"It is hereby made clear that the draft constitution approved by this Court shall not be debated upon and shall stand finalized, only subject to the determination made in the application(s) for recall of the primary judgement, before this Court.".
These words give us a glimpse of what awaits Indian cricket on Friday, May 11. They form the last sentence of the Supreme Court's latest order on May 1 in the unending saga of the BCCI's Old Guard Officials (BOGOs) versus the Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by the court to revamp the functioning of the Indian cricket board; and this line appears to have given the BOGOs breathing room in their battle against the advent of reform.
Yes, in the midst of the IPL and the rest of your normal lives, it is alarming to discover that in one part of Indian cricket the clocks have stopped. For almost two years the BOGOs have been allowed to argue against the internal reform they were ordered to execute (ordered, mind; not gently advised but unreservedly ordered) in the very court that issued the order. What word describes this best? Farce or pantomime? Or both?
To understand where we are this week requires dialling back a little: in July 2016, the Supreme Court approved the Lodha committtee's recommendations for the overhaul of the BCCI administration, following the court's intervention in the wake of the 2013 IPL corruption scandal. Six months later, following the BCCI's reluctance to introduce reform, the court sacked the board's most senior officials and set up a Committee of Administrators, which was ordered to see the reforms through.
The Lodha report sought to introduce modern governance into the BCCI's administration, separating day-to-day management from policy-making and divesting cricket officials of their power to make ad-hoc decisions. The report also sought to bring about change in the mechanics of the BCCI elections.
Between the creation of the CoA and the May 1 order this year, which asked the state associations yet again if they had any objections to the new draft constitution (of whom 12 have said they are ready to implement the necessary reforms), the reforms have been stymied on various fronts. Eighteen months, two other Chief Justices having come and gone, and with the CoA diminished by two members from that day, review and curative petitions having been presented and dismissed, the BOGOs are hopeful that their ignoring the court's timelines and deadlines (there's a few jailable offences right there) will be rewarded on May 11 with a return to the happy days of power without accountability.
The May 1 order brought with it the possibility that the road to suggested reform will continue to wind through legal quicksand. The words "recall of primary judgement" at the top of this article make those who seek judicial clarity uneasy, and give others who seek a recall of judgement passed on their modus operandi new hope. On May 11, the road ahead for Indian cricket might be revealed as being lined with potholes bigger than those previously experienced.
During this period, enemies among the BOGOs have become friends and friends have become family. The three gentlemen (acting president, treasurer, and acting secretary) still holding on to the reins of power have done their best to obstruct the reform process, aided and assisted by buddies across state associations.
Four state associations - Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir - are now being run by court-appointed administrators. On the other hand, at the global level, the BCCI's professional representatives are engaging with the world in a manner that has been most unlike their conduct in recent years. They have been civil, firm, reasonable in ICC meetings, fighting their corner but also aware of the game's requirements at a global level.
We are now into eight CoA status reports informing the Supreme Court bench of the roadblocks in pushing through the Lodha recommendations. Eight. That's about one every three months. In that time there have been unanswered emails, unexplained accounts, allegations and denials of hijacked meetings and threats to hired professionals, unopened letters containing names of candidates to fill in vacancies in the CoA, and so many information leaks from every side that professional plumbers would surrender to the deluge. Hey, a scriptwriter would have said, that's too many plotlines there, even for a daily soap.
It is not as if the BCCI and the states have not made their objections to the Lodha recommendations public, both on and off record. Barring the issue of how many selectors it takes to fairly pick a cricket team and limits on adverts on TV during the IPL, most objections are focused on individual interest but in the guise of being in the interest of institutional autonomy. The matters in question are those dealing with one state one vote, age and tenure limits for board officials, and cooling off periods between tenures.
What has confused everyone is how on May 1, 2018, the conscientious objectors to the Lodha report have been asked yet again for their objections to a new draft constitution drawn up by the CoA in December 2017 on the instructions of the court. Just in case the BCCI's objections and obstructions had not been clear enough in the many court hearings over the last two and some years or in their actions or lack thereof as listed out in the eight status reports.
For those in IPL mode, let us turn these courtside shenanigans into cricketspeak. The Lodha report was an umpiring decision that knocked over the BOGOs and should have marked the end of their innings. They then sent it for review up to the third umpire, who went through the due checks for no-ball, then called on Snicko, the sound mike, Ultra Edge and the ball tracker. The original decision stood. Umpire's call. Out. Except the batsmen wouldn't budge. So the umpire said, let's have a look at this. Again.
That's why on May 11, the game is still on. Surely, this is pure panto.