Manan Shah | 10:43pm gmt 04 Jul 2010
"The conduct of certain activities and receipt of income from these activities clearly show that these activities are totally commercial and there is no element of charity in the conduct of BCCI. It is evident that major income arises not from the game of cricket but from the business of cricket."
That was the reason the Indian tax department gave for recently removing the tax-exempt status of BCCI. It's a damning indictment, albeit not a surprising one - and it ought to remove any lingering doubts about what and who the BCCI serve.
On one level, the BCCI are to be admired. Is there another organization that keeps increasing its profits year after year despite such gross unprofessionalism and mismanagement? On the other hand, their success is unsurprising. They do not produce a product, but simply market already existing love of the game by the public and feed on the results - a public that it treats with utter disdain at every opportunity.
Mind you, regardless of the judgment from the tax authorities, I wouldn't advise anyone hold their breath for BCCI to actually pay up. For the BCCI is full of politicians gorging themselves on cricket - or rather, on the fruits of cricket viewership - and if there's one thing that you can say about the BCCI, it's not that they lack political connections. You'd think that when the subject of professionalism, let alone good governance, comes up, they'd just bow their head and consign themselves in a corner out of embarrassment. But somehow they've found a backbone through their hypocrisy, and are busy loudly opposing measures such as the nomination of former Prime Minister Howard because he lacks 'cricket administration experience.' It would be laughable, if it weren't so sad, that an organization whose leaders are plucked from the ranks of political parties can demand, with a straight face, a cricketing background from other nations, and from the ICC. How many officials in the BCCI actually worked up through their state associations and became their heads before back-room dealing their way into the national stage?
The issue is easily transformed as one about race - because, well, all of the non-white countries opposed it while the only backing came from three 'white' ones - two of whom who nominated the candidate in the first place. And England - let's not forget the old colonial masters - an easy target every time one needs to remind people of discriminations and veto power that characterized the ICC for most of its existence. Australia are not without blame here, and neither is Howard. Australia had to know that there would be at least some reaction from the other countries when a man as controversial as Howard is put forward? So I find their 'naivete' about being 'shocked' quite ridiculous - surely they did not think that a country like South Africa would forget that Howard opposed the boycott of apartheid while singlehandedly rallying for support in the boycott of Zimbabwe? They are supposed to accept such a man as the president of the ICC without objection? But still, such objections are an excuse - even the ranks of Cricket South Africa are not clean when it comes to apartheid sympathizers.
In the end, the objections are thin - the real issue is about integrity, accountability and honesty. It's no secret that generally it's the 'white' countries in the world of cricket administration that generally have it, while the subcontinent, Zimbabwe, and West Indies don't. You have the ICC representative from Bangladesh who reportedly didn't know the name of his Test captain or the capacity of his grounds, you have Ijaz Butt who has destroyed what little credibility was left with the PCB. And you have Pawar - who, by the way, still has the full time job of being the agricultural minister of a country of 1.2 billion people while also being the president of the ICC. And these people dare oppose a former prime minster that can devote his full time to the job? Even the most ardent defenders of the BCCI (and I'm sure some must exist) would readily admit that all the three boards that supported Howard have administrations that are far superior to any in the subcontinent, and yet their exhaustive and open nomination process is vetoed. And what is the official reason that was given? No one really knows. First it was a lack of cricketing experience, and when it was correctly pointed out about their hypocrisy and the fact that it's a ceremonial position anyway, the excuses switched to one of racism and not being 'progressive' enough. You heard that correctly - Indian politicians just accused someone else of not being 'progressive' enough.
The lack of a clear explanation is really indicative of the level of transparency in the board. Of the hundreds of millions of dollars in income, how much is truly accounted for? The recent witch hunt of Modi provides a rare insight. According to his accusations, Modi and his team ran up $400,000 bill at the Four Seasons, and spent tens of thousands of dollars making sure they got the right limos. Just as a comparison, that is a bigger salary that the one paid to Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the captain of the Indian Test team. The number - by itself - is not even the issue. It's the fact that such a number would never have come out without this investigation. When you have a sport where millions of dollars could be spent without anyone raising an issue about it for years, what hope can one have for the long term development of the sport? How can you run an organization where people can just spend such amounts of money without anyone noticing? Is no one checking the bills - or is it simply that everyone is in on it, so the only time it needs to come up is when you need throw a particular person under the bus. Let's not forget that this situation would never have come up if Modi had quietly resigned when asked at the beginning on the scandal. And of course, this is just one person - the BCCI bureaucracy with dubious job titles taking no salaries. Officially. How much of the BCCI income is actually being pumped back into the game?
No one in their right mind actually expects true leadership from the BCCI, but perhaps it is not so unreasonable to hope that they don't sabotage the effort towards good governance of an international body. The issue is not black vs. white, as it unfortunately becomes too often, the issue is accountability, professionalism and the prosperity of the sport itself.
Cricket Australia, hardly blameless in their past, recently came out that they may have to reevaluate their recent cozying up to the BCCI. Mesmerized by the money and influence, perhaps they are finally waking up and realizing what an alliance actually entails. It took them long enough - but this recent opposition is as clear as day for anyone who wishes to see it. Yes, the BCCI sided with Zimbabwe to keep that reliable vote on their side, or for whatever internal political expediency that won out that day. And yes, Zimbabwe opposed Howard because of his policies toward the government of Mugabe and their cronies in charge of cricket in Zimbabwe. He should wear this badge of honor with pride.