Santosh Rangnekar is the CFO of the BCCI. He is also known for alleging to the Supreme Court that BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry had issued him death threats. In March this year, Rangnekar received a "roll of honour" from "CFO 100 Forum", which recognises top 100 finance professionals in India. The BCCI's PR company, Adfactors, sent out a press release on a letter written under the BCCI logo to celebrate the award for Rangnekar. There had once been an unsigned press release to welcome Ravi Shastri as the coach of the team, an "elder buddy" to motivate the captain, the "gladiator" on the ground. Any achievement on the field is commemorated by a BCCI release carrying quotes from the CEO, the president and the secretary.
There is a BCCI press release for everything under the sun it seems, except what follows. Over the last six months, India's first-choice Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha has been struggling with a shoulder injury, for which he has been to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for various rehab sessions, has seen three different doctors, has taken three injections, and will now need a surgery after which he won't even be able to lift a cricket bat for two months. He is likely to lose a year of cricket, if you don't count the few IPL matches he managed in between. If he doesn't make it to the Australia tour at the end of this year, Saha will have missed 12 straight Tests, the only format he represents India in. He will be 34 by the end of this year. Who can be sure whether or not somebody younger will make that position his own in 12 Tests?
Yet the BCCI made no mention of the injury in its media release when Saha was not picked for the England tour. Everybody assumed the thumb injury he had picked up during the IPL had not healed in time. Even the chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, was quoted saying as much by the Kolkata-based Telegraph. It needed the media to get into action, to hound Tufan Ghosh, the NCA COO, who first agreed to take questions and then said the next day that Adfactors was going to send out a bulletin, for the BCCI to finally acknowledge that Saha had a shoulder injury.
This bulletin was not sent through a media release or a tweet, just quietly uploaded on the BCCI's website. The bulletin is not signed by anybody. It doesn't say who is making these declarations: the CEO, the Committee of Administrators or the COO of the NCA. If this is information provided by the NCA, the bulletin doesn't say if the BCCI has verified it. It doesn't say which injection Saha was given. It doesn't say which doctor administered the first injection. It doesn't tell you the grades of the labral tear. It doesn't try to explain why the injury is so complicated that it is taking a year off a player's career. It doesn't say why it took the BCCI so long to even acknowledge the existence of a potentially career-threatening injury.
The bulletin brings up an interesting incident, though. "During this period, on 15th of May, Saha requested to visit the NCA head physiotherapist, Ashish Kaushik, so that he could also review his right shoulder," it says. "Ashish assessed his right shoulder and concluded that its presentation was similar to how it had been in late January/early February. Ashish informed the Sunrisers [Hyderabad] physiotherapist of this, who then continued with his course of rehabilitation. The team India physiotherapist was informed of this sequence of events."
When Saha came back with the resurfacing of the same injury during the IPL, the bulletin doesn't say why he was not referred to a specialist immediately. At this stage, let it not be forgotten, despite two injections, Saha's shoulder was as bad as it had originally been four months previously. This should have sent the BCCI into panic. Why did nobody in the BCCI - the NCA claims the due communication was made at that time - act and try to withdraw Saha from the IPL? After all the BCCI had been managing the workload of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who incidentally played for the same franchise.
Just as Saha - cleared fit by his IPL franchise physio - went back to playing, he broke his thumb. The BCCI sent an injury update on him immediately. There was no mention of the shoulder injury that first emerged in January and was just as bad despite two injections, the second of them just a week before the inspection. A few days later, the team for the Afghanistan Test was announced. No mention of the shoulder there either.
There is no direct mention made in the bulletin that Saha aggravated the injury during the IPL. Even if he did, and even if Patrick Farhart, who is the India physio but is off duty during the IPL, was informed of it, somebody in the BCCI had to take the immediate responsibility of ascertaining the extent of the injury.
More than everything, though, it is the hopelessly amateur attempts at hiding Saha's injury that raise suspicion. Surely the old guard of the BCCI can't be so Machiavellian that they orchestrate this attempt to hide an injury and then make the whole matter look smaller than it is? One of the biggest motives of the Lodha recommendations was to instil accountability and transparency into an organisation that was run - pretty darn efficiently when it came to protecting its interests - by honorary officials who couldn't be pinned down when things went wrong.
Unfortunately the situation seems not too different in this new professional set-up. In a professional set-up, things shouldn't come to this stage in the first place. These are some of the central characters of this saga.
The player himself. Often in such cases, players are blamed for hiding the injury. However, as the bulletin clearly says, Saha followed all the protocols, revealed all the discomfort he had, and even when he was not supposed to report to the NCA, he did so anyway because his team happened to be in Bengaluru. There is a gap in the timeline between May 28 and July 2, when he was allowing his thumb to heal. During this period he didn't complain to anyone of his shoulder problem, but this is when he had given up all training. As soon as he returned to training on July 3, Saha felt the pain in the shoulder again and reported it.
The COO of the NCA. Told ESPNcricinfo he will get back through Adfactors. Quoted the next morning by Mumbai Mirror as saying, "Why do you bother? It is not a life-threatening injury." At the time of publishing this article, he hadn't contested the report. Will not answer any questions.
The head physio at the NCA. Has worked with the India national side before. On paper at least, the bulletin shows Kaushik followed all the protocols. Whenever things were beyond his expertise, he took Saha to a specialist. It is usual to not rush an athlete into surgery. The bulletin says he informed the India physio when the injury resurfaced. It is learnt others in the BCCI were informed too through the official channels.
The GM of operations at the BCCI. Former India wicketkeeper. The man responsible for overseeing the whole issue. Also the man responsible for communicating players' fitness status to the selectors and team management before a selection meeting. Insists the systems are in place, and due protocols were followed.
Chairman of selectors. Also former India wicketkeeper. Set the cat among the pigeons by telling the Kolkata-based Telegraph this, hours after the selection meeting: "Saha's recovery from a fractured right thumb hasn't been satisfactory. He hasn't responded well enough to the rehab at the National Cricket Academy, in Bengaluru... At this moment, therefore, Saha is uncertain for all five Tests, not just the first three."
Firstly he brought the NCA under the scanner. Then he said Saha has not recovered from the thumb injury, which suggests he was not even aware of the existence of a shoulder injury. That is extremely hard to believe. Because even if the communication within the BCCI had broken down to an extent that he wasn't informed of the shoulder injury, a chief selector as well reputed as Prasad would have, on his own, been in touch with the Test wicketkeeper before a big tour, especially if his injury lay-off was mysteriously getting extended. If he wasn't, there are more serious issues at hand.