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'Everybody is only trying to find fault with the BCCI'

October 27, 2016 10:11 IST

'The BCCI is one of the best administrative bodies in the world.'
'In a democratic set-up there will always be a power struggle, that is part of every society or every association, but it does not mean we have done something bad.'
'We have done everything possible we could for the game.'

BCCI President Anurag Thakur, right, and BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke.

IMAGE: Board of Control for Cricket in India President Anurag Thakur, right, and BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke.

Niranjan Shah has been a cricket administrator for more than four decades.

Shah and the Saurashtra Cricket Association gears up for Rajkot's debut as a Test venue.

The opening match of the five Test series between India and England will be played at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium in Rajkot from November 9.

Shah has been part of the Saurashtra Cricket Association since 1972-1973.

He has also played several roles in the Board of Control for Cricket in India -- joint secretary, secretary, and vice-president.

He is currently chairman of the National Cricket Academy.

Shah, 72, reveals it took 10 years to get Test cricket to Rajkot which included building what he calls the "most beautiful cricket stadium in the world."

Unhappy with the queue to find fault with the BCCI after the Supreme Court investigation into the IPL match-fixing scam in 2013 and the subsequent Justice Lodha Committee reforms, Shah tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian why the Lodha Committee must reconsider its 'One State One Vote' and 'Cooling-off period' recommendations.

In less than 15 days, Rajkot will host its first Test match. How excited are you ahead of the Test debut?

It was always our dream that Rajkot should become a Test centre. We are very excited that we will host the match against England and we are sure it will be a big hit.

We will provide good facilities, not only to both teams, but also to the spectators.

I hope we will also give a good wicket so we can have a good match which will last all five days.

What inspired you to build a world class cricket stadium in Rajkot?

The BCCI has encouraged every association to come up with their own stadium.

They have also helped the associations with subsidies and other things so that they can build good stadia with all required facilities.

We always used to look up to the big Test centres, they all had big stadia and everything else in place.

I always used to think why can't Rajkot have a big stadium. That inspired me to build a stadium.

By then, it was compulsory to have a stadium if you wanted to host international matches.

The BCCI then took the key decision of allotting Test matches to smaller cities, which means Rajkot didn't have to wait too long to get a Test match.

Our country is huge, so we need many Test centres like England.

And you get more crowds for Test matches in small cities because in big cities, you regularly have matches happening, so it is not a novelty for them.

How many years of hard work has gone into all this?

I have been working hard for the last 10 years to get everything in shape because unless we have good infrastructure, and by infrastructure, I mean not only the stadium, but in the city we need facilities like good hotels, airports, etc.

These all combined in the last 10 years and helped us to become a Test centre.

In fact, three years back, we were asking the BCCI to give us Test matches, but then it didn't happen.

But the present regime of the Board has decided that Test matches should be given to smaller cities and it is a good decision to spread the game around the country.

The Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium in Rajkot

IMAGE: The Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium in Rajkot. Photograph: BCCI

How much interest is there in Rajkot considering you are hosting the opening Test of a series between India, the World No 1 team, and England, the World No 3 team?

Right now, people are busy with Diwali preparations. Once the Diwali festival is over, more people will show their interest.

We will also encourage a lot of students to come and watch the Test. If we have to give free tickets to bring people to the stadium we will do that.

Having the Rajkot team in the IPL has helped grow the interest of people. We saw such a good atmosphere in the stadium during the IPL.

If you have big matches like the IPL or a Test match, it enhances the city as more and more infrastructure comes up.

12 state associations including Saurashtra have written to the BCCI that they won't be using the funds received till further instructions from the Supreme Court.
How will you manage the expenses for the Rajkot Test?


We will manage the funds to host the Test. We have reserve funds and we will be able to manage.

Whatever happens, for us the Test match is important, so all our focus is on that.

You have been in cricket administration for more than four decades.
How do you look at the current situation in which the BCCI has come under fire from the Supreme Court for trying to resist the Lodha reforms?


There are always ups and downs, but the BCCI has done fabulously well.

I don't think any other sport in India has achieved so much.

But today all the achievements are not being recognised and everybody is only trying to find faults with the BCCI.

I think the BCCI has received a very high level when it comes to administration of the sport, but it is not been recognised.

Based on your experience, what do you think is the way out of this current impasse?

We had two meetings recently of BCCI members and most of the recommendations we want to comply with except 3, 4 of them.

I don't want to be party to the recommendation which will see my vote being taken away.

Vote is the biggest thing in Indian democracy and you can't take our vote and Mumbai's vote and give it to Nagaland and Meghalaya, where cricket is not there.

This is for cricket, this is not political boundaries we are bound by.

We don't mind, give them (BCCI) membership, but they have to rise, they have to come to a certain standard of cricket for them to get full membership.

IMAGE: Niranjan Shah, centre, with then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sharad Pawar in 2002. Photograph: Reuters

What is the other recommendation you are not in favour of?

The three-year 'cooling off' period (between two terms) is also not right, I think.

The Board already has a three-year tenure period. The cooling off period is not correct because we always need continuity.

Why is the joint secretary there? Because he is ready to take over as the secretary.

I think it (the cooling off period) should not go to the level of state units. You cannot ask state level to do these things.

After all, who runs cricket?

Cricket is run by the state associations.

The BCCI only allots matches and coordinates, but the real ground work is by state associations.

Suddenly, you want to change everything in every state. I think it will crumble the whole cricketing activity.

You said, 'everybody is only trying to find faults with the BCCI.'
Does it sadden you to see the BCCI being made out as a villain in this entire episode?


The BCCI is one of the best administrative bodies in the world, I would say.

In a democratic set-up there will always be a power struggle, that is part of every society or every association, but it does not mean we have done something bad.

We have done everything possible we could for the game.

Every cricketer (past and present) is now getting a share of the whole thing (overall profit).

What more can the BCCI do? I don't understand.

Anurag Thakur and Ajay Shirke are trying to undo whatever was done by the previous regime.

If you see, cricket is run very smoothly and these people are trying to manage and see if they can get some relief from the Supreme Court.

I think the previous regime didn't take much interest and that is why we are suffering.

Even (former BCCI president and current International Cricket Council President) Shashank Manohar didn't handle it well.

Last year, when Shashank Manohar took over, you had said he was the best man to lead the BCCI.
Were you disappointed when he left the BCCI to join the ICC?


Yes, that is why I am the most disappointed person (when he left).

We were discussing the Lodha reforms in the last two, three meetings. I think that should have been done earlier.

What is the way out for the BCCI?

I have no clue.

After all, whatever the Supreme Court says it will be final.

You have been involved with cricket administration for such a long time, did you reach out to the Lodha Committee to explain your side of the argument?

No, never.

He (Justice R M Lodha) never called me, he has never taken my opinion or from any ex-office bearer of the BCCI.

Harish Kotian / Rediff.com
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