When Sourav Ganguly batted for India, he batted with grace. One of the finest to have donned the Indian jersey, Ganguly had more than his fair share of success, ending up as a giant of Indian cricket and one of its very best captains.
When Sourav Ganguly entered the commentary box as a post-career profession, he spoke with empathy. His understanding of the game was succinct and straightforward and the immaculate epiphany with which he owned the box made for a rather refreshing viewing.
Could we say the same about his administrative journey so far? Ganguly would’ve wished for nothing less, but being in administration means taking more brickbats than bouquets and no one knows it better than the Prince of Calcutta. His tenure saw controversies and diatribe floating around, and as he leaves the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it is difficult to put him in a single box of evaluation.
In this column, let’s take a look back at the issues that defined Ganguly’s three-year tenure at the BCCI - his success stories and not-so-ceremonious ones.
In no particular order.
#1: Successful IPL during pandemic
The very first Indian Premier League edition under Ganguly’s tenure saw a massive challenge with the Covid-19 pandemic engulfing the world. Cricket came to a standstill for months but after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hosted their international summer in biosecure bubbles, the BCCI moved the tournament to United Arab Emirates and successfully pulled off the coup.
A tournament many times bigger than what ECB did, Ganguly led the campaign well to ensure the biggest money-making machine didn’t have to face interruption. Even at the peak of the second wave in 2021, when the IPL had to be postponed in India, the caravan once again moved to UAE and completed right before the T20 World Cup. The magnitude of the event and the smooth way it was conducted, the board deserved its share of applause.
However, the same couldn’t have been said for domestic and women’s cricket that had to face the ignorance of the board. The Ranji Trophy was shelved for the 2020 season and was truncated for the 2021 season, resulting in the supply line for the Test side facing a big issue.
#2: The Virat Kohli Captaincy Controversy
The episode had a very 2006 ring to it, albeit in completely different circumstances. Virat Kohli’s decision to step down from the T20I captaincy was followed by the board ousting him from the ODI role. The words from the Chairman of the National Selection Committee, Chetan Sharma, and Virat Kohli never matched, and it ignited further controversy when Ganguly notioned a different storyline in interviews with certain publications.
The change in guard, which would have its implications for the 2023 World Cup in India, instead, became a farce, creating a rather unceremonial time in Indian cricket. That was reflected in the series against South Africa and Kohli immediately resigned from Test captaincy thus after.
Could this have been handled better? Definitely Yes. The president of the board, regarded as one of the fiercest leaders of all-time, instead of cleaning the mess, was fuelling it. The story never became straight and everyone slowly moved on.
#3: Non-existent line of communication
In 2018, Murali Vijay and Karun Nair complained about lack of communication from the national selectors but under Ganguly’s tenure, that became even more apparent. Instead of the Chairman of the National Selection Committee giving press conferences, only press releases were sent and the president continued to provide selection-related information to select media houses.
There was no update on anything by the National Cricket Academy either and slowly and steadily, the communication channel entirely dried up. So much so that only sources and select media houses became the “official” source of information. There were also reports that Ganguly even interfered in selection-related affairs and regularly sat in the meetings, even though it was the secretary who was mandated to be the convener of the meeting.
#4: Conflict of Interest
Even 15 years after his retirement from international cricket, the Brand Sourav Ganguly still continues to attract masses. There is no doubt why many brands still want Ganguly as its ambassador. While that is all okay, what was not okay was Ganguly endorsing a brand that stood in the direct conflict line with the BCCI Sponsor. Another time, Ganguly associated himself with an Ed-Tech platform that is a direct competitor of the Indian cricket team’s primary sponsor. There were no official complaints at the chamber of Ombudsman and Ethics Officer and Ganguly got away with everything.
It was a trait that defined Ganguly’s tenure more than anything else. The very conflict of interest that became the backbone of the Lodha Committee reforms became an everyday story in the Churchgate office. Rest, as we all know, has been nothing short of a drama Indian cricket never wanted.
#5: Domestic Player compensation
In 2021, BCCI brought an end to the long wait of players waiting for compensation hike. As per the salary revision, Ranji cricketers, who have played more than 40 matches, are now receiving ₹60,000 per day while those who have played 21 to 40 matches are paid ₹50,000. Players with experience less than that will be entitled to a remuneration of ₹40,000 per day. It was a change eagerly awaited.
The current model has been designed as an equitable force. Players with 40-plus caps to their name stand to gain a 71% hike and players with less than 20 games on their resume gaining just a 14.28% raise. Once a player bags 20 caps, they will receive 50,000 rupees per day before jumping to the next bracket. That was Sourav Ganguly’s one of the first commitments when he took over the duties in late 2019 and the board lived up to their word.
#6: Women’s Cricket
It is sad to see despite being a cricketer himself, Ganguly failed to execute the one thing that should have been done decades ago. While the Indian women’s team continued to put up one splendid show after another, and qualified for the finals of the 2020 T20 World Cup, the BCCI was too lazy to see its importance. The argument stood that the country doesn’t have enough talents for a full-fledged IPL. Then the international matches further dried up during the pandemic. Even though the Women’s IPL is slated to be played in 2023 for the first time, this should have been done way earlier than this.
The Bottom Line
The two powerbrokers of the BCCI - N Srinivasan and Anurag Thakur - who stood on the opposite side of the battle line for the longest time, are now sitting under the same tent, helmed by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. It is apparent that Sourav Ganguly didn’t have the entire power chamber under his custody, so it would be unfair to expect Ganguly to be the last man calling shots in the BCCI.
But there’s a reason Indian cricket fans were excited about Ganguly’s presidential tenure and there’s a reason why many are sad about it. The realization of that lies Indian cricket’s one of the crushing losses in recent times.