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.
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.
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.
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.
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?