You would expect the cricket board in India, which was set up in 1929, to have a website. Well, there is none.
Netizens have torn their hair trying to find it. Not having a website just mirrors the callous and opaque manner in which the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has handled cricket.
Let’s say for a moment that BCCI cannot solely be judged based on what the team does on the field. So how does it fare when compared to other cricket boards, especially the Australian Cricket Board (ACB)?
ACB is run by a team of 13 directors who are appointed by six state associations. A quick look at the profile of each reveals that all of them are former cricketers.
While some have played for Australia or a state, the rest, barring one, have at least played at the university or club level. The one exception is a senior doctor.
ACB has approximately 60 full-time staff to run the operations. However, the responsibility for implementing the strategic plan and managing Cricket Australia’s operating activities rests with the chief executive officer and senior management team. The work is divided into six operational areas with clear roles and responsibilities.
To find out what BCCI is up to, one can only look at the outcomes as there is no information on what it is actually doing (just to repeat—there is not even a website!).
A quick search on Wikipedia reveals that it is just a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act. Therefore, it is unlikely to be covered under the Right to Information Act. So even that remedy seems to be lost.
At the same time, BCCI enjoys tax exemptions and other benefits such as use of Indian police officers for free and often uses government-owned stadiums across the country at a nominal annual rent.
It has the authority to select players, umpires and officials to represent the country in international events and exercises total control over them. Without its recognition, no competitive cricket involving BCCI-contracted Indian players can be hosted within the country or abroad.
It is a documented fact that it is the richest cricketing board in the world. Just to illustrate: the global media rights for international cricket, to be held in India between March 2006 and March 2010, were reported to have been awarded to production house Nimbus for a mind-boggling sum of $612 million (Rs2,632 crore).
BCCI is not only bankrupt when it comes to vision and execution but it also seems to have other exciting stuff of its own to take care of. For instance, the legality of the office-bearer’s election at the board’s annual general meeting (AGM) held on 29 September 2004, itself is sub judice.
At the cost of this becoming a piece to generally trash BCCI, there is no excuse for the fact that the board has not invested in institutional capacity in which the game can thrive. Why else can teams like Bangladesh beat India? Or even Bermuda put up a good batting display?
Players are routinely criticized for doing ads and for modelling. Instead of blaming them, why do we not have a large enough talent pool so that they do not take their place for granted and work to stay in every match?
Only a strong circuit of school, college and state level cricket can provide a good pool of national cricketers. This means incentives at these levels. This means money to be invested in infrastructure—stadiums, grounds, coaches, academies, tournaments.
Money also needs to be invested in people who take charge of these things. The set-up quite simply has to be run on a corporate model. The same is true for all the state associations. Plus there needs to be a long-term plan.
The fact seems to be that the cricket boards in India have become just status and power symbols for their members. What is the need for a politician of Sharad Pawar’s status to head a cricket board? How much time and thought has he given to the job? Even if there is merit in bigwigs heading the boards, the least they can do is to build an institutional capacity so that cricket grows and India does not have to lose to Bangladesh and repeat what happened to India in hockey! The board should look inwards and come out with its plans for the future. It must also fix accountability.
Many would say It is already too late and it won’t be surprising if the Supreme Court asks it why it should not be dissolved, just like it asked the municipality of Delhi during the ongoing public litigation to clear the mess that Delhi has become. Anybody ready to file a Public Interest Litigation?
Ashish Agarwal is associate director, Invest India Economic Foundation.