Give the Vinod Rai Panel a Chance

The reactions on Twitter varied from the funny to the bizarre. “Come on guys… Vinod Rai is IAS, he’s Superman, repository of all wisdom in the world. He can be a rocket scientist. What is BCCI for him,” chuckled a devastatingly sarcastic Sushant Sareen. A more sedate Shekhar Gupta called it ‘judicial nationalisation of a flourishing sport’. “Prof Guha in charge of BCCI. Suddenly Gajendra Chouhan in charge of FTII doesn’t sound that bad a deal,” tweeted Ananda Ranganathan, taking a dig at Prof Ramchandra Guha, another member of the four-member interim panel named by the Supreme Court on Monday to run the affairs of BCCI till fresh elections are held.

But reactions on Twitter apart, what exactly does the unprecedented step by the apex court portend for Indian cricket?

In the absence of anything of the sort in the past to go by, one can only make an informed conjecture about the shape of things in the days ahead. But the one thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that it would not be business as usual at the BCCI anymore. The premier sporting body in India, which would be now headed by no-nonsense former CAG Vinod Rai till fresh elections are held, would no more be a cosy club of a self-perpetuating coterie that considered BCCI its personal fiefdom.

The questions being raised about the cricketing credentials of the four members are laughable at best and hypocritical at worst. Since when has knowledge of the game or playing it become eligibility criteria to hold a BCCI post? The last BCCI president Anurag Thakur could at least boast of having played a solitary Ranji Trophy match for Himachal Pradesh. But what were the cricketing credentials of his predecessors like Jagmohan Dalmiya, N Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar? It is doubtful if any these worthies held a bat or a ball in his hands – except as a photo-op, that is – or could differentiate between an arm ball and a googly.

Little is known about Vikram Limaye, the CMD of Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC). But at least two of the members – Prof Guha and Diana Edulji – have impeccable cricketing credentials. Guha is a cricket historian of repute and an avid follower of the game while Diana was the captain of the Indian women’s cricket team for years. Together, these two can provide all the cricketing inputs that the BCCI may need in the interim while the other two gentlemen – Chairman Vinod Rai and Vikram Limaye – will presumably bring on board their expertise in accounts and finance, an area which would be the focus of much of the Supreme Court mandated reforms in the organisation. Vinod Rai’s credentials as a hard-nosed and hard-to-bend auditor would stand the BCCI in good stead in the period when the Lodha Committee recommendations are being implemented.

The widespread lament over the ‘ruining’ of the ‘best-run sports body in the country’ is misplaced. If the BCCI really deserved that epithet, we would not have had administrators amending the BCCI constitution to allow themselves to own teams in a premier BCCI-run event like IPL or BCCI bosses resisting with all their might any attempt to bring their working under the RTI and – last but not the least – dark clouds of match fixing constantly hovering above the cricket horizon. If nothing else, the present dispensation would usher in a measure of transparency and accountability, the two things that had no place in the scheme of things of the ancien’ regime.

The charge of judicial overreach has some merit. After all, why on earth should the Supreme Court get into administration of a game? But this question will inevitably be followed by a flurry of other questions. Why did things come to such a pass in the first place? Why didn’t the BCCI reform itself in time? Why did it keep resisting and defying the apex court directive to implement the Lodha panel recommendations till the court was left with no option but to sack its president and secretary in an unprecedented move?

We must give the interim panel a chance to do its job and not damn it even before the ink has dried on the Supreme Court order. This columnist, for one, is confident that things at BCCI cannot get worse than they already are. If anything, they can only improve.