When Mithali Raj started playing for India, not many of the present cricket administrators may have been around and if she says that it is the right time for a womens Indian Premier League (IPL) the Indian board should consider it seriously.
Some 30 years ago when women’s cricket was trying to find place under the sun, the game’s administrators had little support and the players were sneered at for making a joke of it. They were forced to play at smaller centres with only the curious turning up to see how women play a men’s sport.
Still, some critics think the Mithalis and Jhulans do not know what they are talking about. Organisationally, a lot needs to be done but it is now in the hands of the Board and it should not be a difficult to put together five or six teams to play in the IPL.
Come to think of it, India’s major employers, Railways alone have 150 cricketers on their rolls today. It may take a few more years for the girls to go under the hammer, but surely five franchises can easily be found to field teams to start with.
Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy can be the star promoters for the Twenty20 league and like in the IPL, scouts will come across Pandyas, Manish Pandeys, Sanju Samsons, Rishab Pants, Nitish Ranas, Rahul Tripathis and Mohammed Sirajs of women’s cricket once the girls get motivated.
Why deride women’s cricket when the courts and cricket administrators have left the administration in a big mess? If International cricket, and to a great extent domestic cricket, are left unharmed it is largely thanks to the board’s pioneers who have given a template for every age-group and format for subsequent generations.
The Board is seen as the best run sports body in the country and that, perhaps, gives its officials the arrogance to thumb their nose even at the country’s apex court, much to the annoyance of a vast majority of cricket fans.
The legal luminaries who were asked to fix the quantum of punishment for the two franchises which were caught with their owners indulging in undesirable activities and also see if there was any conflict of interest in the case of one of the owners who was also the board president, should have been told to confine themselves to the two points instead of asking them to overhaul the entire administrative set-up.
When the case drags on there are bound up to be changes in the courts, too, as every incoming judge looks at things differently. The bench, which is sitting in judgment now, agreed to look at a couple of things afresh and that gave the Board to add a few more of their original grievances which were already addressed by the previous benches.
The Board might simply say that it is opposed to only five clauses of the Lodha panel recommendations, but they are the meat of the reforms.
They offending points are: the one state one vote membership, the apex council set-up, administrative powers to office-bearers and professionals, age and tenure and number of selectors.
Of these, only the number of selectors can be reconsidered as in a vast country like India it is difficult for a three-man committee to cast its net wide. Appointing scouts is as good as appointing as many selectors, though without voting rights. Even the tenure clause can be tweaked a bit for the sake of continuity.
The board, to be fair to it, has been objecting to the five issues right from Day One. They were rejected more than once and yet the board kept at it, hoping it can make the court see the reason.
The apex court should not have allowed the issue to drag on for so long. First, it allowed Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee freedom to do what it wants with the board’s constitution and also oversee the board’s functioning for a while before handing over the reins to Vinod Rai headed Committee of Administrator (COA).
The COA started to administer than be after the state units to adopt the Lodha panel recommendations as soon as possible. It kept filing status reports and nothing more. Now it is left with only members from the four appointed after Ramachandra Guha quit pointing issues of conflict of interest, involving the icons of Indian cricket, and Vikram Limaye left to take over as the new managing director and chief executive officer of the National Stock Exchange (NSE).
One should not forget that the board has political backing even if ministers and bureaucrats are barred from entering it. It could even be a haven for powerful political satraps.
It is turning out to be test case for the Supreme Court. Can the court punish the board for defying it even if it’s concerns about one or two issues are worth a relook?
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])