BCCI Annual General Meeting September 29, 2010

The empire strikes back

Changing the IPL set-up will help the BCCI's traditional bosses protect their own turf

The BCCI has absolutely nothing in common with the Afrikaaner volk, but what it came up with this afternoon in Mumbai was a classic laager, the traditional defensive encircling of wagons to protect its own. In this case its own property and territory, the property being Indian cricket and the territory all the ground it had lost over the last three years to the IPL and Lalit Modi.

On the surface the BCCI's annual general meeting was meant to be a polite incantation of the names of those who will hold office for a year after another orderly election. Yet every move and announcement that emerged from the AGM carried with it the specific purpose of strengthening the BCCI's internal order and regaining its control after what three very lucrative but extremely tumultuous years - during which the IPL had threatened to change the existing order not only of the BCCI but of cricket itself.

That's why the most significant move is not the coronation of N Srinivasan as president-elect but a change in the BCCI's constitution, undoing what had been done three years ago, when the IPL was placed at the centre of India's cricketing universe.

The IPL governing council will now be called the IPL Governing Council Committee, one of the BCCI's 13 regular sub-committees, and will have a one-year term instead of five, thus allowing all errors and appointments rectified, if necessary, within 12 months.

And in the best traditions of the BCCI, the committee will now comprise only "honorary" officials, seven men instead of 14, each of whom must be a BCCI office-bearer. The BCCI's constitution has now ruled that all decisions taken by the committee must be ratified by the BCCI secretary, not the previously all-powerful "Commissioner", a title invented and clung to by Modi. This, an insider said, was just to ensure that they don't create a monster again.

Modi's lawyer said the decisions had been taken with "prospective" effect, so that his client, or someone like him, could not find their way into the BCCI again. The board has now become a laager that cannot be broken through.

This AGM marked the end of a six-month operation against Modi. His lawyer spelt out the precise steps: first the suspension, followed by the replacement of his vice-presidency, and now the shrinking of the governing council. In this time he went from being one of the most powerful men in world cricket to a cardboard cutout that has now been dismantled by the very men with whom he ascended to authority.

Yet before he is turned into a victim, fall guy or a symbol of new India trumped by old India, a little history. Just as the BCCI has done with its constitution, Modi treated the BCCI's constitution as if it were plasticine, changing the IPL's laws, codes and regulations as the league went careening along in its wildly popular way. Eventually, though, financial irregularity is nothing but illegal number-crunching, and fudging figures is fudging figures, regardless of whether it is done by those in safari suits or linen suits. Modi is now dealing with the consequence of not merely his actions but his ambitions.

Just as the BCCI has done with its constitution, Modi treated the BCCI's constitution as if it were plasticine, changing the IPL's laws, codes and regulations as the league went careening along in its wildly popular way

If the old hands at the BCCI fear anything, it is a "corporate takeover" of the sport. At an informal meeting in Kolkata earlier this year, former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya spoke at length about the threats to his beloved "Board" as a result of the IPL explosion of corporate control and involvement. Modi didn't just belong to that world, he advertised himself as its middleman; the older order took the first chance to "shut him down", words Modi used about Shashi Tharoor, the man who instead unravelled him.

Following today's AGM, the BCCI will now have control over not only the IPL's finances and its thicket of business deals but also its organisation and conduct. Much like it does over its Corporate Cup. A franchise executive says the IPL of the future will be badly administered "because it's not clear who is the IPL boss". The franchise owners include some of Modi's closest friends and they will now have to search for new point men.

If there was an unexpected development from the fairly predictable meeting, it was the BCCI's backing off from its civil suit against Dalmiya, the man against whom in 2005, ICC president Sharad Pawar, BCCI president Shashank Manohar, Srinivasan and Modi came together with the sole agenda of knocking him out of office. The architect of the Dalmiya decision is said to be BCCI vice-president Arun Jaitley, who is known to have been in regular contact with Dalmiya in recent months. The decision came without seeking Pawar's direct approval; as one senior BCCI office bearer said, "Pawar sahib is in the ICC now, he does not interfere with the BCCI."

The message was clear. As ICC chief, it is what Pawar must be seen to be doing. In his home constituency, it could even mean giving the impression of yielding clout. In any case, Pawar's lieutenants of 2005 are now confident enough to be generals, and Modi, the man whom he supported and expected to be his aide at the ICC, is now out in the wilderness.

The AGM also passed a fairly scathing decision against three of the most influential names in Indian cricket, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. Co-opted into the original IPL Council at generous salaries, they will be ruled by the remodelled constitution, in which cricketers will participate for little more than the prestige of being on the IPL committee. Much has been made of Gavaskar's "ouster", but as of today he is still head of the technical committee and, like Ravi Shastri, is a part of the BCCI's commentary panel.

The three "young" and expectedly "forward-looking" names who are now in the BCCI mix all happen to be sons of powerful politicians of an older era - Anurag Thakur of Himachal Pradesh whose father was a state chief minister, Ranjib Biswal of Orissa, whose father was a state deputy chief minister, and Jyotiraditya Scindia of Madhya Pradesh, whose father was BCCI president in the early 1990s. While Thakur, once a controversial appointment as chairman of junior selectors, has turned the first-class ground in Dharamsala into the country's most scenic cricket venue, the cricketing plans of both Scindia and Biswal remain unseen. Two of the three are thought of as "protégés" of an influential BCCI politician, and this mentoring will no doubt also be translated into the establishment of a future dynasty of officials, who will protect their turf like Manohar and Srinivasan now do.

