Legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the most successful cricket captain of India, has absolutely no say in the cricketing affairs of his home state, Jharkhand, due to some incomprehensible membership rules of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA). The type of JSCA membership determines who can be part of decision-making and has the voting rights in JSCA elections and who doesn’t. Even the main cricket stadium of Jharkhand, in Ranchi, is shockingly not named after Dhoni, one of the greatest cricketers India has produced, but after one of its former presidents.
No one is arguing that Dhoni, 38, should have been given the voting rights for the 2019 JSCA elections, as current international players are not allowed to vote by the BCCI CoA. Only former international and first-class cricketers can vote in their respective home state elections. JSCA members are voting today (Sunday) to elect a new set of office-bearers, who would pick a representative to vote in the BCCI elections on October 22.
The main question being asked is: Why was Dhoni given merely an honorary membership without voting rights and not made a life member? Dhoni was inducted by the outgoing JSCA dispensation, and is among 11 persons who, as per the new JSCA constitution “…rendered distinctive service to the cause of sports in general and cricket in particular…”. But the old and the amended JSCA constitution say the honorary members “shall have no right to vote in any meetings of the Association”.
On the other hand, and equally bewildering, is the truth that some current first-class cricketers of Jharkhand have been made ‘life members’ along with the right to vote in elections. In other words, and going by the categorisation done by the JSCA, Dhoni’s achievements are ‘inferior’ to those of cricketers Varun Aaron, Saurabh Tiwary, Shahbaz Nadeem, Ishank Jaggi, Yajuvendra Krishanatry, Rahul Shukla, and Kumar Deobrat, who all are ‘life members’.
Ajay Nath Shah Deo, who has been elected JSCA vice-president unopposed in today’s elections as there was no opposition to him, admits that the Dhoni issue was raised a few years ago also, but it was soon buried. “Three years ago, there was a selection done and at the time he was [made] an honorary member only and at the time as well he had not voted [as he had no voting rights]. Last time also, some people had raised this issue. But for the JSCA members as well as MSD, this has never been an issue,” Deo claims while speaking to Outlook. “At the last AGM, they (first-class cricketers) were taken in as life members the last time and Dhoni as honorary member. At that time, nobody thought he [Dhoni] would not be able to vote or something.”
But Dhoni’s supporters alleged that it was a well thought out strategy to deny him the voting rights. “The outgoing dispensation led by Amitabh Choudhary is responsible for this mess. Honorary members are ornamental. They are not concerned with day-to-day affairs of the JSCA and they are not supposed to; they are big shots and are too busy in their own fields. They don’t contribute much to the JSCA’s decision making and regular activities. If Dhoni is made a ‘life member’, he can contribute so much in improving cricket in Jharkhand,” explained an individual member of JSCA and a Dhoni supporter.
“Was keeping Dhoni away from JSCA to deprive him a say in the decision making? Why has only a stand in the Ranchi international stadium been named after Dhoni and not the stadium itself? The main pavilion in the stadium has been named after Amitabh Choudhary, the immediate former JSCA president. Little wonder that Dhoni declined to inaugurate the stand in his name in March this year. There are many such unanswered questions. They actually fear that once Dhoni gets actively into the JSCA he would have a big say in administration and the others would be side-lined,” he said.
While no one is advocating that Dhoni should have been made an exception to the rule that bars ‘current’ international players from voting in elections, it is the logic-defying reasoning being given for ignoring Dhoni and his colossal achievements that is being questioned. After legendary Birsa Munda, Dhoni is easily the biggest personality to emerge from Jharkhand (carved out of Bihar in 2000).
Another shocking thing about the honorary members’ club, which justifiably includes former TATA Director Jamshed Jiji Irani, is that four of them are from one single company -- Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HECL), Ranchi. Four top HECL officials have been made members as the company had leased the land on which the Ranchi stadium has been built, though the Government Enterprise had later sought to terminate the lease over alleged violations of terms of the deal. According to the BCCI’s specially commissioned Deloitte Audit Report on state associations, exclusively accessed by Outlook, HECL had leased 31.70 acres land to JSCA for a Rs.15.85 crore premium. The litigation is apparently still on, but is moving slowly.
Another JSCA honorary member, Hari Gidwani, a distinguished former Bihar wicket-keeper-batsman, has been based in Delhi for many years and has been part of Delhi’s senior selection committee.
Former Bihar Ranji captain Adil Hussain, who was captain of Dhoni at the Central Coalfields Ltd. for which the youngster played on stipend in his formative years, is all for the former India captain to be honoured with JSCA’s life membership. “Dhoni should be part and parcel of the decisions that the JSCA takes,” Hussain tells Outlook.
Not just Hussain, many people in the Jharkhand cricket fraternity are asking this: ‘Why Dhoni has not been made a life member so far?’ Their argument is logical, valid, and simple: ‘He is the greatest cricketer to represent Jharkhand and the JSCA should give him the highest honour in the cricket association of his home state, not the ornamental honorary membership.”
Now, Dhoni’s legion of supporters are waiting for the day when Dhoni would retire and take a plunge into cricket administration to set things right at the JSCA.