The news about cricket administration in India appears similar to that of a family-run business being dragged, kicking and screaming, towards professional management. In 2013, the Supreme Court initiated a process of reform in Indian cricket administration, following a scandal involving spot-fixing and conflicts of interest in the management of the Indian Premier League. At the time, the governing bodies for the sport in India, such as the Cricket Association of Bihar, had almost unanimously expressed their support for the reforms. But since then, cricket administration in India has remained complex.
In 2015, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member committee, chaired by the retired Supreme Court justice RM Lodha, to propose reforms to the structure and functioning of the Board of Cricket Control in India, the only national governing body for cricket in the country. In January the following year, the committee proposed sweeping reforms to the governance of the BCCI—the committee also included a draft constitution for the cricketing body that incorporated its recommendations. That July, the court approved the reforms and directed the BCCI to adopt and enforce the Lodha committee’s recommendations and constitution. The committee correctly identified the absence of independent decision-making as one of the structural problems with cricket governance in India, but failed to provide effective procedures for independent investigations.
The circumstances in which the Supreme Court came to intervene in the affairs of the BCCI serve to illustrate the organisation’s compromised decision-making. Soon after it announced plans to launch a domestic Twenty20 competition among city-based teams, the BCCI held an auction in January 2008 to determine the team owners. The company India Cements Limited purchased the team Chennai Super Kings—N Srinivasan, the managing director and vice-chairman of the company, was also the treasurer of the BCCI at the time.
This purchase, despite the easily apparent conflict of interest, could not have transpired without the approval of other BCCI administrators. A few months later, the members of the BCCI brazenly endorsed it by introducing an amendment to exclude “IPL, Champions League and Twenty20” from the conflict-of-interest clause that forbade its administrators from having “directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the cricket board.” In 2011, the year that the Chennai Super Kings won the IPL for a second time, N Srinivasan became the president of the BCCI.
All of this was well known and happened before the eyes of the public but almost no one involved in cricket administration objected or even asked any serious questions. The rot was clearly of a systemic nature. Matters came to a head in 2013 when the Mumbai Police arrested Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan for conducting illegal betting and spot fixing in IPL matches. The scandal led to an appeal in the Supreme Court, through which reforms of its governance were eventually forced upon the BCCI.