Why shouldn’t the public get to know how BCCI is functioning? – Vinod Rai

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Sixteen months since Lodha committee recommendations were ratified by the Supreme Court, BCCI continues to find wriggle room to avoid the in-toto implementation of the said reforms. This even after the apex court sacked then president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke for their continued defiance of court orders and appointed a Committee of Administrators headed by Vinod Rai to oversee governance.

In its nine-month term so far, Rai’s CoA has had to constantly push BCCI and its member associations, in the various different general body meetings, to toe the line with the Lodha proposals while also having to deal with cricketing issues, including the Kohli-Kumble controversy, the appointment of a new coach, conflict of interest allegations, ICC representation, FTP, scheduling and more. At the Times LitFest in New Delhi on Sunday (November 26), Rai opened up on all these topics and more.

Excerpts…

On empathising with Justice Lodha and BCCI’s continued defiance…

I can understand the anguish of Justice Lodha. Huge amounts of time have gone into the preparation of those recommendations. And despite the highest court of the land having mandated the implementation of those reforms as far back as on July 18, the fact that it has not been implemented can be agonising for the person who prepared it to think.

Unfortunately, any number of general body meetings have taken place and they (state associations) have refused to accept it under our watch. After the Committee of Administrators has taken charge, we have held three general body meetings and in all those meetings they have refused to take charge. We do not have the power of a court. All we can do is go back to the court and say the general body refuses to accept the new constitution. Now give a direction to adopt the constitution as it is. Then we go forward and raise it. The Supreme Court is now taking a view of it.

On if BCCI is in contempt of court…

The BCCI was in contempt of court on January 2 itself, even before the Committee of Administrators came. Despite any number of directives, BCCI had not implemented the recommendations. And we gave the same directions saying ‘please pass the resolution adopting the new constitution’. They have not done that yet. At one point, the Supreme Court called all the three office bearers and said ‘why should you not be in contempt?’. There were few [personal appearances of the office bearers in the Supreme Court] and the Supreme Court has not taken a decision yet. There will be a hearing on November 29.

On if the recommendations for reforms are a bit unrealistic…

Firstly, it is not a bad idea to be setting a set of standards which stands the tests of public scrutiny. Secondly, BCCI, I would believe, was a very insular body. Anything that happened, BCCI never came out in the public domain. There was a huge amount of opacity in the functioning of the BCCI. Now, if you set BCCI open for the public to see what transpires in the richest sporting body in the country, there is need for reforms. Why not? There is a specific set of people, who collect a huge amount of money, spend a huge amount of money and run cricket in the country. Why shouldn’t the public get to know how the body is functioning?

On state bodies implementing reforms…

The recommendations made by Justice Lodha are basically the recommendations regarding the BCCI. But in that there is a chapter which says that the constitution of the state associations must mirror that of the BCCI. So, we are just in the process of drawing that up also because, ultimately, unless the state bodies reform, you cannot have the BCCI reforms. Because the nominees of the state bodies are the ones to be elected and come to the BCCI. So, we’re in the process of trying to ensure that it is a cohesive whole.

On the Supreme Court bench taking a long time to push reforms…

We’re very hopeful. Yes, the things have dragged. But we’re very hopeful because of a large number of stakeholders – if I can call them so – jumped into the fray and wanted to be heard. And it’s only fair that the Supreme Court hears them all and takes a very considerate view of all the opinions that were emerging, a 360-degree view of the entire thing. The next hearing is scheduled to be on the 29th, and we’re hoping that on 29th, the constitution, as mandated by the court on the 18th of July last year, then the constitutional amendments as sought by the state associations and then, finally, the amended version having been drawn by the Committee of Administrators which we submitted to the honourable court last month, will be taken up, and the court will pass its verdict.

On BCCI’s defiance towards the one-state-one-vote issue…

See, the legacy of cricket in India has been that Maharashtra and Gujarat have had three associations in each. And it would be only fair to say – for example Mumbai Cricket Association who have won the Ranji Trophy so many times be given a representation. But I don’t want to comment on this just now because this is an issue which is facing the court right now. We’ve given our recommendations on that and so have the state associations. Let’s hope we have an outcome on the 29th.

On how long “cricket’s nightwatchman” CoA’s tenure might last…

Why I had said I was the nightwatchman was because the AGM of the BCCI was set to take place in September. We had taken charge in February. And we thought that with all the reform process, the process of election, the process of putting all the papers across in place would be done by August, we would hold the AGM in September and latest by October 31, we would quit. But the AGM itself has not been held, they are refusing to sign the accounts. Now we are seeking a direction on how the accounts should be signed also. We are helpless till such a time the court gives us a direction. Three months back we had sort a direction from the court, dismissing the office bearers, ‘now please direct under Article 142 of the constitution that the constitution of the BCCI stands adopted’.

People who have been at the helm of affairs for the past 40 years, you don’t see them quit in a hurry. Somebody who has run an association for the last 44 years says he would want to continue saying that he has the experience, ‘what’s the harm?’. But the fact of the matter is they do not want to let another person to come in, who maybe has a newer and better expertise, get an opportunity to run it.

On the sealed envelope containing names of 13 people allegedly involved in sporting fraud…

The sealed envelope is with the court. What the court decides to do with it, is the court’s sole prerogative. We should leave it at that. Hopefully, some time, we will get to know the facts around the sealed envelope. I have no knowledge about it.

On the resolution to the conflict of interest issue raised by ex-CoA member Ramchandra Guha…

We have drawn up an entire new policy of conflict of interest in great detail. You would be surprised… that policy, fund disbursement policy, player compensation policy, all these we drew and gave it to the BCCI SGM to adopt it. Three meetings have taken place and they have refused to adopt each of these. Unless the constitution is accepted, we cannot enforce these. But what we have started doing is each of these parameters that are brought forth, we have started implementing it ourselves on a parallel basis.

On BCCI’s share in ICC revenue getting diluted after CoA’s arrival…

This is much misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. ICC has come up with a new set of reforms. There are two models – governance model and revenue sharing model. It is commonly being felt that we were getting the lion’s share then and now we’re not. Be rest assured that the model that was being talked about, the one that was accepted in 2014, we have not got a single dollar from that model. It was accepted in 2014, but never implemented. And the moment, we lost our man in the ICC, it was reversed totally. It was a misplaced conception that we were getting the lion’s share. No, we were not. Today, what we are getting is no less than what we were getting then. The only difference is that a couple of Test playing nations are added to the ICC and they are getting a share too. That is the truth above all. The so-called predominant position that we had, was never really played out in actuality.

On the staging of IPL going forward…

For the IPL, there is a governing council. We will allow the governing council to function. But the governing council functions under the Committee of Administrators. The CoA, as of today, has replaced the working committee, which was an elected body. We have had two meeting with regards to the next generation of the IPL. Starting 2018, we will be having a new set of norms, guiding the IPL. We’ve had two sets of meetings with the franchise owners to seek their suggestions before we constitute a policy for that. That is done. In a couple of months, we will be coming out with the new parameters which will be guiding the IPL in the future.

On the 15-day gap before and after IPL…

Yes, we have addressed that issue. But the only fact that I’d like to bring out is that the FTP which is being implemented in the current year had been drawn up much before we took charge. So, for the current year we could not address it but that issue has been addressed for the years going forward and we will ensure the 15-day gap before and after IPL will be taken care of.

On if the Indian team plays too much cricket…

Just a few days back, you must’ve seen in the newspapers, the Indian captain [Virat Kohli] saying that ‘between two series, we get a break of only 3-4 days’. I empathise with him. That’s a fact. But why did it happen? It is because we recognised the FTP has been drawn up such that all the state associations get to conduct matches. That means they get a chance to generate revenue. And unfortunately, it’s the player because of whom the revenue is generated, his interests are not taken care of.

On the confusion with the appointment of India coach…

Unfortunately, there was no system in the BCCI on how a coach should be appointed. But I think they came up with a very good model, where they set up a model of three iconic players who would get into the job of selecting a coach. And these people made the selection of the coach last year. They selected somebody, who unfortunately was not acceptable to the BCCI. BCCI then gave a chance for Mr. [Anil] Kumble, who was not a part of the zone of that consideration. He was selected for a period of two years by the committee. But the BCCI said, ‘No, let’s do it for a period of only one year’. This creates a situation of ad-hocism. When you are selecting a coach, you are preparing for a team that is going to play in the next World Cup in 2019. Now we were faced with a situation where we had to choose a team – of support staff, manager, coach, etc, who would be in sync with each other. Yes, there was a bit of discordance, but we said let’s leave it to the three iconic players to choose another one. They talked to the team members, they talked to the captains and came up with their recommendations. These are the three of the most valuable and respected cricketers of our country coming up with their recommendation, we had no business interfering in it. And we left it at that and let it as it is.

On the captain being the most powerful entity of the team…

There is no question of the captain being powerful or otherwise. There needs to be harmony in the dressing room. There has to be a spirit of camaraderie within the team – among the manager, support staff, captain, etc. There is no harm in sitting across the table and bringing that harmony across. Because if there is going to be contentious issues within the dressing room, you are not going to have a very harmonious team. As of now, you wouldn’t have got to hear, in the last six months, of anyone being out of sync in the Indian cricket team.

On Indian cricket not adhering to WADA protocols…

Doping is something we have zero tolerance to. As far as BCCI is concerned, it conforms to the anti-doping policy of the ICC. ICC, in turn, conforms to the norms of the world anti-doping body. Norms are fixed, parameters are fixed and we follow it all the way till down. As far as conducting tests on doping is concerned, there is the national anti-doping agency, which runs the National Dope Testing Laboratory. NDTL is headed by the secretary of sports himself. All samples drawn on cricketers in the country are drawn only on NDTL. There are no two ways about that. We have laid down those policies and we don’t get the samples tested anywhere else. As of now, as per the specifications laid down by the ICC, samples are drawn up by IDTL, which is a Swiss agency, which is approved by the ICC. So now we say, okay, samples can be drawn by them and given to the NDTL to test. So we are totally in line with the policy of the national anti-doping policy and our samples are tested there. We have sought the directives of the ICC as to who should be allowed to draw the samples. Because cricketers world wide have had the issue regarding privacy and security, because you are required to tell the anti-doping agency about your whereabouts at all periods of time. So that’s why the ICC took the decision to involve the IDTL and not anyone else. We will conform to it, hundred percent.

On if Indian government could form a broader policy of administering sports…

As regards to the Supreme Court situation, I think we should leave it to the Supreme Court itself to decide on prioritising in its own time and whether or not its worthwhile for them to get into this or not. As far as the government is concerned, I am privy to the fact that the government is drawing up a sports bill, which will be very comprehensive, and in a few months’ time you’ll get to hear about it.

On such bills having never materialised in the past…

See, vested interests are there in every walk of life. But our strength comes in the fact that we will be able to get over these vested interests at some point of time. Just as BCCI for example.

On promoting women’s cricket…

Be assured that the BCCI has woken up to the fact that we need to have capability in women’s cricket. It is being very properly addressed and we’ve drawn up – with Diana Edulji, Mithali [Raj], Jhulan [Goswami] etc being the members of the committee we’ve formed – we’ve drawn up an entire sequence of events by which hopefully you will see more of women’s cricket. In fact, maybe, you will even see a Women’s IPL also emerging. So, that’s been taken care of. Bare with us for three months only.

On Shantha Rangaswamy becoming the first woman cricketer to be recognised under CoA…

Not only that, the match fee paid to the women’s cricketers has been more than doubled by us. The rewards which were given to the [World Cup returned] team were more or less on par with what is being paid to the men’s cricketers. See, we may not be able to make it equal in the long run because all this is revenue which is generated by from the matches played. The men’s team obviously is able to generate a larger revenue as of today. Hopefully, women’s cricket will soon come up to that level. And that’s why I said that things like IPL are being thought about and next year you’ll certainly see a change in that aspect.

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