'Whatever the reforms the Supreme Court has approved for BCCI, it won't be possible to implement it all.'
The Indian cricket team continues to rule the game. But outside the field of play, the governance of the sport in the country seems to be all at sea.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is regarded as the world's richest and most powerful cricket body, but it seems to be in a total mess at the moment.
The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators has taken over the BCCI and has taken all major decisions, but the COA has met with stiff resistance from state associations as far as implementing the Justice R M Lodha reforms are concerned.
The COA was appointed by the apex court to introduce reforms in BCCI in January 2017, but so far the state associations have resisted the changes and have not complied so far, stating a variety of reasons.
Nearly two years since its appointment, the COA has been unable to implement the reforms, while coming under constant criticism for its handling of BCCI affairs.
Former bureaucrat Vinod Rai continues to head the committee which includes former women's captain Diana Edulji as the only other member.
Two other members -- Vikram Limaye and Ramchandra Guha -- originally appointed by the Supreme Court quit last year. Limaye resiged after he was appointed managing director of the National Stock Exchange. Historian Guha resigned in the wake of the Anil Kumble controversy -- the legendary leg-spinner stepped down as India's coach following differences with Captain Virat Kohli.
Former captain Sourav Ganguly recently came down hard on the COA, warning that the future of Indian cricket is in danger.
'Indian cricket with its massive following has been built over the years of hard work from superb administrators and greatest of cricketers who have managed to bring thousands of fans to the ground. I at the present moment, think it is in danger. Hope people are listening,' Ganguly -- arguably the finest Indian captain this century -- said in a letter to BCCI officials -- acting president C K Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry.
Veteran cricket administrator Niranjan Shah, who was part of the Saurashtra Cricket Association for nearly four decades, echoes Ganguly's sentiments.
Shah has a long experience in administration of Indian cricket, having served as BCCI secretary, vice-president, IPL vice-chairman and the chairman of the National Cricket Academy.
Shah, 73, was ruled ineligible to continue as secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association following the Supreme Court order on the Lodha reforms which put a cap of 70 years for BCCI office-bearers.
He continues to assist the SCA and is clearly unhappy with the developments in Indian cricket since the COA took over. He points out that the state associations have been completely sidelined and left to fend for themselves.
The COA, Shah states, has stopped giving BCCI funds to state associations for not complying with the Lodha reforms.
"They (the COA) have to give the state associations due importance and not look to finish them," Niranjan Shah tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.
What do you think are the problems affecting Indian cricket administration?
The main problem in the BCCI is that there is no one with experience to handle the Board at the moment.
They (the COA) don't know how to manage cricket. They have completely ignored the state associations and all their problems have ignored.
All of this is hurting the game in the country.
Where has the COA gone wrong?
The COA originally had four members and now they are down to two. The power is centralised now. They don't know how to organise cricket matches.
State associations have not received any money in the last two years and are facing a cash crunch now.
All these associations have to complete their infrastructure, some have to build their stadiums, or add new facilities to the existing stadiums.
Currently, there is no one who is answerable to all of this.
I don't believe that the Supreme Court has given any such order to destroy the game of cricket in the country.
What is your take on Sourav Ganguly's comments that Indian cricket is in 'danger'?
Till now the Board was working in a democratic process. We had committees in place who would arrive upon a decision after a lot of thinking.
It was not that overnight decisions were being made, it was all being decided by the working committee. All the cricketing decisions were taken by the technical committee.
Right now, they have increased a couple of women tournaments and another tournament, but did they ask any association if they had their ground vacant to host the games?
They are hurting cricket in the long run.
Seven state associations failed to submit the compliance report. The other state associations have substantially or partially complied with the Lodha reforms.
The COA wants the associations to be fully compliant within a couple of weeks. Is that possible?
What are the hurdles to adopting the Lodha reforms fully?
Everybody is going to comply because if it is the order of the Supreme Court then we have to follow it.
But there are a lot of practical problems.
Whatever the reforms the Supreme Court has approved for BCCI, it won't be possible to implement it all.
Now all of them will comply, but later they will come to know what the real issues are.
Like, for example, the state associations in their selection committee can only have a former cricketer who has played 25 or more first class games. This is not possible in a state association.
Maybe 10 games would have been okay, but how many former players can you get who have played 25 or more games?
And if you do find someone, then you should find out if they are ready to work with the association or not.
We need more committees to run the sport. They are forming just one committee with eight people. That won't work. You need more committees and more people to take part in the decision making process.
The state association is not hosting India games only, it also has to organise district level games and other local tournaments.
It is only through such tournaments that you unearth more players who can go on to play for the state or for the country.
They (the COA) should do well to remember that the BCCI is made up of members, and that the members are not made by BCCI. The BCCI is not the owner of cricket in India, it is the members, who are the owners.
Now some state association have taken steps to comply, but they (the COA) are still not releasing any money, so how will cricket continue to run in the states?
So you are saying the COA has totally sidelined the state associations?
It feels as if they (the COA) have some enmity with the state associations.
The COA should try and find out the issues that are affecting the state associations and they should inform about the same to the Supreme Court.
Instead, it looks like that they are trying to finish off the state associations.
See, the COA was appointed to oversee the administrators, they were not told to remove the current administrators or strip them of all their powers.
The BCCI has been running for more than 80 years now. The administrators who were running it have taken it to such great heights.
They are the top cricket board in the world, but if you take the situation currently, they have lost their standing.
The state associations are responsible for giving the players a platform, looking after all their needs, which helps them take the next step forward and get into the Indian team.
The BCCI never directly organises any tournament.
To take Indian cricket team to the top position all the state associations have worked so hard. You don't get players directly, you have to find the players at a young age and groom them.
What is the way forward for Indian cricket?
Firstly, you have to understand that the state associations are the main bodies who run cricket in the country.
They (the COA) have to give the state associations due importance and not look to finish them. The Board had so much money in its coffers and it can afford many things which the associations cannot afford.
The state associations will definitely adopt the reforms, but there are some questions which we want to ask the Supreme Court. We want to highlight the practical problems which we are facing.
The BCCI constitution cannot be applied 100 percent to the state associations because every state association has different problems.
The state association has to manage everything -- like managing the grounds and organising cricket matches on a regular basis to discover more cricketers.
The reforms like the 'cooling off period' may be okay for the BCCI, but it is not okay for the state associations. The people who look after state associations need a long run in administration, but still we are not fighting over this.
We are only requesting that all the problems of the state associations must be looked after.
They should distribute the funds due to the state associations immediately because we face difficulties like paying staff salaries. We also have a lot of liabilities.
The COA has asked all state units to grant automatic membership to all former international players from their respective states. Do former international cricketers approach you to be part of the association?
That is a part of the Supreme Court order. We are not disputing it. We have no problems having former international players as members in the association
If you take our association -- Saurashtra -- we have only three or four international players so far out of which two -- Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja -- are currently playing so they can't become members.
Apart from Salim Durrani, we (the Saurashtra Cricket Association) don't have any other international players.
Should the BCCI come under the RTI (Right To Information Act)?
I think the BCCI has to fight against coming under RTI. The BCCI has filed an appeal in the matter and we will see what happens.
Why is the RTI needed for the BCCI? Everything is on the Web site, all the information has been made public.
Under the RTI, what if they ask for any decision made during the selection committee meetings? Would it be right to divulge that information?