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A New Imaginary Of Power In Cricket

The Lodha Committee seeks to replace this monopolistic and hegemonic model with the trusteeship/stewardship model of exercising power over cricket

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A detailed reading of the Lodha Committee report shows the judges’ imaginary of cricket. In their mind, the fans are the owners of the game. It is their passion, their faith and their extraordinary love of the game that needs to be nurtured, protected and maintained. India’s cricket fans are perceived as trusting souls who believe in the purity of the game. Their passion arises from the faith that all aspects of cricket are ethical and clean.

Equally important is the game. It needs a custodian for its protection and propagation. With the betting and match-fixing scandals, the game has lost its purity, and is in need of a clean-up. Implied in this correction is the understanding that dharma or virtue needs to be restored and the reign of adharma that has taken over cricket must come to an end.

Over the past decade or more, the BCCI had transformed itself from being the apex body of cricket administration to an economic monopoly for garnering super-normal profits and a hegemonic power that rules over the game. The BCCI was modelled as a private corporation, leveraging its market position for greater profitability and world domination — think Microsoft and Windows in software or Google in search. These corporations of course deliver benefits to the public through their products and services. But, being privately owned, they have the right to manage their affairs as they please.

The Lodha Committee seeks to replace this monopolistic and hegemonic model with the trusteeship/stewardship model of exercising power over cricket. In this imagined vision, the elements that should have the power are passion for the game, not profit; the players not the governing body; the fans not the administrators. Cricket administrators as stewards and trustees of the game should ensure that the game is managed to the highest international standards of governance, in terms of professionalism and ethics, for the good of the game and the joy of its fans. As the BCCI is a not-for-profit organisation, all the surplus it generates from commercialisation of cricket should be spent for improving access and facilities for the fan, for inducting and training future players, being inclusive in bringing in disabled players, women cricketers, etc. It should also use its funds to create and support a player’s association as well as enable the post-playing life of a cricketer to be spent with dignity.

If ministers and businessmen call the shots in the BCCI today, in the future, it should be run by retired high court judges (ombudsman, ethics officer), retired election commissioners (electoral officer) and retired comptrollers and auditor generals (oversight of finances). If the presence of ministers and industrialists signalled concentration of power and the importance of commerce above all else, the presence of these senior officers would signal clean governance, ethics, transparency and following due process.

The values sought to be enforced through the newly prescribed organisation structures and codes of conduct are competence, professionalism, transparency, accountability, avoiding conflict of interest, distribution of power with checks and balances, democratisation, responsiveness and grievance redressal as well as giving voice to all stake holders. These are presented as the necessary corrective to the prevailing order and ways of working which were the very opposite of the above values.

The learned judges have initiated a new order for cricket in India. Whether the new order will prevail or the old order will re-assert itself depends on the extent to which BCCI’s leaders adopt the stewardship mindset and the actions that follow from that mindset.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Hamsini Shivakumar

The author is leading semiotician and director, Leapfrog Strategy Consulting

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