Gujarat to Bengal to Delhi: Who runs cricket in India? In many cases, depends on who your father is

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Mahanaaryaman Scindia, son of Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia, was appointed vice-president of the Gwalior Division Cricket Association early this month. At a time when dynasty isn’t exactly a badge of political honour and when cricket’s playing field looks more level than ever, this hardly raised any eyebrows.

For, it was true to Indian cricket board’s age-old tradition: a son following his influential father’s footsteps in cricket’s administration.

Indeed, over a third of the 38 full members of the BCCI today include, at the top, sons or relatives of former officials and of powerful politicians — the highest-ever in the board’s history.

“Never have there been so many associations that are ruled by families,” said a veteran BCCI official on the condition of anonymity.

This despite red flags waved by the Supreme Court-appointed RM Lodha Committee. Framing the new BCCI constitution way back in 2016, it had underlined: “In some states all members are from a few families or a single family, thereby perpetuating the control over cricket in the hands of a few.” It put an age cap, 70 years, and a three-year cooling off after a six-year term for administrators thus setting the stage for some fathers to hand over to their sons.

Consider:

* Jay Shah: BCCI secretary, Former Gujarat Cricket Association joint-secretary. Father: Amit Shah, former GCA president and Union Home Minister.

* Arun Dhumal: BCCI treasurer; Brother: Anurag Thakur, former BCCI president & Union I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports minister.

* Mahanaaryaman Scindia: Gwalior Division Cricket Association (GDCA) vice-president; Father: Jyotiraditya Scindia, former president, MP Cricket Association; president, Chambal Division Cricket Association.

* Dhanraj Nathwani: Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) vice-president; Father: Parimal Nathwani, former GCA vice-president.

* Pranav Amin: Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) president; Father: Chirayu Amin, former BCA president and Ex-interim IPL chairman.

* Ajit Lele: Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) secretary; Father: Late Jaywant Lele, former BCA & BCCI secretary

* Jaydev Shah: Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) president; Father: Niranjan Shah, former SCA & BCCI secretary.

* Avishek Dalmiya: Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president; Father: Late Jagmohan Dalmiya, former CAB, BCCI, ICC president.

* Sourav Ganguly: BCCI president; Brother Snehasish Ganguly is Honorary Secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal; uncle Debasish Ganguly is the treasurer. Ganguly held the posts of secretary and president at CAB before his elevation to the BCCI.

* Rohan Jaitley: Delhi & District Cricket Association president; Father: Late Arun Jaitley, former DDCA president, IPL Governing Council member.

* Adwait Manohar: Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) president; Father: Shashank Manohar, former VCA, BCCI, ICC president.

* Sanjay Behera: Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) secretary; Father: Ashirbad Behera, former OCA secretary.

* Mahim Verma: Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) secretary: Father: PC Verma, former CAU secretary.

* Nidhipati Singhania, JK Group: UP Cricket Association (UPCA) president; Uncle: Late Yadupati Singhania, former UPCA president.

* Vipul Phadke: Goa Cricket Association (GCA) secretary; Father: Vinod Phadke, former GCA secretary.

* Kechangulie Rio: Nagaland Cricket Association (NCA) president; Father: Neiphiu Rio, former NCA president & Nagaland Chief Minister.

On paper, the road to these posts is via an election in each unit. But that’s just on paper. In practice, the transfer of power to the next generation is “smooth” since the veteran administrators (read fathers) have formed tight coteries around them.

For years, they decided on all key appointments in their units so they influence voters in districts, clubs or individual members. “Most units were run like private clubs, it was tough for any outsiders to get in,” says a veteran BCCI hand.

When sons and relatives of powerful politicians entered the fray, sometimes the old dynasty had to make way. For example, Rajasthan’s Congress CM Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot is in charge of cricket in the state.

In MP, dynasty and political power in cricket management run parallel. According to Prasanth Mehta, president of the Gwalior Division, Mahanaaryaman’s appointment had Jyotiraditya’s approval.

“The House elects the president, and the president is authorised to appoint the managing committee. Jyotiraditya Scindia was elected president (Gwalior) but he declined and then he gave it (post) to me. Then he made the managing committee with Mahanaaryaman as the vice-president. Jyotiraditya is patron of the Gwalior Division and president of the Chambal Division,” Mehta told The Indian Express.

Jay Shah was the Gujarat Cricket Association joint secretary before he became BCCI secretary. His father was GCA president.

Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) has former Ranji captain Jaydev Shah as the president. His father Niranjan Shah was an SCA secretary for four decades and held the same post in the BCCI.

When contacted, Niranjan Shah defended passing the baton within the family. “Who can stop anyone from standing for elections? If a person is a capable administrator and has love for the game does it matter if the person is related to a former official? I have been retired because of Lodha Committee rules. But an institution that has been built over the years should not go into the wrong hands. My son is a first-class cricketer, has his own identity and wants to promote cricket,” Niranjan Shah said.

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