VM: Indian cricket in the grip of summer heat (Column: Just Sport)

An old hand at cricket politics argues that like the Supreme Court judges heard the National Security Adviser on an “integrated synchronised approach” to national security, they should hear the cricket board officials as to what is good for the game in the country.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Khalifulla, is in the process of hearing the board as well as its affiliated units wanting to put forth their apprehensions about some of the aspects of the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee recommendations.

Going by the observations of the two judges, the general feeling is that they are not impressed with the arguments of the board officials. But then, their acerbic remarks may not exactly reveal the mind of the bench, they only point to the direction the arguments are heading to.

Instead of hearing the senior board officials in a closed door meeting, the bench has appointed senior advocate and former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam as its amicus curiae to examine the Lodha Panel recommendations and find ways to implement them.

The court has to pass orders before it goes rises for its summer vacation in a couple of weeks. Another reason for hastening the judgment is that Justice Kalifulla is due to retire in July.

As for the board, its president, Shashank Manohar, is keen on knowing the court’s decision on some of the issues concerning one-state-one-vote before making up his mind whether he should or could stay with the board or take over as chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The nomination process for the election of the ICC chairmanship will start on May 8 and the result will be out by May 23. Ideally, Manohar would like the court to decide before the ICC process gets underway, but this is unlikely as Subramaniam will have to start his work of talking to the stakeholders.

People close to Manohar feel that he has made up his mind to leave the board, but unlike in the past that will leave him without his moorings as the new ICC rule makes it clear that he will have no connection with any member board and has to be independent with no conflict of interest.

At the same time he is also apprehensive of the new dispensation of the Indian board. If someone inimical to him takes over as board president, he may find it difficult to carry on as ICC chairman as it had happened with Srinivasan.

Manohar is not sure whether the apex court will allow the appeals of the three member units in Maharashtra and three in Gujarat not to insist on one-state-one-vote and that case his state unit Vidarbha will lose its vote to Maharashtra.

He, like a majorty of members, is unhappy with the overhauling of the board’s governance structure by bringing in a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) nominee on the board’s executive, even though they may not object to the presence of the players’ representatives.

There is already speculation over the successor if Manohar decides to take up the ICC job. Political equations will change with the highly ambitious Anurag Thakur throwing his hat into the ring again. He missed out when Jagmohan Dalmiya got elected as his party asked him to go slow. He will find an equally combative Sourav Ganguly, seeing the mood that a cricketer should be at the helm as Jusice Lodha desired.

Though many in the board, including Srinivasan’s group, may prefer the wily Sharad Pawar, but his candidature depends on the view the apex court takes on the age cap of 70 for the office-bearers recommended by Lodha committee.

Having known the mind of the bench which feels that 70 plus officials should sit at home and watch cricket on television, Pawar’s Group has already put up a backup candidate, business magnate Ajay Shirkey of Maharashtra. Shirkey, who as treasurer revolted against Srinivasan along with the then board secretary Sanjay Jagdale, quit the board.

The summer is going to generate a lot heat both weatherwise and in the cricket world. One can see a new cricket administration in place. But will it have any real impact on the game in the country? We will have to wait and watch.

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



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