Former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Wednesday took charge as the BCCI president, easily the most high-profile name to head the world’s richest cricket board that has been mired in administrative turmoil for the past three years.
The 47-year-old Ganguly was officially entrusted with the task of heading Indian cricket for the next nine months at the BCCI’s General Body meeting here, ending a controversial 33-month reign of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA).
Ganguly’s appointment as the BCCI’s 39th President was finalised last week. He succeeds C K Khanna, who was the interim head of the Board since 2017.
“It’s an honour that I have been asked to take this role. It’s a new start for the BCCI,” said Ganguly, clad in his India blazer which was given to him during the time he served as India captain.
“I find myself in a position where I can make a change and it’s a challenge,” he added.
“I will do it the way I know, I will do it the way which I feel is best for the BCCI with no compromise on credibility. Corruption-free and same for all BCCI. That’s the way I led India and that’s the way I will take this organisation forward,”he said.
Hard to miss at his maiden press interaction after taking charge was the India blazer that he was wearing.
“I got it when I was captain of India but I did not realise that it is so loose. But I decided I will wear it,” he said as scribes chuckled.
Ganguly couldn’t help but recall the time he took over as team captain.
The sport’s integrity was in tatters that year after the 2000 match-fixing scandal and Ganguly was handed the responsibility of resurrecting it.
Resurrection is once again what is required after three years of administrative limbo, incidentally also caused by corruption -- the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal.
Ironically, Mohammed Azharuddin was at the centre of the 2000 scandal and will now be his Board colleague as Hyderabad Cricket Association President. The two former teammates hugged each other after Wednesday’s meeting.
“Coincidentally, fortunately or unfortunately, there was a similar situation when I took over as captain and captained India for six years,” Ganguly said referring to, what are widely considered, the dark days of Indian cricket.
“It’s a similar sort of a situation where things need to be brought back to place, reforms need to be done, huge amount of money to be paid to state associations so it’s a lot of work,” he added.
In the meeting that was also a reunion of sorts for some of the familiar faces associated with the board before the CoA’s institution, Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah was made the secretary.
During his tenure, Ganguly will look to coordinate with old guard such as former President N Srinivasan and ex-Secretary Niranjan Shah, whose children are now part of the BCCI.
Mahim Verma of Uttarakhand became the new vice-president.
Former BCCI president and current junior finance minster Anurag Thakur’s younger brother Arun Dhumal became the treasurer while Kerala’s Jayesh George took the joint secretary’s position.
“It’s a very young group. We will have to do a lot of hard work to understand what’s been going on. There have been no AGMs, no working committees in the last three years, so we have no idea how it has been done. We will take note of everything,” Ganguly said.
Congratulatory messages poured in for Ganguly after the formalities were completed at the Board headquarters.
“I’m confident that as BCCI President he will take cricket to greater heights. I am hopeful that Jay Shah and Sourav Ganguly and their team will deliver. This is start of a new era for Indian cricket,” said Delhi and Districts Cricket Association chief Rajat Sharma.
Former IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla echoed the sentiment.
“Sourav will be an asset because he has been the most successful captain, and he has been most successful CAB President as well” he said.
Ganguly, who took over as India captain during one of its darkest hours following the 2000 match-fixing scandal, will need to demit office by the end of July next year as per the provisions of new constitution, which makes ‘Cooling Off’ period mandatory after six years in office.
One of the most elegant left-handers to have represented India, Ganguly is expected to make use of his experience gained as the secretary and later president of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
Ganguly was recently caught in the conflict of interest turmoil that has plagued the game and was asked to explain his multiple roles -- CAB President and Delhi IPL franchise mentor -- by the Board’s Ethics Officer.
He acknowledged the issue is noteworthy but said it won’t come in the way of appointing the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), which handles appointments of coaches, support staff and other committees. He has himself been a part of it.
“Conflict is still an issue... (But) we have to create CAC because they will appoint a lot of selectors and other members which are important part of Indian cricket, so we will do that and we will make sure that they don’t have any conflict of interest,” he asserted.
The relationship with the International Cricket Council will also be in focus during his tenure and Ganguly is confident of getting India its due.
“India is to get USD 372 million from the ICC in the five-year cycle. Till now we have got whatever it is and we will make sure we get our due. We will work with the ICC and take this forward,” he said.
