Sourav Ganguly’s anointment as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is hardly a surprise. Ever since retiring from the game, Mr Ganguly, unlike most of his illustrious contemporaries, has taken a keen interest in administrative matters. He joined the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) as joint secretary in 2014, before succeeding mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya as president the following year. Mr Ganguly is also the first cricketer since the Maharaja of Vizianagaram in 1954 to hold the top post at the BCCI.
Mr Ganguly’s elevation comes at a time when the national team finds itself in a rich vein of form, but several underlying administrative and policy issues continue to linger. The Vinod Rai-led Committee of Administrators (CoA), which will demit office at the conclusion of the BCCI
annual general meeting on October 23, has been nothing short of a failure, with its incompetence in dealing with the International Cricket Council (ICC) on revenue matters coming in for particular flak.
It has also been unable to fully resolve the long-standing “conflict of interest” issue — which, ironically, Mr Ganguly himself has been accused of in the past — with many former cricketers and administrators still flourishing in multiple roles. Moreover, the CoA’s tumultuous tenure will be remembered for the infighting between Mr Rai and fellow member Diana Edulji, the puerile nature of which was revealed in their differing opinion
on the extent of punishment to be delivered to Hardik Pandya and K L Rahul. The two had made certain unsavoury remarks on a popular talk show.
At this time of uncertainty, what the BCCI
desperately needs is a strong leader who can take tough decisions, something that Mr Ganguly — as he showed during his time as captain of the national team — has an excellent appetite for. His first stop must be domestic cricket, whose overall health needs urgent tending to. Despite the huge money that has been poured into improving cricket infrastructure around the country, domestic games continue to be played in empty stadiums and on awful pitches. Popularising the Ranji Trophy and other domestic competitions, as well as ensuring that states keep churning out world-class talent, should be high on his agenda. Encouraging more international players to turn out for their respective states could be a major boost in that direction.
Another challenge is helping India over the line in major tournaments, a problem that Mr Ganguly has already highlighted. Despite regularly making it to the semi-final in ICC tournaments in the past few years, India hasn’t won one since the 2013 Champions Trophy. Even as improvement in that respect will require fixing things on the field, Mr Ganguly, if needed, is exactly the kind of figure that can stand up to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, the all-powerful captain-coach duo that has had a telling say in key decision-making in Indian cricket in recent years.
Equally crucial will be the need to negotiate with the ICC on the revenue front. According to the model drafted in 2017, India will get $293 million across an eight-year cycle; reportedly, the board had demanded $570 million, given that it contributes more than 75 per cent of the overall revenue. The sum is pivotal for the expansion of the sport since the BCCI has 37 Ranji Trophy teams to look after — more domestic teams than anywhere else in the world.
But more than anything else, Mr Ganguly’s focus will be on keeping the sport clean. Notorious for incessant corruption and politicking, the BCCI under him must build a brand new reputation, one of probity and decency. He has a job on his hands.