All presidents of the Indian cricket board, at least in the last two-and-a-half decades, have been making tall promises, the most important of them being the redistribution of huge sums of revenues accruing from television rights to its affiliated units (read officials) and players.
New board president Anurag Thakur did not utter the routine lines of making sure India’s domestic cricket does not suffer from its international commitments or empty threats of forcing international cricketers to play in domestic tournaments.
Like a good politician that he is, the BJP Hamirpur MP spoke like his government’s power or environment minister and at his first interaction with the media after becoming president he promised to provide Rs.100 crore for a green initiative by making all stadia environment-friendly and putting up solar panels there to generate their own power.
Thakur reiterated what the the Mumbai association told the High Court before the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches shifted out of Mumbai, Pune and Vidarbha owing drought and water scarcity in the state, resorting to rainwater harvesting and using treated sewerage water to maintain the grass in the stadiums. The prime minister will also be impressed with his move to use LED bulbs for energy efficiency.
When Sharad Pawar took over as the board president, his team came up with an ambitious Vision Paper to make cricket more appealing, and one of its foremost initiatives was to make it mandatory for all international cricketers to play in all major domestic tournaments – Irani, Duleep and Challenger Trophy tournaments. A steep increase in prize money of these tournaments was announced to make it attractive. It also introduced awards and rewards for best international and domestic players of the year as well as for all age-group players and also the best umpire.
The brains trust behind the board’s image makeover, former president Inderjit Singh Bindra and the much-maligned Lalit Modi, forgot about the backup staff to carry out the vision as they got busy with conceiving the IPL and some of their decisions either remained on paper or implementation got tardy.
Pawar’s protege and successor Shashank Manohar came up with norms for selecting the national selectors but that, too, was somewhat modified not to rub cricketers on the wrong. The working committee had suggested that for a player to be eligible to be a selector he should have “retired” from international game 10 years before. It was changed, omitting operative word.
Shashank continued his bonhomie with his successor N. Srinivasan who spent much of his term to make sure his Chennai Super Kings stayed as a top IPL team and also to keep Lalit Modi away from Indian cricket. He also kept his vote bank happy doling out money in huge doses in the name of infrastructure development. Not all made good use of the board’s subvention for the betterment of cricket in their associations.
The latter part of Srinivasan’s tenure saw him defending his beleaguered son-in-law facing the charge of spot-fixing in the IPL or keeping his flock intact, not realising that the apex court had already taken over the board for all practical purposes.
By the time circumstances catapulted him into the board president’s saddle a second time after 10 years, Jagmohan Dalmiya was in poor health and was seen as a spent force. All he did was to mumble some vague homilies to clean up the IPL, leaving Anurag Thakur to run the show as the de facto president.
By then, the board’s image was battered, with the Supreme Court first asking Justice Mukul Mudgal to probe the corruption in the 2015 IPl and then carrying his report forward by appointing its former chief justice Rajendra Mal Lodha to fix the quantum of punishment to the two erring franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals and also to practically rewrite the board’s constitution to improve its governance. The court hearings have more or less come to an end, the judgment is awaited.
In the meanwhile, Dalmiya passed away and Shashank made himself the most acceptable man to replace him. It is not clear how good a lawyer he is, but he judged the board’s future well. He knew with the Supreme Court bent upon punishing the board, he found a way out for himself.
He craftily paved his path to get into the ICC by dumping the much hated Srinivasan doctrine outside India to capture the world body on the basis of revenue generation, the arrangement benefiting the big three, Cricket Australia, England and Wales Cricket Board and India proportionally much more than others.
Now, Shashank’s only worry is how to deal with the Indian board which has its own views on key issues even from his days as the board president when the entire world was on one side, particularly in the case of the umpiring Decision Review System (DRS).
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)