It is not my intention to question the fairness or unfairness of the Supreme Court in sacking Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke. Some commentators are calling it overreach by the court, others are happy to see the entrenched old guard go.
But everyone seems to agree that BCCI has long needed a thorough overhaul. Decision-making has often been opaque, the officials have always been divided into cliques which have fought one another quite viciously, there have been clear conflicts of interest, and the board has never much cared for the millions of fans who are ultimately the source of power that the BCCI wields in world cricket.
All in all, the public impression, rightly or wrongly, has been that the BCCI has been a closed and exclusive club which has focused only on self-interest and commercial success, and little about the game itself.
Things changed a lot under Anurag Thakur, prodded by the Justice Lodha Committee fiats, but the stigma has not been fully washed away.
However, the die is now cast, the Rubicon has been crossed, and the game is up for the men who have been holding the reins of power in the BCCI and the state cricket associations—some of them for more than a quarter of a century. The resignations have already begun in the state associations, and in the next few days, many state associations will be left headless.
A certain amount of chaos will definitely ensue, and one can imagine a financial bonanza for lawyers as they pore over the Lodha Committee report, the Supreme Court judgement and state association constitutions (it could be that some of the associations do not even have a constitution).
Over the next few weeks, BCCI will certainly be run by its professional CEO, appointed a few months ago. But BCCI needs a president and pretty soon.
I believe former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly is the best choice for that post. Anil Kumble would make an equally good president, but he is coach of the Indian team, and has been a remarkably successful one. He should not be disturbed right now.
Here are seven reasons why Ganguly should become BCCI president.
One, he has been one of Indian cricket’s most successful captains, both in the long form of the game and the shorter one (one-dayers). His leadership quality cannot be questioned. It also cannot be doubted that the seeds of the triumphant Indian team that we see today were laid by him.
Without him, there would have been no Harbhajan Singh, no Virender Sehwag, no M.S. Dhoni. He backed players he believed in, even if they failed in a few matches, thus building their own self-belief.
Above all, he transformed the team’s attitude and built a can-do never-say-die aggressive spirit, that was never there before him, and which remains the hallmark of the present team, years after he has retired.
In these troubled times of Indian cricket, one needs someone with serious leadership ability, and Ganguly has that in abundance.
Two, he knows what is wrong with the board. He knows its internal politics, because he has suffered from the BCCI’s vagaries.
He debuted in a one-day match against the West Indies in 1992, and was out for three runs, and returned to the India team only after four and a half years. It should be noted that before he came in to bat in that match, four seasoned batsmen, Srikkanth, Navjot Sidhu, Sanjay Manjrekar and Azharuddin had been out for four, one, one and eight respectively. But it was the 17-year-old Ganguly who was booted out into the wilderness. He was not given a second chance.
Many years later, for no cricketing reason at all, he was stripped of his captaincy and dropped from the team because he could not get along with coach Greg Chappell.
He had never bowed down to the board, and the officials had been waiting for some excuse to get rid of him.
Incidentally, Chappell turned out to be the worst coach the Indian team has had in living memory—under his watch, India could not even get into the second round of a World Cup.
Indian cricket needs someone who knows what is wrong with the board.
Three, Ganguly knows cricket. In fact, he eats, breathes and lives the game. This is as opposed to many BCCI and state association chiefs who would not be able to able to tell a cricket ball from a jackfruit.
Does Sharad Pawar, former BCCI president, know an LBW from DRS?
As a captain, Ganguly studied the pitch and weather conditions, the strengths and weaknesses of both his own players and the opposition, and came out on the greens with a clear strategy.
And that strategy extended from which bowler to bowl and how to set the field for particular batsman to mindgames that would irritate and unsettle the rivals.
As a commentator, he was certainly the best among all Indian ones. He was incisive, insightful and did not pull his punches. This is quite rare among Indian ex-cricketers, many of whom fall back on a litany of clichés—“The ball went like a tracer bullet” (How many times have we heard that?) or really inane stuff—“India wouldn’t mind taking a wicket now.”
When would India mind taking a wicket?
Four, and five (because they are interlinked). He is not compromised in any way. He speaks his mind.
Several ex-Indian cricketers who had—and still have—thriving commentating careers, for example, have held BCCI posts, or had lucrative BCCI contracts, while they pursued their TV careers.
One particularly mindboggling such contract was when two of our star commentators earned a lot of money from the board to make sure that anti-BCCI or anti-Indian team comments were not made on air. It was not even a secret contract.
Can you imagine an English or Australian ex-cricketer commentator accepting such a contract, and if they did, the sort of uproar it would cause?
When Ganguly became president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), he gave up his commentating assignments. He appears now only on TV news shows when invited, for a few minutes, to give his views on a match that is on at that moment. As usual, he speaks his mind.
Six, he is not parochial. He was the first Indian captain after perhaps Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi who rose above the he’s-from-my-state, he-speaks-my-language, and the quota system of the Indian team selection process, and simply tried to build the best India team possible, given the raw material available.
He had no qualms in dropping the Bengali Deep Dasgupta as India’s wicketkeeper, even after Dasgupta had proved himself to be an effective batsman—India, at that point of time, needed a fine wicketkeeper, not a semi-fine batsman.
Seven, he has administrative experience. He has been president of CAB for about a year now, and has been in charge of the massive renovation project of the Eden Gardens stadium. Capacity has been reduced from 65,000 to 37,000, but the audience now has a far more comfortable cricket-viewing experience, in place of being squashed together on concrete slabs.
Kolkatans can no longer crow about having such a massive-seating stadium, but Kolkatans who are sitting there have a much better time.
Will this affect revenues negatively for CAB? We do not know. But this exercise certainly proves that Sourav cares about the fans as much as he does about the Indian team winning.