As Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (2008-2013), Vinod Rai oversaw major audits like that of 2G Spectrum allocation, coal mines allocation and the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. Now, as head of the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), he is trying to reform the BCCI as per the Lodha Committee recommendations. Rai spoke to Qaiser Mohammad Ali.
What made you agree to the Supreme Court’s offer to head the CoA?
When SC makes a request you have no option, but to accept it with due humility because it is a matter of privilege for a person to be picked up by the Supreme Court.
After working with the BCCI for a few months, would you say it is the most challenging task that you have undertaken in your professional career?
Not really. In my 45-year career, I have handled far more challenging assignments. But the only difficulty is that the BCCI does not seem to have a systematic or scientific structure of governance, no prescribed or uniform system of administration, and [for] rules and laws etc., the applicability does not seem to be inform. So, we [CoA] are engaged in a job of trying to make it systematic and make sure that it is subject to good governance, going forward.
What exactly was your message to BCCI’s state associations on May 6 after which they had a change of heart -- from being confrontational to being ready for negotiations with ICC on revenue sharing model?
After seeing all that what was appearing in the media and talking to some of the state associations I got the feeling that they were not very much in picture about what was happening between the BCCI and the ICC. So, they didn’t have the perspective. And I think they had not been sensitised about the issues that the BCCI was taking up. So I thought it was best for me to talk to them directly and to sensitise them about the issues that the BCCI was facing vis-à-vis the ICC. I must compliment them for the maturity they showed: once they got to know what the issues really were they realised that they had a very incorrect picture or inadequate picture about the so-called dispute between the BCCI and the ICC. The moment they got to know the true picture, all of us got on to the same page and we were on the same wavelength thereafter.
Was there not a single voice that raised doubts about what you were saying?
No. There were certainly doubts before we started the discussion, but by the time we ended with all the five zones, we were all on the same page and even the naysayers had a change of heart and they also decided that pulling out of the Champions Trophy was the most ill-advised action that they would take.
In other words, were the BCCI office-bearers not showing the true picture to the state associations?
I don’t think they had a dialogue at all. After the new model of governance was introduced by the ICC [in 2014], the BCCI had an SGM in February 2016 in which probably all the states were not introduced [to governance model] and all that the SGM discussed was the financial model. They never got down to the model of governance which was undergoing a change and which is making a change to the constitution of the ICC. It means once introduced it becomes permanent. The financial model undergoes a change every two or three years and can change once again, but governance model doesn’t change. And I don’t think that was explained to them properly.
Do you think it was deliberately not explained to them?
No, I wouldn’t say it was deliberate. I don’t think anybody just took note of the fact that there was much more to explained than this. What happens is that financial issues hit you first, and the entire attention got diverted towards that side.
Why does the BCCI need so much money when it already has Rs.5000 crore-Rs.6000 crore net worth and has good infrastructure too?
I may not subscribe to that viewpoint. For any institution, if there is revenue accruing to it for any activity performed by it, that justifiable revenue must accrue to it. So, if the BCCI deserves a certain fee or a share of that revenue, they must get it. That’s why I felt that if the BCCI was supposed to get $570 million, for example, they should get it, or if they had to get $450 million they should get it. And $293 million which was being offered was certainly very incorrect; am not saying inadequate. BCCI can always make it. But incorrect vis-à-vis other countries who also contribute to the revenues of the ICC, and seeing the share what India contributes, the BCCI deserves to get much more.
Had this meeting between the CoA and the state associations been convened earlier than May 6, a lot of negative talk could have been avoided. Isn’t it?
Certainly. A large part of it could have been avoided. But we got the feeling that there were some interested parties that were wanting to put out news items that suited their interests. But we did make an attempt to sensitise the state associations, or the least at an SGM, sometime in March, after the CoA was appointed. But they scheduled the SGM on a date I was travelling abroad. And we made a request to them to reschedule it, but they didn’t agree to that. That was the time I wanted to explain to them that ‘look, this is the factual position and any decision that you people take must be predicated on the facts that I am placing on the table for you’, because I don’t think they weren’t sensitised about them. We also gave them a presentation on the ICC financial model and we explained to them that I’ve had discussions with representatives of eight countries’ Boards. Only Zimbabwe I couldn’t meet because I was travelling, but Vikram Limaye [COA member] and Rahul Johri [BCCI CEO] met them. To all eight Boards, we proposed a win-win formula for everybody, in which the share of Indian wasn’t going down and they were going to continue getting what was a much, much higher figure. The only issue is that we all are misled by this figure of $570 million. As I explained to the state associations, $570 million is a mirage. It’s true that it was signed in 2014, but the moment it was signed protests started against it. Then the dispensation at the ICC changed [From N. Srinivasan to Shashank Manohar]. And till today we’ve not received a single dollar as against the 2014 model. And it’s claimed -- I don’t know the truth – that arms were twisted. But the moment the other countries got the opportunity…see, you can’t do anything on a long term basis under duress. They have started speaking up, so we told that it was okay, $570 million -- minus the $125 million cost they had calculated, India’s share was $445 million. Now, the present ICC chairman is offering $390 million, which is very near $445 million. In fact, we had negotiated an amount that would have been higher than $400 million, after discussing with all the states, and am still hopeful that the ICC will accept out share to be higher than, say, $400 million.