The single move for which the BCCI can take a bow is Anil Kumble's appointment as chairman of the National Cricket Academy. The incumbent Shastri's globetrotting as a BCCI-contracted commentator meant he could not be the hands-on man that the NCA needs to turn it from its current status as hospital-cum-injury-rehabilitation unit to a centre of excellence. It makes Kumble the boss of the NCA's director Sandeep Patil, who in 1996 briefly coached an Indian team that included Kumble.

Fourteen years is a long time for tables and seasons to turn; in Indian cricket, things change at a much faster rate. Jagmohan Dalmiya should testify to and Lalit Modi surely endorse that fact.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aditya on October 5, 2010, 12:33 GMT

    The IPL was becoming as powerful as the BCCI, because the international players were finding the IPL, more attractive than the cricket played by the nations in international cricket. I wonder why the BCCI gave the idea of the IPL germination. Making money is the top priority of a business institution, but the BCCI does not see itself as a business institution. It sees itself, presumably, as a sports body, more than any other body. Did it begin looking at itself as essential to national interests? What was the reason for hosting the IPL, other than to make cricket more important, than it already is, in India and the world? The BCCI always gives an impression, that the profits accruing to the body is incidental. Perhaps, I am reading too much into the matter. After all, the BCCI decides about the itinerary of the IPL, and the IPL does not decide upon the itinerary of the BCCI. Now, can the BCCI return the investments of the team owners, even if it wanted to? What soup is the BCCI in?

  • Aditya on October 5, 2010, 12:11 GMT

    Mr Lalit Modi should be fair to himself, and to the others in the BCCI board. Mr Modi made a mistake of judgment. Mr Modi was not the IPL Commissioner, because he was irreplaceable. He was not even the IPL commissioner because of the BCCI. He became what he became in the BCCI, because of circumstances not dictated to by him, or by any other BCCI official. If Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya could become the most important man in world sport, and if his own people, who were his pillars, wanted to replace him, or rather, the pillars of his support changed, and wanted to change him, then who is to blame? The BCCI, as a parent body of the IPL, or Indian Cricket? Perhaps, ultimately, there is nothing permanent to perception. If the BCCI was to become non essential to the running of Indian Cricket, Then the body would become irrelevant.

  • Rajesh on October 1, 2010, 19:40 GMT

    One thing is certain in India.......... Politics & Cricket will never get divorced, they are married for eternity !!

  • Rajaram on October 1, 2010, 17:22 GMT

    A masterstroke - Modi crushed out like a cigarette.

  • Prahlad on October 1, 2010, 2:51 GMT

    Yay for Kumble! Hope he can unearth some good spin bowlers. Someone who is even half as good as he was.

  • PRAVEEN on September 30, 2010, 21:09 GMT

    @EightBall ...so just because Asif/Butt ..et al were not included in IPL doesnt justify them getting into Spot Fixing. This is the dumbest argument I have heard. Life is unfair...not always the most talented get rewarded. And BCCI/IPL doesnt hold any responsibility towards PCB. Just because PCB doesnt know how to run its proceedings and is not making enough money doesnt mean that India has to do charity and help PCB.

  • ashish on September 30, 2010, 16:34 GMT

    a kick in the butt to mr gavaskar was long overdue. wish shastri had also asked for the exorbitant sum and would summarily have been kicked. their contribution to cricket post retirement is an enormous zero. sitting in commentary box and taking potshots at rivals and defenseless young cricketers, gesturing in the name of consultancy, siging paens of their owners and promoting jingoism and false national pride are some of their generous contributions. wish we had more cricketers who could speak english to sit in the commentary box. being ex-cricketers conversant in english seemingly is the only criterion for becoming commentator these days, otherwise their commentary is hollow like their personality. its just that they are great cricketers, they can qualify for every job in the world.

  • Rohith on September 30, 2010, 15:42 GMT

    @EightBall.. BCCI has never had good relations with PCB except for 2003-2008. For those five years, both countries India and Pakistan in general had friendly relations. That friendliness was seen in cricketing relations. After Mumbai-08, all the things became worse, and so did cricketing ties. The relations between BCCI & PCB were always dependent upon the political relations between the countries..

  • Sanket on September 30, 2010, 14:40 GMT

    The IPL was a part of the BCCI. How can there be a conflict between IPL and BCCI? I think this is a case of unnecessary sensationalizing.

    A conflict between the old guys and the new is possible.

    But there were corporate honchos in BCCI before Modi came (Dalmiya, Srinivasan, and Amin are all businessman).

    And statistically, the president-elect (N. Srinivasan's) team is the most successful in IPL.

  • Pradeep on September 30, 2010, 14:28 GMT

    Ridiculous to know that Shastri, Pataudi and Gavaskar were getting 1 crore for their role in being in the IPL council. Who is Lalit Modi to fix such fancy salaries for such jobs which entail a few hours of work every now and then!! Glad Lalit Modi has been crushed by the combined mite of the BBCI office bearers.

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