By Sandeep Sahu
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done well to drop six Odisha players selected to play in the East Zone under-19 one-day league for the Vinoo Mankad trophy for being overage. But what raises eyebrows is how they were selected in the first place at a time when the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) is under the CBI scanner for institutionalizing an ecosystem where age fudging had become more the norm than the exception.
The extent of the scam can be gauged from the fact that no less than 36 players – a majority of them from Cuttack – are being probed by the CBI for manipulating or plain forging their age documents to be eligible to play in the under-19 category. Among them is Shubham Nayak, son of OCA chief executive officer (CEO) Bidyut Nayak.
The business of age fudging had gone on for so long because the BCCI had chosen to look the other way all these years for reasons that are now all too obvious. After all, OCA was part of the same ecosystem that allowed (or is it promoted?) and protected wrongdoing of all kinds. If the BCCI has suddenly woken up from its slumber and decided to crack the whip, the reasons are not too difficult to guess. The dressing down given to the BCCI by the Supreme Court yesterday for its cheek to defy the Lodha committee recommendations has clearly convinced the mandarins of the most powerful sports body in the country that the days of running the cash-rich body according to their whims and fancies are now well and truly over.
Over the years, the BCCI had built up an elaborate structure of patronage that rewarded those who were willing participants in skullduggery and punished those who refused to fall in line. The system put in place by the top bosses of BCCI allowed the likes of Asirbad Behera, the ‘honorary’ secretary of the OCA, to lord over the cricketing affairs of the state for decades. Their words were the law, BCCI laws and norms be damned. Undeserving players were selected and deserving ones dropped if they fell foul of the satraps. Largesse was showered on district associations and clubs that would vote for the incumbent and denied to others who refused to play ball. The books of the Association were fudged/manipulated (like the age of the players) and the hefty sums in the coffers of the Association dealt with like private property. Why, even a part of the land leased out by the state government for construction of the Barabati Stadium was used for construction of a mandap and nearly two dozen shops in gross violation of the lease agreement to further the commercial interests of the OCA bosses. In short, OCA, like its counterparts elsewhere, had become a den of vice.
No wonder the cozy club of well-entrenched BCCI officials and their factotums in the state Associations, who ran the affairs of the beautiful game like their private fiefdom, were up in arms the moment the Supreme Court decided to get into the picture. They saw red when the Justice Lodha committee appointed by the apex court came up with a set of recommendations that would end their unfettered reign.
It is a measure of the defiance and foolhardiness of the BCCI mandarins that they believed, even after all this, that they could get away unscathed. That is why instead of quietly accepting the fait accompli and carrying out the reforms mandated by the Lodha panel, they requisitioned the services of Justice Markandeya Katju, the maverick retired Supreme Court with a penchant for theatrics, to take on the apex court.
But mercifully, yesterday’s stern message served by the Supreme Court appears to have convinced the BCCI bosses (and the regional satraps) that they have reached the end of the bountiful road they have travelled along for so long. It, however, remains to be seen if they would quietly walk into the sunset or try to find a way of ruling by proxy by foisting their kin or confidantes on cricket bodies. Watch this space!