Is Amit Shah making his presence felt in BCCI?

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tacit blessing with the larger interest of wresting control over powerful organisations – this seems to be the mantra of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been a lucrative target for a long time and now with Gujarati strongman Amit Shah as the Number 2 in the Union Cabinet, the road to the BCCI indoors is getting smoother with time in consonance with the party’s high aspirations.

Politicians have always had their eyes set on the BCCI. In the past we have had NKP Salve, Sharad Pawar, Madhavrao Scindia and Anurag Thakur helming the body and in the process, displaying their political muscles to the hilt. And now, we have Shah who seems to call the diktats from behind through his son.

Shah’s son Jay was recently elected as the secretary of the cash-rich board and now has been entrusted with the responsibility of representing the BCCI at all the meetings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executives committee. The decision was taken at the BCCI AGM held on Sunday. Now this implies, he will be the face of the BCCI on the international forums – point noted. Jay is not the only person with a political pedigree in the BCCI – Union minister Anurag Thakur’s brother Arun Dhumal is the treasurer of the BCCI.

The showdown between the BCCI and the ICC is inevitable. But will Jay be able to put up a resolute fight in ICC meetings? This is a question that needs to be answered. Before Jay when the BCCI was run by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), it the CEO Rahul Johri who attended ICC meetings on behalf of the BCCI but he was not successful in tiding over the crisis the BCCI was facing in the ICC. In the absence of an experienced representative from the BCCI, Manohar (despite being an ex-BCCI president) had it easy to cut the BCCI’s sway.

The anointment of Jay not only proves he is a force to reckon with, but doesn’t it also ‘lay bare’ the saffron party’s proximity with the powers that be in the BCCI? Some eyebrows were raised when former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly pipped Brijesh Patel as the BCCI president at the eleventh hour. Though Ganguly has maintained there was no political blessing behind his ascension but a meeting with Shah was the trigger. And now, with Jay slated to fight for the Board at a time, when the BCCI and the ICC are at loggerheads over various contentious issues, one can smell a rat. Will the BCCI be remote-controlled?

Now, BJP loyalists may fume at this negativity around Jay’s rise in the BCCI, but let’s face it that it will evoke questions as to whether he was the right choice. Representing the BCCI at ICC meetings is no mean task especially when the BCCI is facing hostility from ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar and team who are hell bent on clipping the wings of the Big Three (India, Australia and England). The BCCI has the arduous task of restoring its authority on the ICC after its share (according to reports) fell to US$372 million from US$405 million with the ICC revoking the plan of the Big Three to get a lion’s share. Another point of tiff between the ICC and the BCCI is over the former’s decision to host an extra tournament post- 2023 that is vehemently opposed by the BCCI. This according to BCCI officials is another ‘ploy’ by the ICC to get a major share from the media rights at the expense of the BCCI.

The showdown between the BCCI and the ICC is inevitable. But will Jay be able to put up a resolute fight in ICC meetings? This is a question that needs to be answered. Before Jay when the BCCI was run by the Committee of Administrators (CoA), it the CEO Rahul Johri who attended ICC meetings on behalf of the BCCI but he was not successful in tiding over the crisis the BCCI was facing in the ICC. In the absence of an experienced representative from the BCCI, Manohar (despite being an ex-BCCI president) had it easy to cut the BCCI’s sway.

Ardent cricket fans have high expectations from Ganguly as the BCCI chief and he has already set the ball rolling. His agenda lists among others getting the BCCI its due, hiking the fees of domestic cricketers and hosting more Test matches under the lights. The former cricketer has the backing of his team as evident in the AGM– the first step being seeking dilution of the cooling-off period of the BCCI’s office-bearers (suggested by the Lodha Commission) and leaving it to the Supreme Court to review its decision. This if rescinded, will prolong Ganguly’s stay at the helm.

Nobody decries Jay’s credentials (he has earlier been the joint secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association), but this sudden jump from a state association to countering adversities in ICC meetings may have come a bit too early for the young man. You need administrative experience at the highest level to discharge such a crucial task – perhaps somebody more experienced could have been chosen for the job, but such preferences (may be at the behest of somebody over-arching and influential) are a common feature in our sporting bodies.

Ardent cricket fans have high expectations from Ganguly as the BCCI chief and he has already set the ball rolling. His agenda lists among others getting the BCCI its due, hiking the fees of domestic cricketers and hosting more Test matches under the lights. The former cricketer has the backing of his team as evident in the AGM– the first step being seeking dilution of the cooling-off period of the BCCI’s office-bearers (suggested by the Lodha Commission) and leaving it to the Supreme Court to review its decision. This if rescinded, will prolong Ganguly’s stay at the helm.

Yes, he is making the right noise. But being the no-nonsense man he has always been, Ganguly will hold a pitiable sight if he submits to any external pressure. Ganguly also has the responsibility of dispelling notions that his election ‘had a strong political patronage.’ His posting a picture (with Thakur and members of his core team) on Twitter after the decks were cleared, with the caption, “The new team at. @bcci .. hopefully we can work well .. anurag thakur thank you for seeing this through ⁦@ianuragthakur,” does lead to speculations.

It’s easier said than done, but let there be this lingering hope that the BCCI does not run the risk of getting saffronised.

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