The BCCI's year of controversy
In ideal circumstances, the annual general meeting (AGM) of any organisation is an opportunity to take stock, to formulate plans for the future, to apprise its stakeholders of where the body is headed. The BCCI's AGM, though, is more about political equations and aspirations at the best of times. This year is worse than others, what with legal wrangles and fixing controversies raising new issues of propriety every day. This AGM might not have the required mood to analyse the year gone by and make plans for the one coming up, but what if the BCCI were to look back?
There have been IPL controversies both at the start and the end of the year, and the current one is not going to die down any time soon. The president is all set to be re-elected unopposed, but the highest court of the country has said the man has to get his name cleared before assuming office. It was a year when the BCCI was the farthest removed from what the public thinks of it, when its functioning was questioned by the enforcement directorate and the courts, but amid all the controversies it also found enough time to successfully organise two home Test series and a busy domestic season, to host Pakistan without glitches, to provide numerous opportunities for young fringe players through A tours and generate employment for quite a few former cricketers through its broadcast deal that has had more domestic cricket on TV than ever before.
The BCCI can hardly hide behind those achievements. They pale in comparison to the questions of propriety asked of it. Soon after its last AGM, the BCCI oversaw a controversial sale of the Hyderabad franchise in the IPL. Turned out it was only a warm-up for the legal tussles and muck that was to follow. Unhappy with the treatment meted out to its franchise, Pune Warriors, Sahara, India's team sponsors and one of Indian cricket's biggest benefactors over the previous 10 years, expressed its intention to pull out of Indian cricket. Again.
The BCCI's energies were set to be centred around the IPL, but there were skeletons waiting to tumble out of the closet. Mohinder Amarnath, a former selector who was sacked as opposed to being named the chairman as was anticipated, accused N Srinivasan of interfering with selections. Most importantly, not allowing them to remove MS Dhoni as captain. Now there might have been cricketing merit in what was eventually done - there is even a clause that says every team selection has to be ratified by the board president - but here we are talking of a vice-chairman and managing director of a company saving the captaincy of the company's vice-president. The company incidentally owns an IPL team captained by the vice-president.
Thankfully Dhoni and his India team began to turn around its fortune, for who knows he might have been disowned if not, just like the managing director's son-in-law who presented himself as the owner of Chennai Super Kings, and attended conferences in that capacity. The moment the news of Gurunath Meiyappan's alleged involvement in the IPL betting scandal came up, he went from being the owner to an enthusiast in no time at all.
The most charitable interpretation of the whole scandal was that the BCCI hadn't done enough to protect its prize asset, the IPL, from the unsavoury elements that were guaranteed to flock around it. A proper corporation would have sacked everyone responsible for such a lapse of security, but here the BCCI fell to its lowest. Until then there was nothing to suggest Srinivasan was personally at fault. Until now he was just a victim of carelessness. Now the BCCI appointed a panel that would absolve everybody without a thorough investigation. It was as clear a message as any that the BCCI didn't care what people thought of the way it functioned.
The board was now without an open leader, and had a figurehead who clearly knew he was just keeping the seat warm, playing Bharat to the exiled Ram. Still the board had enough energy to interfere in the internal matters of another board. Again this call to ask Cricket South Africa to steer clear of Haroon Lorgat might or might not have had administrative merit, but the BCCI's reaction to his appointment showed how little regard it held the public and the international cricket community in. Not only did it renege on an agreement it made in principle, it disappointed the people who had been looking forward to a full tour of South Africa with some anticipation. Not to mention its own cricket wing: the selectors who put plans in place, and the coach who went to South Africa to see how the A team was doing there.
The cases, inquiries and controversies will not cease. The BCCI's operational efficiency - it is no mean job to organise 13 simultaneous first-class matches every week of the season, with them also coinciding with internationals - will keep being neglected unless it cleans up its act on other fronts.
And there is a lot to clean. And more will pile on. Next year's IPL will clash with general elections in India, and might need to be taken out of the country. A new team sponsor might be needed. The search for a new title sponsor for cricket in India is on. The BCCI will hope that in the coming year it bounces back like its cricket team did after a horrible last year. How that cricket team will hope it had its board's tenacity to dig its heels in and somehow, by hook or by crook, maintain status quo when it kept losing.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo