How long can the BCCI remain unprofessional?
There are no second acts in American lives, wrote the novelist F Scott Fitzgerald. Indian lives are clearly full of second, even third and fourth acts. There has been the resurrection of Jagmohan Dalmiya, expelled from the BCCI a few years ago for misappropriation of funds and then reinstated when Dalmiya took the governing body to court. Doubtless we will see the return of Srinivasan with full presidential powers in the same organization soon enough.
For Srinivasan is stepping 'aside' rather than stepping 'down'. With that bit of prepositional jugglery, a decision which should have been taken by the individual when the possibility of his son-in-law betting on matches first arose was made after much drama and an emergency working committee meeting. It meant that the focus was on personalities rather than on issues. It meant that precious time and resources were wasted while the problem of corruption in the IPL was refused an airing. A two-and-a-half-hour meeting and not a single mention of the real problem?
Votes, vote banks, bribery, blackmail, unforgotten favours, unforgiven slights - this is the BCCI, a feudal body that functions with all the grace and transparency of a 16th century minor fiefdom. Office-bearers work without pay for the 'love of the game', and it is the one organization where the various political parties are truly united. No walkouts, no demands for resignation, no screams for accountability. The BJP scratches the Congress' back and vice versa. If only there wasn't so much corruption, it would have been so touching.
But how long can this carry on? How long before the BCCI, a major corporate body, is run like one with professional managers and an accountable staff rather than feudal lords and closed cabals? The time has come to change the way it is run. Bring in a CEO, a young professional with plans and dreams - surely there are enough such people in the country?
"Ours is a system that has worked for 80 years," the BCCI might say - except it doesn't work when it is needed most. Like now, for example, when faced with the evils of spot fixing and insider trading. Corruption involves too many men in power, too many players, too many politicians, so let us ignore it and focus instead on getting rid of the president. The BCCI works in the past and the future - the present is another country.
Faced with the choice between doing the right thing (resigning) and the selfish thing (dragging the name of the BCCI through mud), the president kicks his heels in and stays. Faced with the choice between cleaning up the system and toadying to the president, the other members of the working committee let self-interest be the guiding force. Srinivasan is only a symptom of the problem - everybody is a Srinivasan to a lesser or greater degree. And it has taken Srinivasan to point that out in an emergency meeting!
And there is no way the real shareholders - the long-suffering fans - can have a say in all this, although it is their money, their enthusiasm, their loyalty that supports the game in the country.
Cricketers retire, but officials never do, going on and on with their manipulations, protecting personalities rather than the sport itself and forever asking the key question in every situation: "What's in it for me?"
Of course, CEOs can be corrupt too, and a fresh team of professionals running the show at the BCCI might be powered by self-interest too. But when you start from scratch, there are sensible checks and balances that can be built into the system. Accountability will have to be a given, so too transparency. And if the CEO and his team don't deliver a measurable result in a specific period of time, they will have to quit. When you work on a salary, as the CEO and others must, then accountability follows. 'Love of the game' can be a bonus, but not an excuse for slacking off.
We have tried the feudal, political way of doing things and it hasn't worked in the modern world. Why not switch to a new system run by professionals who are conscious of representing millions of cricket fans? A system where responsibility is easily fixed, and everyone knows what his job description is? A system where players are represented by a body that genuinely looks out for their interests?
Dream on, as the wise man says ...
More about Suresh MenonSuresh Menon is Editor, Wisden India Almanack, and author, most recently, of Bishan: Portrait of a Cricketer.
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