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From IPL’s growth to the ugly sacking of Virat Kohli: The hits and misses of Sourav Ganguly’s tenure as BCCI president

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 7 minute read

Sourav Ganguly was replaced as the BCCI president on Tuesday, bringing an end to a tenure that had more misses than hits. We take a look at the highlights of the his stay at the helm.

Roger Binny, who won the World Cup as player (in 1983) and coach (of the Under-19 side in 2000) replaced Ganguly as the new president of the BCCI. In October 2019, Ganguly became the first former India captain to become a BCCI president since the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram in 1954. Ganguly’s tenure clashed with the pandemic years, which increased the challenges for the BCCI. But there was no shortage of controversies.


Increasing the brand value of the IPL

The BCCI expanded the league from eight teams to 10 from 2022. Of the two new teams, the Ahmedabad franchise (Gujarat Titans) was bought for INR 5,600 crore, while the Lucknow Super Giants went for a whopping INR 7,090 crore. For context, the most expensive team among the original eight sides was Mumbai Indians, at INR 839 crores. Even adjusting for inflation, the rise has been phenomenal.


The addition of the two new teams not only increased the brand value of the IPL, which rose by almost seven percent this year to reach USD 4.7 billion, but also saw the media rights being sold for astronomical figures. Star India won the TV rights for INR 23,575 crore for a period of five years (INR 57.5 crore per game), while Viacom18 bagged the digital rights for INR 23,758 crore.

In all, the media rights fetched an eye-popping INR 48,390 crore (USD 6.20 billion) for the five-year period from 2023. Star had won the IPL media rights from 2018-2022 for INR 16,347 previously.

Increased the salary cap of women’s and men’s domestic players

In 2020/21, the BCCI announced an increase in match fees for senior domestic players. The men with 40 matches under their belt were initially paid INR 35,000 per diem for first-class and one-day matches; that number went up to INR 60,000.

The women benefitted too. The seniors, who used to earn INR 6,250 for a Twenty20 match and INR 12,500 for a one-day game, are now getting INR 20,000 per match.

Ensured (men’s) cricket was back on track despite the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic hampered the Indian domestic season in 2020/21. The Ranji Trophy was cancelled for the first time since its inception, in 1934/35. The IPL, held regularly from 2008, was indefinitely postponed in 2020 too, but the BCCI ensured cricket was back on track soon after the world began to open up.

The IPL was moved to the UAE. The BCCI went the extra mile to set up a safe biosecure bubble for the players. They worked in tandem with the franchises, who arranged private jets to fly overseas cricketers in and out of the country. The successful hosting of IPL 2020 with players from the world assembling at one location despite trying circumstances needs to be lauded.

The Ranji Trophy was cancelled, but the BCCI ensured players did not lose out on a year of cricket, along with their salaries. They conducted the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2020/21. With 38 teams participating, logistics could have been a nightmare, but the board successfully pulled it off.


The handling of women’s cricket

Ganguly’s tenure will be remembered for how he treated the women’s game. India Women had finished runners-up in the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, and were entitled to prize money from the ICC. All the BCCI needed to do was route the money to the recipients. The BCCI had received the amount from the ICC a week after the event in March 2020, but the players were paid only in 2021, that too after media outrage. Even then, they were made to raise an invoice. It was the tip of the iceberg.

The women cricketers did not play a single game – domestic or international – for almost a year during the pandemic. As the men played in the IPL from September to November in the UAE and travelled to Australia for an extended tour, the women’s tour to the same country was cancelled due to logistical reasons.

India Women finally played an international game in March 2021, 364 days after their last appearance in that T20 World Cup final. When they did play, their match timings collided with the men’s games, with a couple of T20Is being held at the same time India Men were playing England.

In 2020/21, when the men played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the women only took the field in the Senior Women’s One Day League. Their Twenty20 league was cancelled. It was a precursor for things to come. In 2021, the IPL was halted midway due to the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 in India. The Women’s T20 Challenge, typically held during the playoffs of the men’s IPL, was postponed as well.

But while the IPL was later completed in the UAE, the women’s tournament was not held at all. It signalled the BCCI’s casual approach towards women’s cricket. The persistent delay in announcing the Women’s IPL also earned Ganguly criticism.

An increase in news leaks

As the official channels of communication dried up, news leaks to select journalists, who became the carriers of breaking news, increased. Recently, the fans got to know of Jasprit Bumrah’s injury and his potential absence from the 2022 T20 World Cup was known, not from a BCCI release, but from social media, when the president and reporters close to the board broke the news.

The lack of communication also led to the rumours and confusion. Journalists privy to the goings-on inside the BCCI floated reports surrounding Bumrah. While some suggested a stress fracture that would rule him out for six months, others put the period at six weeks. Bumrah was expected to fly with the Indian team to Australia for the World Cup but was eventually ruled out. The extent of the injury is still not known.

This is not a standalone example. The list is long.

The sacking of Virat Kohli

Perhaps the lowest point in Ganguly’s tenure was the handling of Kohli’s sacking as captain of the Indian ODI team. Kohli had stepped down as T20I captain after last year’s T20 World Cup, and was informed of his removal as ODI leader an hour before the selection meeting for the Test series in South Africa.

Ganguly claimed to have personally requested Kohli to not step down as T20I captain, something the latter denied. Ganguly later supported Kohli’s removal as ODI captain on the grounds that India should not have multiple white-ball captains, ignoring that the Mithali Raj led the women’s team in ODIs and Harmanpreet Kaur in T20Is at the same time.

The incident was soured by a lack of clarity. Most information was available via news stories based on quotes from unnamed sources inside Indian cricket, not official press releases or conferences. A reporter suggested that Kohli would opt out of the ODI series in South Africa following his removal as captain, owing to rifts with his successor Rohit Sharma. Kohli went on to refute the claims, slamming the media for “writing lies”. He went on to play the ODIs, then stepped down as Test captain following the South Africa tour.

The week following Kohli’s axing and his explosive press conference, heightened by contradictory stories led by Ganguly, was something that could have been handled privately and with greater grace.

Attended selection meetings only to deny it later

An image shared from BCCI’s official Twitter handle in 2019 suggested Ganguly attending a meeting to pick India’s squad for the Bangladesh T20I and Test series. The caption confirmed the picture was from a selection meeting.

Ganguly later attended a meeting to pick the squad for the home series against West Indies. This, too, was confirmed by a post on BCCI’s Twitter handle.

Despite the evidence, Ganguly later denied having attended any selection meetings. “I see a picture doing the rounds showing me sitting in a selection committee meeting,” he said. “I want to make it clear, that picture wasn’t from a selection committee meeting. (I have played) 424 international matches for India. Not a bad idea at times to remind people about it, isn’t it?”

As is obvious, the tweets by BCCI and their president’s version are contradictory.

Promised contracts to first-class players never saw the light of day

A few days after he was elected president, Ganguly had claimed that his “biggest priority” would be to look after first-class cricketers, and to introduce a “contract system” for them. He left his post with these promises unfulfilled.

That perhaps sums up Ganguly’s role as president. He was expected to be the messiah who would identify and rectify the drawbacks of the board and extend support to the players.

His experience of dealing with coach Greg Chappell was expected to make him compassionate towards the cricketers. He was expected to understand their concerns and fears better. Instead, his stint left Indian cricket reeling.

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