From optimism to cynicism: how Sourav Ganguly’s tenure as BCCI president ended – ESPNcricinfo

From optimism to cynicism: how Sourav Ganguly's tenure as BCCI president ended - ESPNcricinfo

In November 2019, weeks after he was installed as BCCI president, Sourav Gangulythe administration of proposed several amendments to the constitution of the board, written in 2018 by the Lodha Committee, which was set up three years earlier by the Supreme Court of the country to recommend improvements to the functioning of the board. These amendments, if implemented, would strike at the heart of the Lodha reforms, likely taking the BCCI back to its days of unchecked power and lack of accountability.
On September 14 this year, the Supreme Court agreed with most of these proposed amendments. Most importantly, the court agreed to relax the cooling-off rule under which the board’s office bearers were barred from holding prolonged unbroken tenures – thus allowing Ganguly and Jay Shah to serve another term as BCCI president and secretary.
Within weeks, in a cruelly ironic twist of fate, Ganguly would be from the BCCI. There was little lamentation, apart from the spin given by political parties that have surrounded him since his retirement as a player – and which he has never discouraged. However, there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment, of what could have been, of a potentially huge missed opportunity.

Everything seemed so sunny and rosy that October day in 2019. Ganguly’s installation as BCCI president prompted a wave of optimism, even celebration. The first India captain to head the board in 65 years, the change-maker to help Indian cricket emerge from the cloud of the match-fixing scandal in the early 2000s. He would be someone who would call a spade a spade who could bring the winds of change that the BCCI needed. Someone who could turn the management into a player-first entity, with no one focused on fattening its already large bank balance. Or maybe, everyone was a little naive.

Because that optimism, as noted above, only lasted a few weeks. Then it went downhill and, apart from a handful of pluses, never really recovered.

Three years passed without any sign of the contracts.

India’s women cricketers, who represented the country in the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, where they were runners-up, had to suffer further indignity. They received their prize money, about US$500,000, from the BCCI more than 15 months after the tournament ended. The board itself received the money from the ICC about a week after the final.

You could put these down to bureaucratic delays; the red tape that hampers every Indian sport. And maybe the president is not the person to blame for organizational inefficiencies; perhaps none of these issues were really a priority for the BCCI. And it is also true that, unlike during Ganguly’s captaincy, where he had the support of the BCCI president at the time, Jagmohan Dalmiya, he did not really have much power in this position.

Yet he was president. The buckle stopped with him, and part of the president’s role – as is the role of the head of any large organization – is to be a statesman, to deal with the big issues, to project an image of calm and control. In this, the optics were bad.

Nowhere more than in the public spat with Virat Kohli last year, which effectively resulted in the BCCI president and the national team captain calling each other liars in public.
Days after becoming president, Ganguly pledged his support to India captain Kohli, who was, Ganguly said, “the most important man in Indian cricket”. “He wants to make this team the best in the world… We have to sit with him and see what he wants. We will support him in every way.”

Ganguly was president. The buck stopped with him. Part of the president’s role is to deal with the big issues, to project an image of calm and control. In this, the optics were bad

Before the dust could settle on that inappropriate public exchange between Indian cricket’s two highest-profile personalities, Kohli was out as Test captain too, after India’s series loss in South Africa. Ganguly stayed, and the spin doctors worked hard to put the focus on Kohli to kick things off by stepping down from the T20 captaincy just before the T20 World Cup in the UAE. That’s not unfounded, but at the end of the day it was about management – managing people, managing headlines, making sure the matter was resolved behind closed doors.

Among the more perceptive observations about Ganguly are one by my colleague Nagraj Gollapudi: “When it comes to Ganguly, there is never anything black and white.” This also shows Ganguly’s ability to push the lines of right and wrong without actually breaking the laws. As with his various endorsements of products that rival those of official BCCI partners. There is nothing in the BCCI constitution that barred Ganguly from endorsing a brand that competed with the board’s official partners or with the title sponsors; in fact, it would rather have been a conflict if he had personal commercial agreements with the official sponsors of the BCCI. But for people in high positions perception and decency are important, and Ganguly remained cheerfully unfazed by the talk of how he inhabited gray areas in these matters.

Ultimately, however, the old guard who installed Ganguly – former BCCI presidents N Srinivasan and Anurag Thakur, along with former board secretary Niranjan Shah, and former IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla – pulled the plug on their tenure.

And although their influence, direct or indirect, three years later, suggests that the BCCI is now more of the same old, there was a perceptible change in the board. What used to be a collection of people from across the political spectrum is now largely a one-party affair. The secretary, Jay Shah, is the son of the minister for internal affairs; the new treasurer, Ashish Shelar, is a BJP legislator from Maharashtra; the new joint secretary, Devajit Saikia, is a close aide of the Prime Minister of Assam, also with the BJP; the IPL president is BJP minister (and former BCCI president) Anurag Thakur’s brother.

And Ganguly? He always lands on his feet, and is smart enough to play the political long game (elections in his home state, West Bengal, are four years away). He has decided to contest the upcoming Cricket Association of Bengal elections but that’s not likely to be where his career ends. At 50, he’s young enough for another shot at the big time; he may even be trotted out again for ICC duty when the time is right.

But it will be a different Ganguly. Will he still carry the aura of the captain who bravely led Indian cricket out of its darkest abyss? Or has the BCCI president, whose brand endorsements have drawn constant ridicule, severely tarnished the one brand that really matters to him – Brand Ganguly?

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