Sir Donald Bradman was not only the greatest Australian cricketer of all time, but he also served as Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board (renamed Cricket Australia in 2003), not once but twice from 1960-63 and 1969-72.
That post was also held by people who had played Test cricket or even been Test umpires. In fact, the CEO of CA reports to the board of directors which boasts of at least one former Test player most of the time like say legendary captain Mark Taylor and the explosive batsman Matthew Hayden.
The result is there for all to see. Australian cricket is one of the most professionally managed teams in the world. Now, can one even imagine of such a thing in India? Can you envisage Sunil Gavaskar or Kapil Dev as BCCI Presidents?
Our cricketing greats are more of spectators than key decision makers. Most of them end up being mute spectators anyway.
We have had exceptions like the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, who represented India in Tests and played close to 50 First Class matches. But that’s been firmly in the past and been the exception rather than the rule.
But even if we didn’t have Test cricketers at the helm, then we at least had respected chiefs like M Chinnaswamy and Madhavrao Scindia in the past. Nowadays, the BCCI is nothing but a hotbed of politics and politicians.
In a way, it all began with N Srinivasan more than 10 years ago. In 1999 AC Muthiah became BCCI President. At that time, he and Srinivasan were on good terms. But in 2001, Jagmohan Dalmiya became President with great help from Srinivasan.
Dalmiya had one of the stormiest stewardships and was subsequently ousted. He was sacked by the BCCI for “misappropriation of funds”. Now guess who the treasurer was at that time? It was none other than Srinivasan himself.
Dalmiya went to court and won the case becoming President of Cricket Association of Bengal to claw his way back into the game.
Things really got politicized when Sharad Pawar became President in 2005. This was a momentous appointment, for Pawar is the most powerful politician to have occupied the chair. It may be recalled that Pawar was a Prime Ministerial candidate in 1991 and was pipped to the post by PV Narasimha Rao.
Pawar’s name has been associated with the Telgi case, Lavasa and the Nira Radia case among others. Fiery activist Anna Hazare has gone on record saying that he has “corruption in his blood”.
When Srinivasan finally became President in 2011, he brought the “conflict of interest” issue firmly into focus. Imagine one man heading the BCCI, India Cements, All India Chess Federation and the Tamil Nadu Golf Federation!
If that wasn’t enough, then India Cements also took ownership of the IPL team Chennai Super Kings. Srinivasan as CSK stakeholder reported to IPL head Rajeev Shukla. Shukla in turn reported to Srinivasan as BCCI chief. A perfect closed circle!
Things got even murkier when Team India captain MS Dhoni was made Vice President of India Cements.
To make matters worse, Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan got arrested into the 2013 IPL match-fixing controversy. That was enough to seal the fate of Srinivasan, but the former stubbornly refused to quit.
It was only after a nationwide controversy that Srinivasan exited.
But what happened? Have things really changed?
In 2001, Srinivasan helped Dalmiya become President.
In 2013, Srinivasan helped Dalmiya become interim President.
Instead of breaking free and moving forward, the BCCI has gone back to the past.
While all this drama is happening at the national level, the focus is always off from all the politicians who handle the state units.
What have political stalwarts like Arun Jaitley, Farooq Abdullah, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Modi got to do with cricket?
In fact that way the Karnataka State Cricket Association sticks out like a sore thumb. The president is legendary leg spinner Anil Kumble who has taken 619 Test wickets and the Secretary is Javagal Srinath who has 236 Test wickets.
Till that model is replicated in most of the states and especially at the national level, the BCCI will continue to be heavily politicized and we will keep seeing one tamasha after another like the current one!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/