Anil Kumble, Ranjib Biswal's appointments provide silver lining to N Srinivasan's return after BCCI AGM

N Srinivasan (right) chose to be a stubborn chief and continues to fight his way through, dismissing anyone who criticises him, especially the “hounding” and “bulldozing” media, with his typically flippant swagger in public © IANS

“Stepped aside” incumbent N Srinivasan made his return to the throne as the BCCI president in its latest AGM, where a number of similar and expected decisions were taken. Jaideep Vaidya tries to dissect the appointments and decisions.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India‘s (BCCI) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday proceeded majorly along expected lines. N Srinivasan, who had stepped aside as president following the alleged involvement of his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan and company India Cements in the  Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 spot-fixing scandal that rocked Indian cricket in May, was back to the fore as he was elected unopposed. Even though Srinivasan always maintained that he was not personally involved in the scandal and almost chose to disassociate himself from his son-in-law, the pressure was constantly on him to completely resign from his duties on moral grounds.

However, Srinivasan chose to be a stubborn chief and continues to fight his way through, dismissing anyone who criticises him, especially the “hounding” and “bulldozing” media, with his typically flippant swagger in public. Srinivasan, given his overflowing inflexibility in the matter, however, sprung a minor surprise when he said that he would not assume charge before a Supreme Court directive against him is settled. “I have won unopposed but I am not taking charge,” Srinivasan told IANS. “I have asked the new office bearers to take charge. I am awaiting the Supreme Court order. There are a lot of things on me now.” But anyone who has followed the politics of Indian cricket would tell you that this is merely a smokescreen.

Srinivasan’s re-election was only possible due to an amendment which was carried out in the board’s constitution about a year ago which discarded the rotational system of electing presidents from the five geographical zones: North, West, Centre, South and East. Now, the only way that the president could be opposed from his own zone was if there was another challenger staged against him from there — in Srinivasan’s case, the South zone. It was child’s play for a man of Srinivasan’s pull to get all the six associations coming under the South Zone to pit him as the only candidate. After that, it was just a matter of getting the necessary votes, which was also child’s play for Srinivasan, who expectedly won unopposed.

Another decision that went along expected lines at the AGM was the flushing out of anyone who had stood up to Srinivasan during his tenure and drafting in people from his own camp in the available positions, including important ones such as the vice-presidents. All the major posts in the BCCI — secretary, joint secretary and treasurer — were given to Srinivasan’s loyalists Sanjay Patel, Anurag Thakur and Anirudh Chaudhary, respectively. Even from the president’s own South zone, key officials from each of the associations were given influential positions: Anil Kumble (Karnataka) and Shivlal Yadav (Hyderabad) retained their positions as technical committee chairman and vice-president, respectively; G Ganga Raju (Andhra Pradesh) was appointed as chairman of the finance committee, TC Mathew (Kerala) replaced Ranjib Biswal as the National Cricket Academy (NCA) chairman, while Vinod Phadke (Goa) will be chairing the media committee.

Meanwhile, dissenting voices were flushed down the drain, the most noticeable one being veteran administrator Niranjan Shah, who was removed from his post of vice-president. Sources told the MiD DAY tabloid that Shah was not re-elected and ignored for other posts because he was building an opposition camp to defeat Srinivasan in the elections. It is to be remembered that Shah had called for a fresh probe into the IPL spot-fixing controversy, saying that the board’s “image has really gone down.” The comment and the move obviously did not go down well with Srinivasan. However, Shah, on his part was cordial and diplomatic in his response to journalists: “It’s part of the democratic process… it’s not necessary [to seek an extension].” Similar to Shah, the outflux from the supposed anti-Srini camp included Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sudhir Dabir, who were close to opposing factions within the Indian cricket fraternity involving former presidents Shashank Manohar and Sharad Pawar.

If you want to look at the bright side to any of the appointments, the names of Biswal and Kumble pop up. Biswal, who was named the new IPL chairman, taking over from Rajeev Shukla who was in-turn made vice-president, is a former India Under-19 player who has captained cricketers such as Sourav Ganguly, Vinod Kambli, Ajay Jadeja and Kumble himself in the youth teams. Biswal, although considered one of Srinivasan’s loyalists, was the manager of the Indian team during the ICC World Cup 2011 and the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, the latter of which followed the spot-fixing scandal and needed a stable and mature influence over the team. At 43, Biswal has age on his side, considering some of the players who will participate in the IPL are around the same age, such as Rajasthan Royals’ Brad Hogg and Pravin Tambe. At a time when the credibility of the cash-rich tournament is at stake, Biswal could just be the right man to take charge of things and offers a lot of confidence compared to the previous chairman.

There aren’t many former cricketers who choose to go into administration, instead looking to take up the more lucrative positions in the commentary box or as coaches. However, the appointments of Biswal, the retention of Kumble as technical committee head, and the introduction of batting legend Gundappa Viswanath in the IPL governing council offers a lot of hope to the fans of Indian cricket, who do not wish to see it wane over the years to come. Kumble, in particular, has always been involved in the functioning of his local Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and a man of his acumen has offered a lot since his retirement five years ago. He is someone who understands the way things function in Indian cricket and is known to be a shrewd mind and a tough operator. These are the silver linings in what appears to be a very dark cloud that is the BCCI, especially in the last few months. Whatever the mixture, fans and well-wishers would only hope that the whole jingbang is able to take Indian cricket ahead.

(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)