You talked about taking the middle path and told that to the BCCI state associations also, and they agreed to take that path eventually as that is a very important segment. Isn’t it?
Not so much the middle path. We are sticking to the 2014 model and I call that a mirage. Nobody is going to give us the 2014 model [revenue share]. They claim that they were made to sign it under duress. I really don’t know. But considering the fact that we got voted out 9-1 [at the ICC Executive Board meeting in April] is very evident that all the countries are arranged against India. And they have offered us $293 million. Both appear unfair. So, that’s why we said that what is reasonable is to be thrashed out and that is a dialogue or a debate we are presently having with the ICC.
How was your meeting with Mr Shashank Manohar a day before he resigned as ICC chairman on March 15?
I had a very good meeting with him, along with Vikram and Rahul, in Mumbai. We discussed for three-four hours and I must say, to his credit, that he was very fair with us and did a lot of straight talking and he put things in the right perspective for us vis-à-vis the ICC. The ICC Directors also have a viewpoint; they also have, if I can call it, a certain ego, and we keep bashing their ego all time. He put all that in perspective. After the meeting when we were leaving and he was going back to Nagpur, I told him ‘Mr Manohar, if you ever consider resigning, do consult us’. He laughed it off. But of course the next day he resigned.
Was Mr Manohar satisfied with the conversation he had with you people?
Both of us – him and us – left very satisfied and convinced about the arguments of both parties. We decided that we’ll work in a collaborative manner and ensure that both parties benefit in the long term.
There’s a perception that Mr Manohar is taking revenge because he didn’t get along with Mr N. Srinivasan and some people see Mr Manohar as an ‘anti-national’ because he is supposedly working ‘against India’. Since he is an independent ICC chairman, is it fair to level those charges against him?
I really don’t know the inter-personal relationship of members of the BCCI over the years. I’ve never followed the history of the BCCI so closely, so I can't say anything about it. But I must say one thing: The ICC model that has been derived is not the Shashank Manohar model; it’s a model that had been derived taking the other countries’ viewpoint. To a large extent, though, being Indians it would appear it is unfair to us. But to a large extent it is fair to lots of countries, and where it is not fair we’ve pointed that out to him; or the share of a certain country is much more than what they deserve we’ve very frankly pointed out to him and he has acceded to our viewpoint.
After Mr Manohar resigned, it seemed that everything would go back to square one. Later, he agreed to continue.
I don’t know about that, but we were one of the people who thought that we must persuade him to withdraw the resignation because he shares a very good rapport with all the countries and they have deep faith in him. And this deep faith is not because he is a former BCCI president or has got financial muscle or anything like that but because of the fact the he talks to them very frankly, very clearly and on even keel.
After the BCCI scrapped Champions League Twenty20 in 2015, Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya proposed a plan of earning more revenue in that two-week window in September-October. Are you aware of that model?
I heard of it but I shouldn’t be commenting on it because I don’t know it in detail. But you must realise one thing: we can’t be making our players play 300 days in a year. Body fatigue and injuries are very important; the game has become very challenging now. It’s very demanding and it’s not fair to make them play that long, just so that you can garner some revenue.
Videography: Jitender Gupta; Editing: Suraj Wadhwa
Many tax issues are confronting BCCI. Since you and Mr Vikram Limaye [Managing Director & CEO of IDFC] are best placed to tackle these tax issues, are you going to look into them and help resolve them?
We haven’t had the time to look into the tax issues in detail. We are only privy to some of the recent cases, like the Kochi IPL case [arbitration], the Stamp Act issues, a long pending arbitration issue with Sahara India, and some more recent ones. But we’ll soon look at it [old cases] and I’d very much want to set up a small group which, in about a month’s time goes into it and comes up with a report. Then we talk to all the agencies with whom these disputes are going and once and for all negotiate a settlement and close them. Otherwise, ultimately they’ll just drag and the only winners in the entire thing will be advocates.
A major issue is of double taxation where both the BCCI and its state associations pay taxes on the same income. That’s a genuine complaint.
Instead of fighting over it, we should have taken up that case with the Central government and get a dispensation for a one-time resolution on that because it’s useless fighting the government all the time.
The damning Deloitte audit reports on state associations have been distributed to them for their observations/reply. How many states have responded?
I don’t remember, so can’t say. Well, damning or otherwise…that’s why I’ve said systems have not been put in place. That’s the entire problem.
What action is going to be taken on Deloitte reports?
I will have to discuss it with the states; I don’t want to do it just now because this meeting [on May 6] was for a different purpose. But we’ll soon discuss with the states zone-wise.
It’s very clear from the Deloitte reports that all kinds of financial irregularities have happened in different states. Will the offenders in the state associations be punished at all?
I would classify it into two different parts. One is if somebody has done irregularity where malfeasance is involved. That needs to be investigated separately. But I’m more interested in the other part of it, that going forward, we give a system to the states and even for the BCCI that everything they do is put transparently on the website.
