Money makes the world go around, is the saying. For the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), swelling coffers have only made its functioning opaque. The richest national governing body for cricket also thrives by being ensconced in the global commercial hub for the sport. It uses its financial clout to have its way, whether it is dealing with other national boards or its parent body, the International Cricket Council (ICC).
However, when it comes to managing the national team and being proactive about burning issues surrounding it, the Board bosses get into a huddle and ensure nothing that can provide clarity to cricket's biggest stakeholders, the fans, about the team or its own functioning, comes out.
The BCCI's riches continue to grow. Its gross income for 2011-12, as per its annual report, was a whopping Rs. 850 crore. With big money comes responsibility but for the Board it has mostly been about enjoying big power.
Prominent former players remain mute spectators when it comes to questioning the functioning of the Board. Among those on the commentary panel, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri - their contracts with the BCCI had raised a storm some time back - were critical of the players but said little about the lack of accountability and planning by the BCCI. Others like Sanjay Manjrekar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid too may not want to cross the line for they also get pensions.
When the national team's fortunes nosedive, cricket boards take responsibility. Australia revamped the system following last year's Ashes loss at home. The system England put in place under Andy Flower led to India's 4-0 series rout last year, effectively triggering the dismantling of the team, a process the BCCI should have initiated in the first place.
There was little clarity on the attitude and captaincy of MS Dhoni, despite the defeats in England and Australia, and now at home. The Board spends its riches to rehabilitate injured players, but the elaborate support mechanism at the National Cricket Academy and in the team set up does not seem to have helped raise the fielding or fitness of the players.
And crucially, the BCCI bosses are yet to say whether they made a mistake in hiring Duncan Fletcher to succeed Gary Kirsten as coach after the World Cup last year or why the experienced coach has failed to make a mark during a crucial phase for the team. A younger coach perhaps would have related to a team in transition better.
In an age where every major sports body has dynamic media wings to get the views of administrators and players across to its legion of fans, the BCCI rarely goes beyond giving the lineup after the selection meeting.
Keeping a tab
And the selectors, even the panel chairman, are not the only people who have a gag order against providing their views to the media. The BCCI bosses even bring pressure on ex-players writing newspaper columns, demanding that they tone down criticism.
Then, what do the senior BCCI officials do? With decision-making often restricted to its president, N Srinivasan, it is pretty much a joyride for most of its other officials. But that is not surprising. A BCCI official is entitled to between R20,000-R30,000 per day for attending a meeting. Senior officials get to stay in five-star hotels. It is business class air travel for vice-presidents while the president, secretary and treasurer can fly in first-class comfort.
One can't complain about such splurging of riches, and with the BCCI registered under the Societies Act, it is not accountable under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. However, one has to question why it has little or no control over player agents in a country where illegal betting runs into millions of rupees.
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BCCI's silence mantra
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Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.