Ex-top bureaucrat G.K. Pillai headed the Steering Committee that formed the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA), which was registered as a company on July 5, 2019, in Mumbai. He spoke to Qaiser Mohammad Ali on the making of the ICA. Excerpts from the interview:
You were initially appointed chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Steering Committee that was supposed to constitute the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA). Then a few committee members for some reasons left and then it was reconstituted.
This committee was set up as part of the Lodha Committee recommendations, and endorsed by the Supreme Court, where I was chairing the committee. But the other members like Anil Kumble, who became India coach, and Diana Edulji, who became a member of the CoA, and Mohinder Amarnath etc. for some reason resigned. I was the original one from the original Steering Committee. There was an informal committee set up by the CoA with Kapil Dev and others, and that has still not got the formal approval of the Supreme Court and I have been continuing as the original chairman of this committee.
It is interesting that the Supreme Court hasn’t approved it yet.
Yeah. It is lying there for the last two years.
Despite that, a historic step has been taken to set and register the ICA as a company.
We have been sort of working with the CoA’s supervision. They said that ‘okay, you go ahead’ and then we formulated the ICA by-laws etc. and we have registered the ICA as a company. Basically, my work is almost 100 per cent over. For the rest of the work in terms of the ICA elections, the Supreme Court has appointed former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami as the electoral officer to supervise the elections. He has spoken to me also and I have told him about the background and what all is to be done etc.
Somebody must have convinced Kapil Dev and Anshuman Gaekwad to join the Steering Committee.
The CoA asked them to join the committee and then the CoA made reports to the Supreme Court saying that they have substituted Amarnath, Diana, and Kumble etc. with Kapil, Bharat Reddy, Shantha Rangaswamy, and Anshuman Gaekwad and so on. That report has been lying with the Supreme Court; they have not formally approved it. Since I am the only one from the original Steering Committee approved by the Supreme Court, if any legal thing is required my approval is taken. It is still an informal committee, which doesn’t have a legal status. Since the Supreme Court has not said ‘no’ to it, it continued till the articles of the association were finalised.
What was the thought behind registering the ICA as a company, because the BCCI is registered as a society?
You can register it as a society, or as a trust, or as a company. Primarily, we thought making it a company gives it much more flexibility in terms of legal issues, and rules and regulations are in place. Also, as a company you can raise funds, take loans etc. We thought that the Company’s Act will be much more transparent than a trust or a society as you will have an AGM, Board meetings, and SEBI will also be looking at it. A company is a much more robust organisation. The company’s act is an all-India thing while a society is registered under an individual state’s Society Act, so you are bound by that state’s restrictions. And if you form a trust, say, in Delhi, it doesn’t even have a legal basis. Anybody can set up a trust. So, that is why we all decided to register the ICA as a company.
What was thought behind having Kapil Dev, Shantha Rangasawamy, and Ajit Agarkar as ICA Directors?
It is because it requires so many members to set up a company. They are just the initial Directors, once the executive committee is elected they will be like the Board of Directors of any company. Then, so many decisions will be taken at the AGM. Suppose, if you want to amend the constitution, you will have to call an AGM for that. For the other small things, the Board of Directors can take decisions. So, the three are interim Directors, till the ICA elections are held. Either they can quit or fight the elections at which the Board Directors will be elected.
How many meetings of the Steering Committee were held before you formulated the ICA and how tough or easy was forming it?
We had about 13-14 meetings. Primarily, the one issue that came up was whether the present cricketers should also be included in the ICA because most of the associations in the world have current players also. But, finally, it was not agreed that we should continue with former players for an independent voice because they will advise the BCCI about the terms of remuneration and other things for current cricketers. We have a format where the ex-cricketers in the ICA will have consultations with the current players so that the various issues that come up could be brought to the notice of the BCCI. The ICA will have two of its members in the BCCI Apex Council [to be formed] and one in the IPL Governing Council. Basically, a lot of discussion was on the eligibility for the membership of cricketers. The men’s part was not so difficult as the BCCI has for years been approving the first-class tournaments like Ranji Trophy etc. The women’s part was more difficult because the BCCI recognition for women's cricket came much later, in 2006. But the women have playing before that also, under the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI). So, we will have to go by the details of state women’s state associations. We have got some details about them, but not 100 per cent. And when the names of all former cricketers come up, we will put them on the BCCI website, it will be given wide publicity, and we will be inviting applications for membership. We will give 30 days’ time to people to make any objections, whether so and so is eligible or not. There is a membership fee, too. There will be press releases to the state associations and for the general public. There’s a committee that will look into the objections and once the list is finalised then the elections will be held; it will be e-electronic elections as ex-cricketers are spread all over India. Once the ICA Executive Committee is formed, the representatives to the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council are finalised, then of course it will be in the hands of former cricketers to decide any further changes to the amendments to the articles of the association etc. That is how the next process will continue.
On what aspect of the ICA membership would you be asking the people to make objections, if any?
We have put up a criteria. So, if somebody says he or she has played three Tests, or five Tests or whatever, and if somebody objects to it, especially in women’s cricket, this committee will then look into it. Now, a third category has come up because there is a World Cup for disabled cricketers. So, disabled cricketers are also included for the membership and there is a certain criteria for them to ICA members. It is going to be a little difficult in the initial phase. But some decision will be taken and later it will all be sorted out with regard to the disabled cricketers and international matches and so on. That’s going to be the next phase. For the other cricketers, some have been recognised by the BCCI and some get the monthly pension from the Board. We have anticipated that there will be around 8,000 people at the ICA AGM. From all available information, there will be roughly 4,000 to 5,000 men cricketers, about 3,000 will be women, and 100-odd – or, maybe a few hundreds -- will be the disabled cricketers.
Where did the objection for including current players in the ICA come from?
The objection comes from the original Lodha Committee report. It said that since the ICA is going to look after the interest of the [current] cricketers, they should not be members as that will be vested interest. But this will be further discussed when two ICA members will be on the BCCI Apex Council. So, we have followed the Lodha Committee recommendations, because if you go against those recommendations, you will have to again go to the Supreme Court and it will have to take a view etc. Inclusion of current cricketers in the ICA is a matter that can be taken up subsequently by the ICA, if they feel it. But we have recommended that they will consult the current cricketers because there are lots of technical issues that the current cricketers face. So, the ICA will informally consult the current Test and ODI players etc to know the issues and problems they are facing on technical ruling issues and remuneration and others.
Since some of the old/retired cricketers are in very poor financial condition as money was very less in old days, will the ICA be allowed to general funds to help them?
The ICA will have two members in the BCCI and with that representation they will lobby within the Board to enhance the remuneration etc. And for the first two years the ICA will get, apart from the membership fee [from cricketers], a certain grant from the BCCI so that they could have an office and recruit some staff etc., independent from the BCCI. Since the ICA is registered a company, it will have its own Board of Directors and will be completely different from the BCCI.
A shorter, edited version of this appeared in print