Ramachandra Guha's letter - more than just a scathing attack on BCCI

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Ramachandra Guha's letter - more than just a scathing attack on BCCI

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Bastab K Parida

06/03/2017

When the Supreme Court appointed noted cricket historian Ramachandra Guha as a member of the Committee of Administrators to oversee the enforcement of Lodha committee recommendations, it had raised several eyebrows. The fact that he was also a former University cricketer was conveniently forgotten.

Despite being the writer of one of the finest historical pieces on Indian cricket, ‘A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport’, which is an inspired approach to the colonial and post-colonial Indian cricketing history, Guha was at the center of many criticisms. And that was more so because of his old generation thinking and the lack of pragmatism in accepting the current trends of the sport. 

That proved to be somehow correct though and Guha tendered his resignation to the Supreme Court after failing to cope with the complicated structure of the BCCI. But before leaving the hot seat, through a scathing letter to Vinod Rai, the chairman of the CoA, Guha has left behind a lot of points for the CoA and the BCCI to ponder and quite ironically, that is going to be his greatest contribution to the governance of Indian cricket. 

Let’s start with the first point - conflict of interest. It is a legitimate issue for most sporting organisations and it would be fair to say that it has been one of the major factors that has led to the BCCI being in the state of disarray the Indian board currently finds itself in. It was the direct consequence of the lucrative club culture which can never be on the same page with the proposed administrative structure. 

On the first point of his letter, Guha pointed out, "The BCCI has accorded preferential treatment to some national coaches, by giving them ten-month contracts for national duty, thus allowing them to work as IPL coaches/mentors for the remaining two months. This was done in an ad-hoc and arbitrary manner; the more famous the former player-turned-coach, the more likely was the BCCI to allow him to draft his own contract that left loopholes that he exploited to dodge the conflict of interest issue."

And here lies the catch. Guha’s purpose is not to blame anyone like Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar or MS Dhoni rather he clearly stated that the BCCI treats these superstars one way, and the lesser-known cricketers in another way, which is not good by any stretch of the imagination. Personally, I am not a fan of the forever talks surrounding the conflicts of interests and feel that it is a tad exaggerated, but the rules and procedures of the selection must be the same for everyone, and they must be consistently enforced without any bias. Whoever he is- be it Dravid or any journeyman cricketer.

Secondly, it is understandable that the CoA wants to enforce the Lodha recommendations without bringing any controversy to the table, but they are being overcautious, despite being appointed by the apex court of the nation. But it is pretty clear from Guha’s letter that the members, including him, weren’t always in the loop while taking most of the decisions. Replacing a non-political Senior Counsel representing the CoA in the Supreme Court with a party political Counsel doesn’t make sense and Guha didn’t have any idea about the important change, to say the least.

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It is apparently clear that Rai, who had worked for the federal government in various capacities as an IAS officer, and whom Forbes described as one of the rare breeds of civil servants who knows how to get work done in the government, is taking a rather dominant stand in the committee and truth be said, that is not good. All members, starting with Diana Edulji to Vikram Limaye to Ramachandra Guha, have had a lot of experience and taking their suggestions cannot be a bad idea. If this happens in the committee, who have been entrusted with the responsibility of cleaning up the stables, how can an outsider/fans have faith in them? 

Come to think of another major concern that Guha had raised. Explaining that more players earned their living from the domestic circuit of inter-state and inter-zone cricket, and not the IPL. Guha claimed that both Diana Edulji and he had brought up the issue of match fees for the Ranji Trophy on multiple occasions, but no action was taken. The same issue was also raised some days ago, by Harbhajan Singh, and he had asked Anil Kumble to raise the issue of match fees of domestic cricketers with the Committee of Administrators. Both were correct in their stance as for how can you call the domestic cricketers ‘professionals’ since they had no guarantees about their income. 

In the IPL age, with the enormous fanfare and star cast, the Ranji Trophy has become the old man in the house. Everyone respects it but no one cares enough to look after its future. As major international cricketers prefer to stay out of the Ranji Trophy, fans also don’t have the incentives to come to the ground on a hot day to watch domestic cricketers locking horns.

Since the time in the late 90’s, when a little fella named Sachin Tendulkar embedded himself into the psyche of the country, money started flowing into the Indian board through various sponsorship and TV rights and Indian cricket has certainly become the golden goose that we have come to know today. So, giving a fair share to these domestic cricketers, who fight it day in and day out, maybe for a place in the national team or even to look after their family, shouldn't be that difficult.   

So, naturally, the letter has left many in Indian cricket flustered and thinking what could have been. For every right-thinking fan, though, this has come as a refreshing letter of hope.   

Regardless of whether the BCCI office-bearers or even the players have cause to feel aggrieved about Guha’s letter or not, it is time to accept that this is a bold letter and has the capability of rocking the BCCI to its very core. And CoA must do well to remember, that it is not the current situation rather the circumstances that led to the resignation of Guha that are of the utmost importance. And if they can take a leaf out of this to stop the rut at the earliest, it can pave a great future for Indian cricket. 

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