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Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri: Cricketing theatrics

The ICC ODI World Cup surprisingly has witnessed unexpected smooth sailing on the cricket field for Team India

Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri 

Desh Gaurav Chopra Sekhri

However, if the Indian team bucks the odds and doesn't give the World Cup title back, a lot could be forgiven. For the benefit of the public, and in the interest of the laws of natural justice as proposed by the court in its recent BCCI decision on conflict of interest, a repeat World Cup win could well indefinitely suspend any misgivings that the public has about the state of cricket

There's rarely an uneventful phase in Indian cricket, and the last couple of weeks have been no exception. The ICC ODI World Cup surprisingly has witnessed unexpected smooth sailing on the cricket field for Team India. It has been methodical, unruffled, and so far, undefeated. It looks a well-oiled outfit that could conceivably go all the way.

The real cricketing drama, however, has been off-field, back home in India. A stalwart of the cricket fraternity, the new BCCI president's phoenix-like resurrection is now complete as he went from persona non grata to the head honcho against the odds, and as an independent voice of authority. It happened at a time when cricket through the BCCI ("the Board"), mired in a series of controversies with countless admonitions by the Supreme Court, found its hand had been forced. With a change in regime comes the hope that cricket's dented image, whether fair or unfair, is repaired through actions that address openness, evolution, and a more inclusive culture.

Whether that is achievable depends on numerous factors, especially what the Court-appointed commission led by Justice Lodha makes of the extent of the rot, if any that has set within the deepest confines of the Board. The relinquishment of equity stake by an owner of the Rajasthan Royals singled out for advanced scrutiny is the immediate fallout. If ownership parameters and regulations become stricter, with glamour ceding ground to responsibility for owning equity in a franchise, the IPL's administration could yet be rectified and aligned with acceptable best practices.

Also witnessed recently was the sidelining of the erstwhile heirs-apparent. Yuvraj Singh's omission has not been missed yet by the Indian team, but as the pressure mounts in the elimination stages of the World Cup, and the services of a proven and clutch match-winner likely required, the selection committee and the Board may well ponder the "what-ifs" should India not win it all.

The fate of the other former crown prince and architect of the modern avatar of the Board who now exemplifies Icarus came to a theatrical head this past week, when Lalit Modi and his supporters were ignominiously removed from the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) by the opposing camp. The manner in which this was allegedly done bordered on the farcical as the Modi camp claimed that its supporters were waylaid by armed opposition preventing their appearance at the RCA's meeting. One can be sure however that neither the RCA nor the BCCI has seen the last of the always inventive Mr Modi in cricket administration.

Assumedly, many of the imminent monumental decisions affecting Indian cricket administration's future have been put on hold during the all-important World Cup. There have been murmurings of ground-breaking revelations and an irreversible move towards a multitude of changes in Indian cricket once the World Cup concludes. Certainly, with the plethora of public interest litigations being filed and awaiting decisions, constant scrutiny by the public and activists is likely the future norm. However, if the Indian team bucks the odds and doesn't give the World Cup title back, a lot could be forgiven. For the benefit of the public, and in the interest of the laws of natural justice as proposed by the court in its recent BCCI decision on conflict of interest, a repeat World Cup win could well indefinitely suspend any misgivings that the public has about the state of cricket.

Ironically, a defendable perspective may rationalise the situation as follows: if the true stakeholder in Indian cricket is the Indian population, and if under the current administration the Indian cricket team gloriously wins the World Cup, thereby making the Indian population both happy and proud, then essentially the principles of natural justice would have been served. If this somewhat complacent point of view becomes acceptable to most, it would be a pity, because it's obvious that a successful and forward thinking long-term vision would require international best practices for sports governance in India. And, if in the myopic euphoria of another thrilling cricket victory, the real battle is forgotten or suspended, it will be a grave injustice to all the progress made over the past year. For now let's hope the Indian team does win the World Cup and establish itself as a dynasty. After that, let's fervently hope the ensuing glory and IPL's pyrotechnics don't divert attention from the systems that need to be overhauled. Time will tell.



The author leads the sports law practice of an NCR-based firm. These views are his own

First Published: Fri, March 13 2015. 23:03 IST
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