Sourav Ganguly will be at the helm of BCCI soon. If he does the job half as capably as he did in leading Indian cricket away from the great betting scandal of the last century, he would be accomplishing something for the game’s administration that has been besieged by corruption and court diktats that were sometimes illuminating but at most times confusing. Regardless of what the future may hold for the world’s richest cricket body, the return of elected representatives to administer is to be lauded as the only democratic way.
The former CAG, Vinod Rai, may have handled knotty issues well enough, but we didn’t need a retired government official running cricket like a bureaucratic conundrum. The BCCI had spoiled its own copy book by not responding in time to the explosive betting scandal in the IPL. Had the head honcho stepped aside instantly and run a probe — even if it was a sham one like Jagmohan Dalmiya did with the Justice Chandrachud inquiry — he would have been doing the game and himself a favour. Defiance of the Supreme Court led to this 33-month interregnum.
As captain, Ganguly was a unifier. He chose and backed players without lending a second thought to which of the five zones they came from. After the Azhar era of whimsically eccentric actions and Sachin Tendulkar’s self-doubts as captain, Indian cricket moved on to a decisive phase that was transformational to begin with and improved to positive performance as in getting to the World Cup final of 2003. The number of grand performers who flourished under Ganguly’s encouragement, if not quite tutelage, made Team India a global force after more than one decade of vacuous performances.
Extraordinarily, Sourav was a ‘Dada’ figure to the young players. He would even advise them on their love life, not like an agony aunt but more like a seasoned senior who knew the ropes and had seen life as a rich kid on the block as the son of a businessman and then a celebrity cricketer. He was a person the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and many others leant on as not only captain but also friend, philosopher and guide. And Sourav had the total backing of his coach John Wright and BCCI chief Dalmiya in doing whatever had to be done to keep Team India ticking.
Years later, Ganguly got pitched into the administration and had to step into Dlamiya’s shoes after the revolutionary administrator breathed his last. From all accounts, Ganguly was an able enough replacement at the CAB office in Eden Gardens, where he mixed with all those who came with just cricket on their mind. Being a good listener is half the job in cricket admin and the president-elect has been well prepared for it. Dalmiya always knew the devil is in the details and he prepared thoroughly to fox those he opposed in the BCCI. But then he had time on his side as Dalmiya and Bindra worked for a decade and more before breaking through.
Time may not be Ganguly’s longest suit now as he may have to step down to satisfy the cooling off period rules. Of course, the top court might be inclined to reconsider the Lodha reforms, which in any case need to be overhauled before they apply to the new BCCI post-October 23 when the reins will be back with the office bearers among the elected representatives. If they choose to share power with the older generation of admin men like letting the old fox N.Srinivasan to represent BCCI at the ICC, it is their business. So long as Ganguly calls the shots in the BCCI, in tandem with his secretary and treasurer, this may be a new dawn for the board.
Amid all the happenings of a 33-month drama, it is a wonder that Team India was not affected. The players kept themselves well insulated when the admin was taking a beating in the Supreme Court along with their expensive lawyers. A lot of credit for this must go to the skipper Virat Kohli and his management team that was able to keep the ball rolling as it were. The skipper’s latest exploits with the bat and his team’s winning streak are ample testimony to their ability to keep raising the bar. But Ganguly may have already hit the nail on the head when he speaks of the need to reverse the losing trend in ICC knockout games.
Apart from the ups and downs of the white ball game, especially in its shortest format, there were two bad days in three years that spoiled Team India’s and the fans’ happiness. The first was in the Champions Trophy final of 2017 when the Pakistani batsmen ran away with it like an electric hare in front of the greyhounds. And the second was, of course, the world Cup semi-final against the Kiwis when the Indian chase was undone in a trice in testing conditions after a bit of rain and the intensity of the swing and seam of the New Zealand quicks with the rocking new white ball. Had only those two days panned differently! But then Ganguly may also regret the day he put the Aussies in at the World Cup final at the Wanderers in Jo’burg....