The Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) is in the news for all the wrong reasons these days, courtesy their spat with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The short of it is that the BCCI has suspended the RCA after former Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman Lalit Modi was announced as its elected president. But what led to this is a little longer.
The RCA’s rise to glory and its subsequent downfall has all the elements of a Bollywood drama.
This was the same state from where Lalit Modi launched his dream of making it big in the BCCI, in 2005. To his credit, within 6 months of being elected as the head, he not only set up an international stadium but also a world-class academy. But, in the end, the politics and power of the BCCI became his Waterloo.
Modi was followed by Sanjay Dixit – who barely remained in office for nine months – and was ousted by CP Joshi in 2009. Dixit’s downfall was engineered by Modi, who had made it difficult for him to work freely. The final nail in the coffin was when in 2009 an One Day International (ODI) against Australia was shifted from Jaipur to Vadodra. This divide led to the Rajasthan government making a committee in which Joshi, whose Congress government was in power, became the president and Dixit his secretary.
Joshi had no interest in cricket; it was evident from the fact that when a player asked Joshi if he could do something for Rajasthan’s performers at the national level, he asked him to fax the request to him.
After passing an order that made Dixit’s role as a secretary virtually redundant, Joshi went on to replace him with his choice, KK Sharma. This led to Dixit aligning with Modi giving new dimensions to the saying “Enemy of an enemy is a friend’.
The reason Modi could come to power in 2005 was due to the rule passed by the Rajasthan government that abolished the voting rights of individual members and allowed only the district associations to vote during elections. This led to the removal of Kishore Rungta, whose family had ruled the RCA for 32 years.
What surprises everyone is that Rajasthan won the Ranji Trophy twice during Joshi’s presidential stay, but insiders credit it to the effort put in by Dixit. The subsequent detachment of the RCA from sporting affairs led to many promising youngsters from Rajasthan like Pankaj Singh, Deepak Chahar, Robin Bist, etc., missing out on chances to play for India A or the national team.
BCCI had expelled Modi in September last year after he was found “guilty of committing acts of serious misconduct and indiscipline” and added that “he shall not in future be entitled to hold any position or office, or be admitted in any Committee or any member or associate member of the board”. This made him ineligible for the RCA elections, but he took advantage of the fact that the association is governed by the Rajasthan Sports Act to nominate himself.
The polls were conducted in January under the observation of former Justice of Supreme Court NM Kaliswal, but the results were sealed pending judicial proceedings and were declared in May.
As expected, Modi was declared the winner and the BCCI responded immediately by suspending the RCA under Rule 32(vii). BCCI also formed an ad-hoc committee to take care of cricket in Rajasthan.
The players’ dilemma
Amidst all this power struggle, the players are left in a lurch. There are talks of making them play under the BCCI banner, but nothing has been finalized as yet. Two other teams of Bihar and Uttarakhand are also to be assembled in this.
The Board also has a provision if the players want to turn professional and switch to other associations, but they are hesitant to do so since they can never be sure of what turns this issue can take and where the ditching of their state association will lead them to. And also for some of them, playing for Rajasthan remains their first priority.
The BCCI stands firm on its suspension of the RCA, with their domestic programs covering all categories not mentioning Rajasthan. The BCCI insist they have “kept a slot open [for them] and will be finalized depending on government and internal board decision.” Meanwhile, the deputy president of RCA, Mehmood Abdi, a staunch Modi supporter, has said that the RCA is on the verge of announcing teams for various tournaments.
While the RCA has played it down as a “PR exercise” when it was not allowed to be represented in the central zone meeting organized to finalize venues for zonal age group tournaments, this sidelining has not been lost on the players.
That Lalit Modi, the linchpin of this spectacle, has not even spoken to the players or tried to explain the situation to them has only made matters worse. He has developed a hostile attitude towards any attempts and wants to use this as a platform to re-launch himself in the Indian cricketing circuit. This dream looks ambitious, though, with the BCCI being headed by N Srinivasan, Modi’s arch nemesis, and unachievable.
On 20 September, a meeting was held between the RCA and the BCCI officials, but it is understood that they didn’t even touch on the topic of the Rajasthan’s cricketers’ participation in the forthcoming season. They may come to a conclusion sooner or later, but one thing is certain that the only ones who will lose anything in this are the players. The loss of a whole season will mean the loss of financial income, as well as hampering their chances of representing the country.
The future of the players hangs in the balance as the big bosses nurse their egos playing these petty games.
Nothing describes this better than the George RR Martin quote: “It is being common-born that is dangerous when the great lords play their game of thrones”