Ganguly elected head of India’s troubled cricket board
Former cricketer Sourav Ganguly, newly-elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), speaking during a press conference at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai on Wednesday. AFP
New Delhi, Wednesday: Sourav Ganguly was one of the most astute captains ever and his move to take over the world's richest cricket body could be just another step to becoming one of India's future leaders.
Cricket's massive popularity in India has helped the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) become by far the wealthiest of all the sport's national boards, netting massive money from sponsorship and TV deals.
But it has also been embroiled in a series of scandals, including accusations of corruption and match-fixing that tarnished the Indian Premier League (IPL) -- the country's lucrative Twenty20 competition.
The only nominee to the post, Ganguly was appointed at a meeting in Mumbai, the board confirmed on Twitter.
The 47-year-old's appointment ends more than two years of a Supreme Court appointed committee overseeing the board's affairs.
Ex-chief Anurag Thakur and his number two Ajay Shirke were axed by the top court in January 2017 over their failure to enact a series of recommended reforms.
The order came after judges slapped restrictions on the BCCI's accounts in 2016 over its failure to implement changes put forward by a panel headed by a former top judge, Rajendra Mal Lodha.
The court since appointed a top anti-corruption troubleshooter, Vinod Rai, as head of a team to oversee the running of board.
He said the transfer of power has been smooth and satisfactory.
"BCCI administration could never have been better than this," Rai told reporters.
"Because you have a president who is one of our most successful captains. Our job was to implement the constitution. We got the election done as per the constitution."
A corruption and match-fixing scandal in the sixth edition of the IPL in 2013 brought about the downfall of the board's then-president Narayanaswami Srinivasan after his son-in-law was accused of betting on matches.
The elevation of Thakur and Shirke had been seen as representing a break with the past.
But the board's reluctance to implement Lodha's recommendations, which included age limits and term limits on office-bearers, had triggered a number of legal battles.
One of the most successful national captains in the sport, Ganguly promised to clean up the mess after he filed his nomination to the post last week.
But many observers see Ganguly's accession as a step closer to a key role in national politics -- a cricket god is a guaranteed vote-catcher for any party that manages to snare one.
Some reports say the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wants Ganguly to be its candidate for chief minister in his native West Bengal state in an election in two years.
He met BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah just before he emerged from backroom meetings as the only candidate to take the BCCI into its new era after more than two years being run by a Supreme Court appointed committee.
Shah's son is to be BCCI secretary in the changes.
Ganguly, who was born into a wealthy West Bengal family, was previously close to a fierce rival of the BJP -- the regional party that currently runs the state.
The talks with Shah unleashed feverish speculation.
"He seems to be very comfortable in working with a cabal that seems to have clear BJP political affiliation," Sanjay Jha, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party told NDTV television.
Nistula Hebbar, political editor with The Hindu newspaper, told AFP that Ganguly would be a top prize for the BJP.
"He is popular, iconic for Bengalis, a genuine achiever and has been above politics."
Hebbar said meeting Shah could be "just an opening gambit for greater involvement".
Ganguly was one of India's most successful captains, forging the team spirit that made the country a power in international cricket.
The "God of the Offside" retired from Tests in 2008 with 7,212 runs including 16 centuries -- one hit on his Test debut at Lords.
He began his innings as a cricket administrator after taking over as West Bengal state chief in 2015 following the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya was one of the most clever cricket politicians, having guided South Africa back into international cricket in 1991 after the end of apartheid.
Batting icon Sachin Tendulkar has no doubt that Ganguly will succeed at the BCCI.
"The way he played his cricket, the way he has gone out and served the nation, I have no doubt that he will serve in same capacity and in the same manner," Tendulkar said of his former teammate. Paceman Irfan Pathan, who made his India debut under Ganguly, also has high expectations from Dada (big brother), as he is known.
"It was a wonderful era when he was captain. He changed the mindset of the team, instilled belief and aggression," Pathan told AFP.
"A lot of people knew Ganguly as an attacking captain. But he also has great man-management skills and valued everyone -- a quality that will serve him well in BCCI."
He is not the first Test star to become BCCI leader: Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (known as Vizzy), Shivlal Yadav and Sunil Gavaskar all held the post.
But the BCCI, placed under court administration in 2017 after a string of scandals, has changed. The Indian Premier League has brought enormous new wealth and pressures in the cricket-mad country.
Riven by factions and competing business interests, Ganguly can see there is more of the mess to be cleaned up.
"It's actually an emergency as I have said before and I'm happy to get the responsibility to turn it around," Ganguly said after filing his nomination last week. AFP