The BCCI and the Power Struggle Within: A Simple Explanation

Venkat AnanthContributor IAugust 5, 2013

Former BCCI and ICC President Sharad Pawar is aiming for a comeback to the Board
Former BCCI and ICC President Sharad Pawar is aiming for a comeback to the BoardClive Mason/Getty Images

It’s probably not cricket, it never was anyway.

The last few months in Indian cricket have been extraordinary to say the very least. India’s on-field success (winning the Champions Trophy and other tournaments) has been matched by a fairly grievous crisis that shows no real sign of resolution.

As much as they’d like us to believe all’s well, Indian cricket is indeed in a state of crisis, and the men who matter—the members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India—continue to live in a state of denial.

What started as a shocking spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League has rather seamlessly imploded into a power-struggle and a crisis of credibility, which will take a more than a few wins to restore. 

In numbers, there are five zones, thirty-one important votes and a three-year term on a rotational basis (amongst the zones).

Having said that, cricket politics in India is by far the most unique amongst the Test playing nations.

There’s a collective lust for power and greed that unites the best and the worst of the power elite in the country—career politicians (at times Ministers in the Government), businessmen and in some cases, even members of the bureaucracy and judiciary.

The stakes have gotten higher since the Board’s coffers have been enriched with cash, drawing many aspirants who would prefer to stay closer to the treasure chest than further away from it. A controversial amendment to the constitution, brought about by the current dispensation also allows a former President to contest for a second term, if he’s proposed and nominated from another zone. 

Ever since the betting scandal involving his son-in-law and CSK co-owner/”cricket enthusiast” Gurunath Meiyappan broke out in Mumbai, which occurred immediately after the Delhi Police broke the spot-fixing scandal, there was a mood of dissidence against N Srinivasan, the incumbent President.

The fallout of the Mumbai Police’s probe against Mr. Meiyappan led to a lot of dissension within the BCCI and two of its well-respected officials, Sanjay Jagdale and Ajay Shirke, the then secretary and then treasurer, respectively, decided to resign in protest of Mr. Srinivasan’s refusal to step down until his name was cleared by a probe panel.

Yet with sheer resistance and dogged determination to hold on to his post, Mr. Srinivasan lived to fight another day.  He handed over the day-to-day charge of the Board’s affairs to an “interim administration” led by the once powerful former ICC President Jagmohan Dalmiya (who heads the Cricket Association of Bengal in India). Interestingly enough, the BCCI’s constitution doesn’t allow for an interim administration in the first place. 

The BCCI promptly instituted a probe panel, with two retired judges of the Madras High Court serving as its members. Almost two months later, they submitted their probe report, which “cleared” both Mr. Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra (owner, Rajasthan Royals—also under cloud for betting), thereby paving the way for Mr. Srinivasan to return to his post as BCCI President.

The verdict of the report was accepted by the highest decision-making body of the BCCI, i.e. the Working Committee, on July 28th. The final decision on the two owners was given to another body—the IPL’s Governing Council.

The decision to clear the two owners was then challenged by another association—the Cricket Association of Bihar—in the Bombay High Court, whose orders deemed the probe panel appointed by Srinivasan & Co. “illegal”. The Court recommended that the BCCI constitute a fresh probe panel.

Last Friday, the IPL Governing Council meeting was a subject of intense drama. Heated discussions ensued, and the decision to appeal the High Court’s verdict in the Supreme Court was taken. Subsequently, as of Monday, the BCCI has filed a “Special Leave Petition” in the Supreme Court of India, with the subject due for hearing on Tuesday. 

It’s clear that Mr. Srinivasan’s future as BCCI President depends on the Supreme Court’s observations.

If the court orders the BCCI to constitute a new probe panel, it would in effect mean a concession on the part of the Board and an acceptance, albeit with some reluctance, of the Bombay High Court’s observations.

Otherwise, around the last week of September, when the BCCI convenes its Annual General Meeting, Mr. Srinivasan must seek re-election against another former BCCI President, Sharad Pawar, who is keen to make a comeback into cricket politics. It shouldn't be as smooth sailing as Mr. Srinivasan would like it to be.

In the numbers game as of today, Mr. Srinivasan has the support of probably 8 associations, which is, interestingly enough, enough to keep him in power should there be a vote. The opposition votes split between Mr. Pawar (around 12-15) and Mr. Dalmiya (8). 

As much as the BCCI’s internal power-play lends itself to compelling political sagas, the sport itself suffers. It is unfortunate that cricket in this country inevitably ends up being subservient to a bunch of powerful administrators who take turns stripping it of its modesty.