Anurag Thakur sees opportunity in Lodha recommendations' challenge

Newly-elected President Anurag Thakur on Sunday vowed to carry on the reforms process in the BCCI, insisting that the Board would not run away from implementing the 'practical' recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Committee.

Anurag Thakur
Anurag Thakur. Pic/ AFP

Addressing the media after taking over unopposed as the BCCI President, Thakur faced a barrage of queries on the recommendations which have been resisted by the Board so far.

The 41-year-old, who is the second youngest BCCI President, said he is prepared to confront the situation head on. "Where there is a challenge, there is an opportunity, it all depends on one's perspective. I see an opportunity that this is the time to deliver," asserted Thakur when asked whether he is prepared for the turbulent times ahead given the sweeping reforms recommended by the apex court's panel.

"We are not running away from Lodha committee recommendations but we are in favour of using recommendations which are practical. We have already done reforms much before Lodha Committee recommendations. We understand our responsibility towards the most popular sport in the country," he said.

Yesterday, his predecessor and ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar had stated that the Indian Board had already implemented 75 per cent of the Lodha panel's recommendations for sweeping reforms but had reservations on a few which, he felt, were not good for the game. Thakur echoed the sentiment and insisted that the BCCI has always run as a professional body even though no institution can claim to be perfectly run.

"I am grateful to Mr Manohar for expressing his views. He is a seasoned administrator. He has also expressed that how 100 per cent implementation of recommendations won't be feasible. "The world knows how effectively run our Board is. We have tried to mend our ways. There are always areas to improve," he said.

Besides the issue of reforms, the BCCI was also pushed on the backfoot when a slew of PILs led to shifting of matches out of drought-hit Maharashtra. Thakur announced a series of measures including allocation of Rs 100 Cr for rain-water harvesting in stadiums.

The reforms set to be undertaken by the board in sync with SC-appointed committee. "Keeping in mind the environmental conditions, BCCI plans to undertake a 'Green Initiative'. We plan to have Solar Panels for rain-water harvesting and treatment of sewage water in the newly built stadiums. We have set the deadline for one year and Rs 100 crore has been allocated for this purpose," Thakur told reporters.

The idea was discussed after BCCI were forced to move 12 IPL matches from drought-hit Maharashtra when NGOs filed PILs on lakhs of litres of water being wasted for maintenance of the grounds in general.

Thakur also announced that an amount of Rs 5 crore corpus has been created for the next year to help the visually challenged as well deaf and dumb cricketers. This is in line with one of the Lodha Panel recommendations of BCCI's duty towards integrating the physically challenged cricketers into their system.

Thakur said: "A minimum of 10 percent seats will be allocated for specially-abled persons, school students and girls. We have told the state associations to have proper numbering of their seats to make it more spectator friendly.

There will be seats earmarked for the physically challenged persons also." After the appointment of Rahul Johri as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thakur today announced the former TataSons Vice-president Santosh Rangnekar as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

The new Board chief also said that state associations have been told to be more active on social networking sites like Facebook, twitter and also have websites with updated information to engage with the fans.

The Central Contract System for women cricketers was another step in right direction, felt Thakur and he has sought a comprehensive report on the implementation part within a month.

Thakur also spoke about having a "Coaching App". "There are thousands of cricket academies across length and breadth of India which do not have access to state of the art coaching facilities. We are speaking to our Information Technology team if we can develop a 'Coaching App'. Now 70 percent are smart phone users and they can download the App," said Thakur.

Asked about the shifting of IPL games from Maharashtra and whether the cash-rich league would be played overseas due to the problems it faced this year, Thakur said the BCCI was more than willing to contribute to water conservation but the onus was on the government to provide drinking water to everyone.

"We are not government, we are only a cricket body. We should understand what IPL brings to the country. It's a platform where talent meets opportunity. We generate hundreds of crores of revenue every year. Why should it go out of the country? Who is forcing us?" he asked.

"The initiative to provide drinking water should be taken up by government. We are trying our best (to help) and the green initiatives we have taken will help. (But) it's not feasible to change 15 matches at the last moment. We don't want to take water from anyone. We are more than happy to
contribute. Don't put blame on cricket. We want to contribute."

Thirteen IPL matches in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur had to be shifted out of the state following a High Court order on a PIL filed on water conservation.

Thakur dismissed suggestions that IPL would be independent of BCCI at any time in the future. "IPL is one of the domestic tournaments of BCCI. With fresh appointments as CEO and CFO we have strengthened the administrative set up. If need be, we will hire more people, BCCI can afford to hire more people. If you look at the twitter report, the fastest growing league is IPL which is a great achievement of BCCI," he said.

To a question on the impact of the recommended ban on TV advertisements in between overs in a cricket game, Thakur said that the biggest revenue for the Board comes from these.

"The greatest revenue comes from home series and from advertisement from where you pay team members and state associations for creating infrastructure in India. Only in cricket the sports infrastructure is created by BCCI itself.

For other games it's created by the government. "We don't take a penny from the government. Look at the one time-payment (to retired cricketers) or the monthly pension scheme). Where does the money come from (for these)? If you are to block it who will suffer? The overall cricket will suffer," he said.

"In newspapers, there's advertisement in between IPL reports. Are you going to ban that?" he wondered. Both Thakur and newly-elected secretary Ajay Shirke refused to answer questions on the cooling off period recommended by the Lodha Committee for office bearers.

"The matter is in court. As office bearers of the BCCI we won't be able to comment on it," said Thakur. "The President has already answered the question. It will be only fair to respond when the judgement of Supreme Court comes," said Shirke.

"My personal opinion won't matter today, the matter is in court. We all have faith in our judicial system. I am sure in the interest of game of cricket, they will make the right decision, we should not jump (the gun) now," said Thakur when asked about the one state one vote proposed by the Lodha

Thakur said he shares a comfortable working relationship with Shirke, who was treasurer when N Srinivasan was the BCCI chief.

"Mr Shirke is a very dear friend. I am comfortable working with him. We have worked before when Mr Srinivasan was the president, I don't see a reason why we can't do so again.

"If you look at the (current) BCCI office-bearers, we have one of the youngest team we have ever had. I think it's a good group of youngsters who can do well," he said confidently.

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