functioning. It met various stakeholders of the game and came up with a set of recommendations, some of which could have been left to the board as mere advice.

The Supreme Court accepted the recommendations and the board had been asked to interact with the Lodha Committee to thrash out some of the contentious issues raised by some of its affiliated units.

The senior board officials dragged their feet and went in for a review petition and an open court hearing. The court rejected the plea, as expected, without a hearing.

The board’s plea was that the judgment was “unreasoned and is seeking to frame “legislative measures for a private autonomous society in a field already occupied by legislations, both parliamentary and state”.

Saurashtra Cricket Association secretary Niranjan Shah and former India captain Chandrakant Borde have also joined in to ask for a review of the verdict.

The politicians in the board thought it was an infradig to be told that the board should be free of serving ministers and bureaucrats. Then they were also told that they cannot have a free run as office-bearers, though the board’s clearly defined tenure for its president, secretary, joint secretary and treasurer worked well for decades.

First, Jagmohan Dalmiya tried unsuccessfully to short-circuit it and then Narayanswamy Srinivasan succeeded in getting the constitutional amendment voted at a controversial special general meeting, allowing the president to seek a re-election for a fresh term. Ironically, the first beneficiary of the amended rule was Dalmiya after Srinivasan was overthrown in the wake of the Indian Premier League (IPL) corruption case.

The Lodha Committee has overturned everything and the new constitution doesn’t allow anyone to perpetrate his hegemony without a cooling-off period between terms.

The board is unhappy with the move and also denying some powerful state associations a regular vote under the one state one vote rule and also opposed to fixing the age cap of 70 years for the officials.

The last of it has not yet been heard, though the court is expected to take a decisive view on on the case in January before Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur retires next month.

There can still be some quid pro quo among parties to circumvent the unacceptable rules and regulations.

Even as they are fighting in the court a fresh list of kith and kin is ready to take over!

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at sveturi@gmail.com)

–IANS

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