Bombay Diary

July 1, 2016

If you go past Mumbai`s Brabourne Stadium, you will see a sign telling you that the offices of BCCI (Board of Control of Cricket in India) lie in the vicinity. It`s a decrepit board (though the Board is anything but), and scarcely does credit to the richest cricket body in the world.

I haven`t been that side recently, so perhaps the notice has gone and has been replaced by a more becoming name-plate. It should have changed, because BCCI itself is undergoing change at a frantic pace. Many say that this is because of the Supreme Court appointed Lodha Committee report which, if implemented in full, will probably finish the best run sports organisation in the country (all things being relative of course).

The question I asked myself was why has Anil Kumble been appointed as Chief Coach of the Indian Cricket team? This is not to question the credentials of Kumble, who was not just one of our most outstanding cricketers, but also a fine gentleman with a cool head. The question relates more to Ravi Shastri. In corporate terms, if your CEO has done incredibly well (as Shastri did with the Indian team in his 18 months at the helm), do you replace him? In more colloquial terms, if it ain`t broke, why fix it?

The move, apparently, was to tell the Supreme Court that BCCI was now being more transparent in its working. So they advertised for the job, whereas in earlier days (say last year), they would have gone over Shastri`s record, spoken to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, who would have both given glowing reports, and that would have been that. The ad drew well over 50 applicants, a surprise in itself. Kumble`s wasn`t one of them because he didn`t satisfy one of the major requirements of the job, that the would-be coach should have international coaching experience. Kumble has none.
To increase fairness and transparency, BCCI then appointed an expert panel consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly, three of India`s most eminent, recently-retired cricketers. Sounds good? Well, Tendulkar was away on holiday in England, and conducted discussion and interviews on Skype, while Ganguly, perhaps just to show who was Dada, was absent for the Ravi Shastri interview. Cricket correspondents who are privy to these off-field matters, say that Ganguly and Shastri have a history of animosity going back heaven knows when. Now First Post, the online newspaper, has come out with the story that V V S Laxman is the second biggest shareholder in Kumble`s company.

None of this is to cast doubt on either Anil Kumble`s integrity or ability, both of which are way above dispute. It is just to say that the attempt at so-called transparency often back-fires. Democracy quite often relies on the people involved in major decision-making to be actually involved, and to be completely transparent about their relationships and any possible conflict of interest. Does that happen? Not very often.

Perhaps this is part of BCCI`s learning curve, because transparency should be a given in any public body. But the fear of Lodha (by the way, a clear case of judicial over-reach) should not mean that the Board`s executives stop taking major decisions and rely on ‘eminent’ committees. However, eminent a committee, it will have its own dynamic, and its own motivation. It`s the Board in BCCI which must take a call on important matters, after it has taken into account the expert opinions of past players and administrators. But the decision must be the Board’s, and the Board’s alone.