Shashank Manohar’s ICC move to reignite BCCI game of thrones

Soon after news reports of Manohar possibly stepping down for the ICC role broke, speculation was rife within BCCI circles about his likely replacement

A file photo of Shashank Manohar. Photo: AFP
A file photo of Shashank Manohar. Photo: AFP

By the time Shashank Manohar contests the election for the International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman’s post in May, the cricket body he currently heads—the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI)—could well have its third president in a matter of 18 months.

Manohar, it is learnt from those in the know, will soon step down as BCCI president, a move necessitated by the ICC last week. ICC, which is seeking to re-establish the position of an “independent” chairman, brought about a rule change which mandated that “the elected independent Chairman will not be allowed to hold any national or provincial position with any Member Board”. Manohar will have to decide the post he wants to retain, if he wins the election.

Manohar is currently ICC chairman, a post he has held since November last year, when he was nominated by the BCCI, replacing N. Srinivasan.

But soon after news reports of Manohar possibly stepping down for the ICC role broke, speculation was rife within BCCI circles about his likely replacement. And in keeping with the script, the names of usual suspects or those who have held the post earlier were being circulated.

One of them includes Sharad Pawar, the Mumbai Cricket Association chief and an influential figure within BCCI. Pawar held the post between 2005 and 2008, before serving at ICC as both its vice-president (2008-2010) and president (2010-2012). Pawar belongs to what is now the ruling faction within the BCCI, which includes the likes of Maharashtra Cricket Association president Ajay Shirke and Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association president and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, among others.

Pawar’s name was doing the rounds last year, when BCCI had to fill the president’s post, after Jagmohan Dalmiya’s death in September. While he himself did not take up the offer, Pawar played an important role in Manohar’s election as BCCI president. Pawar could be an interesting choice, given that he represents India (and BCCI) at the ICC as its representative in Manohar’s absence.

What could, however, go against Pawar is his age, especially with the Supreme Court coming down hard on the BCCI for its objection to the Lodha Committee’s recommendations, which set an age cap of 70 years for cricket administrators. Last month, during arguments over the recommendations, the Supreme Court told BCCI lawyer K.K. Venugopal, “Lawyers like you (Venugopal) get better with age, is that so with cricketers too? I don’t know. We feel 70 is a good age for retirement. At 70, they should sit at home and watch cricket on TV.”

However, this was the court’s observation, not an order or a judgement. BCCI is currently arguing its objections to the Lodha Committee’s recommendations in the Supreme Court.

If not Pawar, then who? The answer could lie in one of Pawar’s (and Manohar’s) closest allies in the BCCI, Shirke, who resigned as BCCI treasurer soon after the Indian Premier League (IPL) betting and spot-fixing scandal broke in the summer of 2013. Shirke is regarded as someone with a clean record and experience as an administrator. A businessman who currently divides time between Pune and London, he is also a member of the IPL’s governing council. Shirke’s elevation could see him in the role for the first time.

While Pawar and Shirke are considered front-runners, there could yet be a twist by the time the BCCI goes in for election. “Who knows if the ruling alliance (Thakur-Pawar) stays intact,” said a member of the Pawar faction, on the condition of anonymity. “Who knows what is going on in their (Thakur group, also BJP) mind? At the moment we’re together. But who knows?”

Could former BCCI president and ICC chairman N. Srinivasan eye a comeback? His faction doesn’t exactly have the numbers needed to win the election if it were held today. But what his group benefits from is the growing discontent within some state associations over Manohar’s decision to roll back ICC’s restructuring, also known as ‘Big Three’, which would see India give up roughly 6% of its 22% share of ICC revenues. The drop in India’s share of the pie effectively means that state associations would receive less funds than they would have had Srinivasan’s plan been in place. This could mean some state associations could switch over to Srinivasan, come elections. However, Srinivasan turned 71 this year, and should the Supreme Court rule in favour of an age cap as mandated by the Lodha Committee, the Chennai-based industrialist would also be ruled out.

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