In the midst of the disappointment and negativity surrounding the control exercised by the old guard, the most positive development that needs to be celebrated is the role cricketers will play in running the new-look Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). One of the most momentous recommendations of the Lodha panel was the formation of a players’ association and two of its members finding place in the nine-member Apex Council that would be the supreme decision-making body of the board.
For long have we lamented the fact that the main stake-holders of Indian cricket have no say in how the game is administered. Whenever a former cricketer has tried to enter the “holy” precincts of administration, he has been literally booted out. The ruling cliques have always been wary of the players’ power which is reflected in the fact that India was among a very few cricket playing nations without a recognised players’ association.
The Justice Lodha panel recognised this anomaly and made it mandatory to not just have an Indian cricket players’ association in place, but also make them share-holders in the power structure of the board. By the end of this month, we will know which among the two male cricketers, Kirti Azad or Anshuman Gaekwad, will be in the Apex Council along with Shantha Rangaswamy, who by virtue of being the lone woman nominee, gets into the ruling body without a contest.
The most positive development is that the Indian Cricketers’ Association has around 1200 members enrolled and former Indian player Ashok Malhotra is the sole contestant for the president’s post. The number 1200 may sound disappointing, given the fact that there are around 8000 cricketers in the country, which include first-class and Test players. But this figure is set to dramatically expand, as the awareness of its significance spreads once the players realise the important role this body can play in running Indian cricket.
Indian cricket players may be well looked after financially, especially those who make it to the top, but the lower rung is beset with many problems which will need addressing. There are a host of other issues, like scheduling, work-load, wider and more equitable spread of money and many more that the players would like to be dealt with. That is why the players’ association and its office-bearers will need to be careful in how they go about their job.
Both Gaekwad and Azad have administrative experience, the former as a BCCI administrator and the latter as a BJP legislator. Shantha has been the torch-bearer of women’s cricket in its early days while Malhotra has had a long stint in first-class cricket, with Haryana before Bengal, and understands well the travails of his fellow journeymen.
They and other cricketers need to put their heads together to use this opportunity to become genuine representatives of their tribe and function without letting various lobbies influence their decision making.
This is not an easy job, knowing how power brokers anywhere and especially in the Indian board, function. There are already stories floating around how commercial interests would try to control the players’ association in the future. That is why those who are going to be at the helm in its year of birth, need to set high ethical standards and not indulge in familiar power games that have sullied the name of Indian cricket in the past.
As of now, let us all welcome player power in the administrative structure with the hope that it ushers Indian cricket into a brighter and more transparent era.