You’ve ordered an Operating Manual for the BCCI for internal controls and approval of expenses. Is it ready?
It is being worked on and I am expecting it will be ready by the end of May. After we have prepared it, we’ll give it to the [Supreme] Court to decide if it is to be made operational or not because we don’t want to enforce anything on our own. We are a court-appointed committee and ultimately it’s the court that will decide on all these issues.
Are any steps being taken to curtail BCCI’s legal expenses?
Well, I can't say we have taken any steps on that as yet because we haven’t had time to look into all this. The moment we got into it, the other issues overtook us – conducting the IPL, our issues with the ICC, players-related issues were there, the media contract etc. So, we’ve been engaged with those kinds of things.
On ICC’s instructions, the BCCI reluctantly merged the women’s wing with it in 2005, but has not provided equal status to women players on various counts. Even in the players’ share of 26 per cent from the BCCI, women have not been included till date. Does the CoA propose to rectify this anomaly and pay the arrears to women players?
We are systematising that. There has been a kind of a mismatch over there. In fact, we’ve already granted players a one-time benefit and things like that. It may not be equal to what the male players are getting, but they have been granted substantially.
What are your views on players’ association, as the Lodha Committee has recommended?
That is one aspect that I have not really not looked into in the sense the advantages of having a players’ association. But I sincerely feel that every state must look up to their former players, senior players, prominent players to mentor the teams and be in some capacity advisors to the state associations. They seem to be running in total vacuum of how the game is being played. There are cricket players and cricket administrators. There is no such thing as professional cricket administrator, unless he really understands what the game is all about and, in a large number of ways, empathises with players. The whole thing is around the player itself. Isn’t it? That’s why I do think that senior players do need to take up mentoring positions with the associations.
The senior players are not encouraged to come into cricket administration.
Both ways it has happened. Lots of legendary cricketers have become recluses. Some of them have spoken up, but are not encouraged to speak up. And some who have been very outspoken there have been attempts to put them down. Commentators can always speak, but for [BCCI] employees there’s a conflict. If you are an employee of BCCI, it’s not fair to speak on air, I agree, because first you must internally resolve what you want to say. But if you are a free commentator, why not.
BCCI’s about Rs.50 crore is stuck with Karnataka development government for purchase of land for the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
It’s not stuck; we have taken possession of the land [near Bangalore airport]. That was the one of the first things we did. And the land is probably slightly inadequate. I have a small team working on it. And we’ve approached the Karnataka government for some more land, contiguous to it. That land is available. And in the first reference, the Karnataka government has been positive on that. I am hoping that we’ll get that land also. So, we’ll get a huge chunk, maybe 500 metres by 450 metres, and that will be good for an international quality cricket academy.
What about the Rajasthan Cricket Association’s suspension issue? In 2013, RCA elected an expelled Lalit Modi as its president the got suspended.
We haven’t got into it. There are some legal issues with Rajasthan.
Ruchir Modi recently told Outlook that the RCA has requested COA to lift the ban on it.
It has not come to my notice. It will come up in one of the meetings.
When do you foresee all the state associations finally implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations?
I don’t know and I can’t put a definitive time to it, but we are hoping by the time we of the AGM, which we hope to hold in September all the state associations would have come around. And barring one or two issues I think they will accept every other issue and they will pass it. I can’t predict about the state associations, but I would very much like the CoA to wind up in October because the AGM time for the BCCI is September. After the AGM we need to win up because, hopefully, there will be no need for us to be there.
Is the CoA is showing some flexibility over one state one vote recommendation.
We are nobody to show any flexibility. All we did was that we asked the state associations: please tell us which of the issues in the reform package are hurting you the most. Then they came out with two-three issues. One of them was the one state, one vote, and the other was that we need to have five selectors instead of three at present. Then somebody talked of age [70-year upper limit] and cooling off etc. But these were the issues that were common among them. We have no mandate to show flexibility. COA’s mandate is: There are a set of reforms, you implement them. But in the course of implementation, if we find there is some issue, we’ll point that out to the court.
What has been your overall experience with the BCCI? Is it the same BCCI that you looked from outside? Have you as a person or as a professional gained something?
All of us are experienced administrators. I have been in public service for 40-45 years. We’ve seen all kinds of administrations; seen all kinds of people in administration. And I must say to the credit of civil service that the way we are trained, the experience that we gain, we can manage situations. It’s not a problem. I don’t think the BCCI is not that much of a challenge. It’s a democratic body like any other. People have talked to me about state associations being ‘captured’. Yes, certainly, if a state association or the BCCI has been run by somebody for the last 10 or 12 years, it’s not a good thing for the simple reason that over a decade fresh people, fresh ideas must come. And if I stay there for 10 years my vested interest or public interest get merged and I start perceiving from my point of view while I think it’s public’s point of view. I think that every five years or seven or ten years things must move on and people must change because I take it for granted that ‘look, if I move away the institution will collapse’. No, it has not happened to anybody anywhere. The institution is always bigger than the individual.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print