Is reformation the next big happening in sports in India?
If the year 2016 ended on a satisfying note for Indian sports, then the New Year seems to have begun on a note of reformation. First the storm that a decision in the IOA annual general meeting during the fag end of December last year had the effect of the Union Minister for Sports Mr Vijay Goel's expressing sentiments towards cleansing of Indian sports and then came the most looked forward to event, the effect of BCCI's stand up to the highest court in the country in the context of the justice Lodha Committee's recommendations.
Expectedly, the Supreme Court has come down heavily on the richest sports body for non-compliance of the changes sought in the functioning of the cricket board. So much so, the BCCI today is without a President and a Secretary and soon will find itself struggling to find a man to head the body for so deeply entrenched in have been the long-standing officials that none of them in the new dispensation will find a functional place in the Board at least for some time. The mandate is for fresh personnel with new rules for the proper administration of what inarguably is the most popular sport in the country.
It is funny how progress can sometimes spring up cruel moments! What else can one say of the current status of cricket administration in India. From a prosaic setting where just the die-hard fans formed the following for this gentlemen's game, cricket has evolved over the years to become a high-voltage drama, watched and enjoyed by not just the cricket-initiated but even uninitiated kids and grandparents! The soaring popularity, fuelled by visual media and triggered by the limited over versions of the sport meant there was room for commercialism to step in.
Indeed, it was sound sense to quantify the level of popularity in monetary terms and there grew a financial Everest! There is of course nothing wrong in such business sense but seemingly when the crores come into the coffers then comes the question of financial discipline. Not just that, there was also a need to be vigilant to check possible wrong-doings off the field or as they say betting in common parlance. The slip apparently came there. Scandals rocked the sport. Actions were taken but deep within something seemed amiss with the administration or so it seemed.
Advocates of good administration would claim that when the sport itself had developed nicely not only raising the standards of play but also in the overall development of talents where was the room for complaint. But irregularities were detected and as is by now well documented, the Supreme Court came into the picture to take steps to bring about transparency and accountability to the BCCI. The Justice Lodha committee was put in place to advise. But as a former Test player and an interim President of the Board Shivlal Yadav is on record, the top brass failed to give clarifications and suggestions when sought by the committee. They were given time but an opportunity was wasted, according to Yadav. The sniff of defiance on the part of the Board officials seen from the way they dilly dallied on implementing the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations was unexpected and the Supreme Court has now acted.
So, cricket is set to evolve further, this time on the administrative side. New generation thinking is set to come in, as time goes by, in the face of the radical changes that will set in. One of the key points is the need for one-state-one-vote pattern which has never been there hitherto. But interestingly this weightage in voting for certain states is not something unique to BCCI. Not that it is acceptable. In the World Squash Federation for instance some countries out of the over140-affiliated units, had higher voting rights. That has been the tradition and, as Mr N. Ramachandran, who recently stepped down as WSF President, said this unusual system meant that the sport had the tendency to be under the control of a few countries which had enlarged voting rights. He admitted this did not come in the way of sport's growing but he was clear this was not congenial for better governance. Whether WSF will change is another question but BCCI will change and cricket administration's look too.
Interesting days are ahead then for cricket. Even as the men in flannels will hopefully continue their good work with loads of cricket action lined up ahead, there will be much interest on knowing what shape the working body will take. Considering that BCCI has been the most influential body in India, changes there should, as experts believe, be the first step in the overhauling of all sports bodies in the country. It is here that Minister Goel's statement seemed pertinent. He has given top priority to improving the national sports development code with an eye on cleanliness and transparency in sports.
The announcement of a nine-member committee to come up with recommendations in this regard is heartwarming. What is significant is that some of the best known sports personalities like Abhinav Bindra, Prakash Padukone and Anju Bobby George are among those invited to this committee. Refreshing moves, one must say, for it is never too soon to take steps for the all-round improvement of sports in the country. With professional leagues the order of the day in various sports, including kabaddi and wrestling, disciplines one would normally associate with eternal paucity of funds, sportspersons in general are beginning to enjoy the fruits of financial largesse.