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RETROFIT by Sandeep Bamzai: Secret Society's Frenemies

NATURE ABHORS a vacuum. We all know that the BCCI is a cosy private club for out of work politicians right now. In the past too, it has been a microcosm of the nation's body politic with netas of all hues represented on the board by virtue of controlling state associations which have the votes which bring you any level of authority within the body that refuses to listen to anyone in the land. 

At the very kernel of the power source in the board is a vote (See below: The Elusive Vote). This vote comes from various members who form this autonomous body which continues to disregard the challenge from the judiciary, investigating agencies, tax authorities, and what have you. As I said at the outset, it is a board which not only controls cricket and cricketers in the country, it also closes ranks against all interlopers at every given opportunity. So, somewhere the private cosy club morphs into a secret society protecting its interests at all cost.

Otherwise, how does one explain bitter adversaries Sharad Pawar and N Srinivasan—both former BCCI presidents—coming together in Nagpur for a jaw jaw. It defies all laws of gravity and logic. And then, eureka, Shashank Manohar emerges as a consensus candidate for presidentship. Which is not a bad idea at all, for he is a tough and uncompromising candidate who has served the board well in the past too (2008-11). A no nonsense man, can Manohar be expected to clean up Indian cricket administration and the deep moral morass that it finds itself in?

Police cases and chargesheets have dominated the board's shenanigans in the recent past. Indian Paisa League has proved to be its bugbear, and Manohar, if he does become the next president, armed with his moral compass needs to ensure that justice is done. Look at the Chennai Super King N Srinivasan who refuses to back down despite overwhelming evidence against his team as well as his son-in-law, both implicated in the betting and fixing scandal that has sadly enveloped Indian cricket's highest echelons. But incorrigible Srinivasan has plumbed the depths on his moral meter, refusing to kowtow to even the Supreme Court.

Always looking for wiggle room, Srinivasan has shown his wily and cunning side repeatedly. Look at what he did immediately after his tryst with Pawar; he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against current secretary Anurag Thakur citing perjury, knowing fully well that Thakur had aligned himself with Pawar to keep Srinivasan out. As if all these moves on the chessboard weren't enough and exhausting, Srinivasan, who tried to secure Pawar's support for his return to the board which has shut him out effectively for the time being due to SC's strictures, found himself at Pawar's receiving end. 

"It took a lot of persuasion from Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Anurag Thakur to convince a reluctant Manohar to take up the top job all over again. The deal was clinched when Pawar, the leader of Manohar group, also gave his go-ahead in the matter along with former treasurer Ajay Shirke," a senior BCCI official told PTI.  

So Pawar forged an alliance with Jaitley, Thakur, and Shirke to make Manohar the consensus candidate cutting across the party divide and affiliations. 

The concept of Frenemies must have emerged from the real politicking of the BCCI satraps who are always ready to do deals. So, we have Pawar and Thakur groups acting in concert to keep Srinivasan at bay and guess who is supporting them—the all powerful finance minister Arun Jaitley.

Earlier this year in March,  BJP's insistence on pitching Anurag Thakur for the BCCI president's post threw all equations haywire, and Pawar's election managers had to draw up new strategies even while trying to prevail upon Thakur and Dalmiya to come to an amicable settlement. Finally Dalmiya became president and Thakur secretary, but not before ugly recriminations behind the scenes.
Despite various levels of scrutiny over the years, the opacity practised by the morally corrosive cricket board remains unparalleled. It doesn't even care for the SC or its SITs. Manohar is a hard man to please and he could be the instrumentality for change. Unless the frenemies don't get him too.

(Sandeep Bamzai is a sports junkie, editor & author. Currently a Visiting Fellow at ORF)

The Elusive Vote

To understand how the BCCI functions and its power source—the elusive vote—the associations are broken down below. Sharad Pawar represents Mumbai Cricket Association, just as Anurag Thakur comes in from Himachal, Rajiv Shukla from UP, Jyotiraditya from MP, Satyajit Gaekwad from Baroda, and so on.

SOUTH ZONE Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Karnataka State Cricket Association Hyderabad Cricket Association Andhra Cricket Association Kerala Cricket Association Goa Cricket Association  
WEST ZONE Mumbai Baroda Saurashtra Gujarat Maharashtra Cricket Club of India  
EAST ZONE Cricket Association of Bengal Tripura Assam Jharkhand Odisha National Cricket Club  
NORTH ZONE Delhi Himachal J & K Punjab Haryana Services Sports Control Board Association of Indian Universities
CENTRAL ZONE UP MP Vidarbha Railways Sports Control Board Rajasthan    


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