News Analysis

BCCI rolls out reforms for clean, lean board

The concerted effort towards tackling conflict of interest and the appointment of an ombudsman to deal with conflict cases comes as the BCCI aims to make itself more accountable and transparent

Nagraj Gollapudi
The BCCI set in motion the reforms promised by its new president Shashank Manohar by taking a raft of decisions at its annual general meeting on Monday that aim to make it more accountable, transparent and streamlined. The decisions range from resolution on various issues of conflict of interest, appointment of an ombudsman to deal with conflict cases, trimming bloated sub-committees and making all these decisions, and others taken during the day, public almost instantly.
The most contentious issue going into the meeting was the conflict of interest, which had been at the heart of most BCCI controversies since 2008. Various members had, before the meeting, expressed reservations over the issue - especially with regard to the exact definition of the word "conflict" in relation to the role. The issue, Manohar said in his opening remarks, was resolved unanimously and speedily. "Contrary to the expectations of the media, the members unanimously approved the rules with regards to conflict of interest, they also unanimously approved the amendments to the constitution and everybody spoke in that meeting in favour of a clean and transparent functioning of the Board."
The stringent application of the conflict rule saw several changes in personnel. Roger Binny, the South Zone member of the selection panel, had been in the spotlight because of his son Stuart's role in the national limited-overs side. His position was seen to fall foul of the conflict clause as defined in the interest paper Manohar had submitted to the BCCI working committee on October 18. The clause read: "No member of the selection committee including the convenor and the invitee, i.e. the coach or captain, or their near relative shall have any financial interest or business association with any player considered for selection to any team selected for and on behalf of the BCCI."
Manohar sought to soften the blow, by saying that allowing Binny to continue would hurt the chances of his son. "There should not be injustice towards Stuart Binny," Manohar said. "If he is a deserving player he should not get not flak from media that he is playing because he is Roger Binny's son. We can't destroy his career."
Another change involved Anil Kumble, who was replaced by Sourav Ganguly as head of the BCCI's technical committee. Board secretary Anurag Thakur explained the conflict by pointing out that Kumble has been working with an IPL franchise which led to the change. "He is still with the Mumbai Indians, right," Thakur said.
Asked how Ganguly, who is president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, could be head of the technical committee as well as be part of the IPL Governing Council, Manohar said that as long as Ganguly was not gaining commercially from the BCCI he was free. "He is not doing commentary but he can pursue whatever profession he wants. The conflict would arise if he has a commercial interest in the Board because we can't stop him from pursuing his profession. I am a lawyer and I can't be told I should not practice, what can be told to me [is that] I should not appear in Board cases."
Perhaps the most significant decision, in this context, was the appointment of AP Shah, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, as ombudsman. "We are not going to decide [whether a person is in a position of conflict or not], it is the ombudsman who is going to decide. It will be decided in the most transparent manner. To eliminate bias from the decision-making process we have appointed Justice AP Shah," Manohar said, adding that Shah's word would be final and binding.
Manohar said the code of conduct had already been set in motion and anyone could approach the BCCI if they noticed a conflict. The BCCI would then forward the request to the ombudsman. Asked if the BCCI had identified any current players under the conflict code, Manohar said it was for the player concerned to reveal it. "There is no deadline. They have to reveal it on their own. If there is a conflict they have to reveal it," he said.
On the eve of his formal appointment as BCCI president, Manohar had met RM Lodha, the head of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to recommend reforms in the structure of the BCCI. The committee will present its report to the court next month but it is clear - though officials seek to deny this - the BCCI is trying to pre-empt and second-guess that report by driving reforms off its own bat.
A senior board official said Manohar's first directive immediately upon the AGM's completion was to ask for the BCCI's Annual Report to be put on the board's website. Manohar has come a long way from his previous tenure where, in the company of N Srinivasan as the secretary, all matters and decisions were kept hush-hush. Manohar today said that what happened in the past he could not change and he would not want to dwell on now. The key was to move forward and adopt the right changes.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo