Clayton Murzello: Don't let this pass, Justice Lodha!

The Justice’s words over the need for transparency in distribution of tickets and complimentary passes will make Indian cricket cleaner

Justice RM Lodha, who is having a good effect on Indian cricket
Justice RM Lodha, who is having a good effect on Indian cricket

By wanting state associations to display transparency when it comes to ticket-selling and the distribution of complimentary passes, Justice RM Lodha has given enough evidence that he is like a dentist, who is now going beyond extractions and cleansing. And he will cause some pain.

For far too long, certain cricket associations have been guilty of putting out a limited amount of tickets for the public and keeping some of the rest to reward voters who brought them into power.

The scenes at cricket association offices before a One-day International and T20 International are as chaotic as a fish market and the inequality in distribution of seats is not always the fault of the associations. This is where the Lodha Panel’s intervention will be vital. Many a time, associations that are reluctant to part with extra complimentary passes to powerful arms that are needed to provide basic amenities during a match, are threatened with the suspension of services and those threats are never empty.

During the 2012 edition of the Indian Premier League, the Karnataka State Cricket Association reportedly offered the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) 250 passes for the Twenty20 event, but they wanted 450.

It is learnt that Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) under Justice Mukul Mudgal refused to dole out unaccounted passes and things went smoothly in the last two international games the controversial association hosted.
The judge’s presence helped in warding off the undeserving pass seekers.

In Mumbai, many a time, club cricketers complain that they do not avail of tickets from the institutions they play for because the clubs have either not applied for tickets in the fear of them being unsold (if the match in a series turns out to be a dead rubber) or they have been given out to so-called cricket fans, who are known to the club owners.

Mobin Shaikh, a former Rajasthan Sports Club wicketkeeper, who mentors Pranav Dhanawade, the schoolboy wonder, who scored 1009 in an inter-school match last year, remembers how thrilled he got each time late former Test bowler GR Sunderam, the club’s torchbearer, handed him a ticket for every international game at the Wankhede Stadium. “It was one way of showing how much the club appreciated your contribution,” said Shaikh.

I can’t stress enough how increasingly difficult it is for state associations to please everyone, but if the Lodha Panel can scrutinise the distribution of tickets/complimentary passes and scuttle any attempts of unfair acts, cricket as a public sport will be well served.

The distribution of passes to former Test players and captains too should be looked at. Why can’t former India captains be issued a badge by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which would give them access to an international or IPL game anywhere in the country? All this would involve a lot of effort — some state associations are up to it, some not — but the game has to evolve not only on the playing field but also in terms of spectatorship.

The honour and gratitude aspect should not be ignored as well. When the Wankhede Stadium was about to host the 2011 World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka, I wrote a story on retired club cricketer Ramji Dharod, who in 1975, was successful in convincing rioters not to damage the pitch during the inaugural Test (India vs West Indies) at the stadium. Dharod ran on to the field from his seat at the pavilion end of the brand new ground to stop the potential vandals. He reminded them that the then Bombay Cricket Association’s reputation was at stake and pleaded with them not to touch the pitch even though they were incensed by the fact that a young fan had been beaten up by the police for running on to the pitch to congratulate West Indies captain Clive Lloyd after his double century. The BCCI and Mumbai Cricket Association would have done well to oblige Dharod with a pass for the World Cup final after they were made aware of his noble act of 1975, but they didn’t.

Earlier this week, former treasurer Biswarup Dey accused the Sourav Ganguly-led Cricket Association of Bengal of not being transparent with the tickets/passes distribution for the January 22 India vs England one-day international at Eden Gardens. Kolkata and controversy... yet again! One of the most damaging of cricket riots took place there 50 years ago during the India vs West Indies 1966-67 Test because the tickets outnumbered the public seating capacity. There is an amusing story of how West Indies pace bowler Charlie Griffith didn’t want to risk stone-throwing mobs while being driven back to the hotel after the day’s play on January 1, 1967 was called off, so he took off by foot and ran all the way to his hotel.

In this age of checks and multi checks, it’s unlikely for a ticket-related riot to break out at a cricket ground, but who can rule out hanky-panky in association offices? This way, Justice Lodha!

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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