Friday's special general meeting of a fragmented BCCI could well be the last in the shape the Board has been known for over 87 years. The meeting, convened in the backdrop of a stinging warning from the Supreme Court vis-à-vis implementation of reforms, is the very last opportunity for the BCCI to "fall in line", as the apex court has said repeatedly.
Friday, September 30, is the deadline for the BCCI and its affiliated associations to conform to a part of the Lodha Committee recommendations and the Supreme Court judgement of July 18, failing which many officials could land in the contempt of court zone, if they have not already done that.
According to the timelines, September 30 is also the deadline for the BCCI and its affiliates to amend their constitutions/memorandum of associations/rules & regulations/bye-laws; creation of a Cricket Players' Association with financial support from the BCCI; amendment of IPL rules; three units each within Gujarat and Maharashtra to decide who would be the first to take turn as a full member on a rotational basis; amendment to norms for registration of player-agents; and admission of Puducherry as an associate member.
No steps have so far been taken to comply with these Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee's instructions. On the contrary, the BCCI has taken some decisions — like election of its secretary, appointment of selection committees, and the budget for 2016-17 — that have angered the committee as they are in breach of the court's orders.
In its status report, the Lodha Committee mentioned all this and the Supreme Court on Wednesday unequivocally ordered the BCCI's decision-makers to "fall in line or else we will make them fall in line". The court also gave the Board an ultimatum to take immediate steps to implement reforms and respond by October 6, which could well see some heads in the BCCI roll, if they stick to their defiant stand, and as demanded by the Lodha Committee.
The picture will, however, be clear at the BCCI's special general body meeting on Friday in Mumbai.
Left with no option to further defy the Supreme Court, the BCCI constituent units may willingly or reluctantly vote for a change and adopt everything that the Lodha Committee has recommended, including a new constitution. But since only a few hours will be left in the September 30 deadline to expire after the meeting, starting at 11, the BCCI could ask for some more time to implement reforms. If it does ask for time, it now remains to be seen how the Lodha Committee looks at that request, if it is made.
The truth is that some state associations, unlike the BCCI top brass, had seen and read the writing on the wall clearly earlier and were ready to implement the recommendations in their units.
"But they didn't have the courage to go against the BCCI and do so. They were told by the BCCI office-bearers to wait for a while, informing them that they had a 'plan' in place to tackle Lodha Committee's recommendations. Now if there was indeed a 'plan', it seems to have gone haywire after the Supreme Court scolding on Wednesday," the president of a state association told Outlook.
The Sharad Pawar-headed Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) was the first affiliate to announce that they would fully comply with the recommendations. But it later took an U-turn and moved the Bombay High Court against the committee, apparently "to enable keep Pawar in the fold", according to an MCA source. But after the Supreme Court outburst on Wednesday the MCA seems to have beaten a hasty retreat.
The Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) was another body that wanted to implement the reforms, but it had to delay its move after the BCCI informed it too of a "plan in store".
But VCA finally lost patience just before the BCCI Anual General Meeting began on September 21 in Mumbai. According to a source, VCA president Prakash Dixit wanted to know from the BCCI what the 'plan' was, but received no convincing answer.
"He casually mentioned to some members from other states that he would register his dissent at the meeting if the BCCI didn't spell out the 'plan' and may even walk out of the meeting. The word spread among the BCCI members and secretary Ajay Shirke explained to Dixit that if they were to divulge the 'plan' it could leak out to the media," the source told Outlook.
Dixit protested but eventually attended the meeting. But the BCCI-VCA tussle didn't end there. A day before the September 21 AGM, he had issued notice convening a special general body meeting of the VCA on September 30 to adopt — and comply with — the Lodha Committee recommendations. BCCI was not amused with this action of the VCA.
"When the BCCI officials told Dixit that convening of the VCA SGM would send a wrong signal to the world and would portray the BCCI as a fragmented body, he told them that he did so after getting no response from the BCCI to his many emails, seeking clarity on the 'plan'," the source said.
Now, the date of the VCA SGM clashes with the BCCI SGM, and it is being seen in some quarters as an act of defiance by Vidarbha, which reportedly still "listens to" ICC chairman and former BCCI president Shashank Manohar, who has fallen out with the BCCI top brass.
As a result, Dixit will not be attending Friday's BCCI SGM as he would be chairing the VCA meeting in Nagpur. But there are indications that VCA would send a representative to the BCCI meeting and he would most probably vote for adoption of, and compliance with, the Lodha Committee recommendations for reforms.
On Friday, many more state associations could join hands with the VCA in openly defying the BCCI diktat and vote for change — and save their skin — despite the 'secret plan'.
The BCCI's North-East Cricket Committee, comprising members of the north-eastern states, are also expected to attend the SGM, unlike the September 21 AGM which they skipped.
The north-eastern states are angry with the BCCI as the Board has not included their teams for the 2016-17 domestic tournaments, despite being recommended by the Lodha Committee. BCCI has not even made Mizoram a member while the Lodha Committee has said that the state be given a full member status, thus making it eligible to play in the Ranji Trophy national championship.
All in all, the BCCI looks a fragmented organisation, though the voice of dissent has so far been suppressed by some powerful officials/politicians. But it might come out in the open with full force on Friday. Or, will the BCCI unveil its closely-guarded 'plan' as the last card?