The BCCI family photo is not flattering. It makes the most powerful board in the world of cricket look like a fiefdom
Over the years the players, rules and formats have changed, but the surnames of those at the helm of India’s cricketing establishment have not changed. At the time, there were Scindias in Madhya Pradesh, Rungtas in Rajasthan and Mahendras in Haryana. More recently these are the Shahs in Gujarat and the Dalmiya-Ganguly combination in Bengal. The tradition of the state cricket unit passed down as a family heirloom, a holdover from feudal times, has survived the days of safari suits and is thriving even in a time when cricket is supposed to be corporatized. In the aftermath of the Justice RM Lodha Committee’s intervention, with aging satraps disqualified by new tenure or age clauses in the constitution, more than a third of BCCI state units, as this document reports , have seen a smooth transfer of power within the family.
At a time when, by all accounts, more and more people in the country scorn nepotism and when promises of equal opportunity are being made emphatically by grassroots leaders to an audience filled with fresh, young faces, it seems like BCCI continues to live in a bubble. They stay away from the idea that clique-run organizations promote complacency and mediocrity. BCCI also refuses to learn from its past mistakes. The Lalit Modi case and the N Srinivasan saga were mishaps that happened mainly because Indian cricket was a cozy club of family and friends. Each had looked the other way when a rule had been changed for individual benefit. They have all come a long way, no one raised red flags at BCCI meetings. Elections did take place, but the loyalty of the hard core was transmitted from father to son. When outsiders are seen as obstructive, organizations cannot grow. They collectively stop thinking and are deprived of new ideas.
An Indian cricket official has several advantages. They have the power to direct the flow of large funds – each state unit receives around Rs 40 crore per year. In a cricket-mad country, a matchday ticket has the power to magically open doors. No wonder influential politicians, lawyers and administrators see this as their sons’ preferred career option. It offers picture-perfect photo ops with the swish ensemble of cricket and a huge goodwill to be seen promoting gladiators brought out of obscurity by pitch-level scouting. Board cricket can also be a great finishing school, to learn the ropes, before being thrown onto the bigger canvas of politics. Cricket stadiums are a networker’s dream – an evening at the game can deplete a thick wad of business cards. But power in the hands of a few is not good for the game. The new BCCI family photo is not flattering. This gives the most powerful board in the world of cricket the appearance of a fiefdom, rather than the image of a professionally run, transparent and accountable sports organisation.
This editorial first appeared in the April 20, 2022 print edition under the title “Family Game”.