He reiterated his commitment to improving the domestic cricket structure.
“The structures are there, the tournaments are there. In the last three years the matches have doubled actually. When I played for Bengal and some of my colleagues played for the other states there were about 1000 games to be played at. Now there are 2000 games between states and the affiliates.
“So we have to account for it. We have to make sure the best tournament in the country is competitive, and it remains important to everyone now because that’s where you get the Kohlis and MS Dhonis, Ajinkya Rahanes and Rohit Sharmas of Indian cricket,” he said.
Promises corruption-free tenure
Ganguly promised a corruption-free tenure, saying he will run the world’s richest cricket body the same way he led the Indian team.
“No compromise on credibility, corruption-free and same for all BCCI, just as I led India,” Ganguly said.
Laying down his priorities, Ganguly said he will speak to current skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday.
“Virat Kohli is the most important man in Indian cricket, we will listen to him. Mutual respect will be there, opinions will be there,” Ganguly responded when asked whether he will be speaking to Kohli.
“I will speak to Virat Kohli tomorrow, we will support him in every possible way, whatever he wants,” he said.
Ganguly said the matter of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future in international cricket will be addressed but vowed to accord the two-time World Cup winning captain respect during his tenure.
Ganguly said he doesn’t now what is in Dhoni’s mind but promised that a player of his stature will be given respect.
“It depends on him. Even when I was left out and when the entire world said he will never make it, I believed in myself and came back and played for four years,” Ganguly said at his first media conference after taking over as the board president.
“You know champions don’t finish quickly. I don’t know what’s in his mind and what he thinks about his career. So we will deal with that you know,” he added.
Dhoni has been on a sabbatical from international cricket since India’s semi-final exit in the ODI World Cup, leading to speculations about his future.
“He is one of the greats of the game and India is proud to have MS Dhoni over a period of time. If you even sit down and take a note of what he has done, you say, ‘Wow, MS Dhoni’,” Ganguly said.
“It depends on him. I have always said when I was left out and the entire world said ‘I will never make it’. I came back and played for four years.”
Since the Indian team’s World Cup exit, Dhoni, an honorary lieutenant colonel in the Territorial Army, joined his unit in the south Kashmir region to carry out patrolling, guard duties and similar responsibilities just like other soldiers.
He played golf in the United States and then showed up in the Indian dressing room at the end of their Test series triumph against South Africa in his home town Ranchi on Tuesday.
Legends of the game have often had unceremonious exits and Ganguly knows it more than anyone else how it feels to fight speculations and criticism.
“Till I am around, everybody will be respected and that doesn’t change,” Ganguly said.
The Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament starts on November 9 and it is still not clear if Dhoni will be playing that tournament in case he wants to make himself available for selection for the West Indies tour at the end of the year.
Confident that Bangladesh will tour India
Ganguly expressed optimism that Bangladesh’s tour of India will go ahead as planned as their Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has “given her consent”.
The upcoming tour was on Monday thrown into jeopardy after their national team players refused to participate in any cricketing activity until their demands, including a hike in salary, are met.
However, Ganguly has maintained that Bangladesh will turn up for the tour starting November 3.
“It’s their internal matter. (But) the Bangladesh PM has said she will turn up for the Test in Kolkata. If she has given her consent, I don’t see how the national team won’t,” Ganguly told reporters after taking charge of BCCI.
The boycott plan was announced by the country’s top players such as Test and T20 captain Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim at a press conference in Dhaka. Nearly 50 players are part of the protest.
According to a report in ‘ESPNCricinfo’, the players are likely to meet with Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials later on Wednesday.
“After the media conference last evening, I spoke to a senior player who told me that they would get back to us at any time after discussing among themselves. We expect to sit with them at 5pm today,” BCB CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury said in a press briefing at noon.
During the tour starting November 3, Bangladesh are scheduled to play three T20 Internationals and two Test matches as part of the World Championship.
One of the major points raised by the players was better remuneration for those competing at the first-class level.
In case Bangladesh forfeits, the ICC will award the Test series to India who will get 120 points.
Some of the players’ main demands are: Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) must go back to franchise model, Dhaka Premier League (their domestic first-class competition) must go back to open market transfers, central contract salary should be higher, and include more players, higher first-class match fees, players association to no longer have conflict of interest.