It is said that the new broom sweeps clean. But in this case, it is the oldest hand that has proven most firm.
© Economic Times

In 1980, Robert Benton won two Academy Awards, for direction and best adapted screenplay. But even he would not have anticipated just how inspiring his movie’s title would be, decades down the line. Kramer vs. Kramer won a total of five Academy Awards that year.

The faithful manner in which life has imitated art in the past week is nothing short of stunning.

In Uttar Pradesh, you had Yadav vs Yadav, Akhilesh and Mulayam with a few more Yadavs thrown in for good measure. In Tamil Nadu it was Sasikala v Sasikala, the newly anointed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader, Natarajan, taking on the expelled member of Parliament, Pushpa.

And, finally, the greatest mismatch of them all, Thakur vs Thakur, a no-contest from the beginning ending with the officer of the Supreme Court summarily crushing the ambitions of the man who (incorrectly) laid claim to being the youngest president of the cricket board.

Anurag Thakur, a sitting MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), could still be facing action over perjury charges. But long before that, he is faced with serious introspection on the company he kept in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the years.

It was not that long ago that Anurag and Shashank Manohar got together to overthrow N Srinivasan. An enemy of an enemy may be considered a friend. But that friendship only lasts the lifetime of the cause that brought the two together. Today, Manohar, having washed his hands of the BCCI at its greatest hour of need, is the very same chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) that filed an affidavit with the courts that sealed Anurag’s fate.

When Manohar was the president of the BCCI, it was his stance that oversight of Indian cricket by governmental agencies — such as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) — into finance could leave the BCCI open to being construed as not being an independent body.

This is something the ICC constitution talks about in black and white, and historically has acted against the boards of countries that failed to live up to standards of independence from the governments of their countries.

When Anurag asked Manohar for a letter from the ICC confirming the same — and he denies having done so —Manohar did not merely decline, he swore before the courts that this was true, offering up other witnesses and an email to back himself up.

Had Anurag worded his missive differently, seeking clarification, on an issue where Manohar already expressed his opinion — albeit in a different capacity — perhaps things might have been different.

But while Anurag may not have considered his relationship with Manohar to be the same as it was when they hunted together, he certainly did not believe it had deteriorated to the extent that Manohar would go out of his way to inflict damage, even if he was not eager to help.

Anurag may also have mistakenly believed that Manohar would still have the interests of the BCCI at heart, even as he warmed a chair in the Dubai offices of the global body. But clearly, that has not been the case.

While the removal of Anurag as BCCI president, and Ajay Shirke as BCCI secretary, clearly shows how the courts feel about certain individuals, it is also as clear a warning to those who will take their places: implement every single recommendation of the Justice R M Lodha Panel or face the same fate. While it may not be the intention of the courts to dismantle the structure that the BCCI was built on, this is exactly what has been achieved.

Positions of power and responsibility that were once so sought after that some of the biggest businessmen in the country wanted a slice of the pie, and politicians across party lines put aside differences to form alliances in administration that would be impossible in their day jobs, have now been reduced to punishment postings. Who would want to take on a job where their every action would antagonise the very state associations that nurtured them and gave them the chance to grow into bigger roles?

Who would want to take on a task where any slip up — or perceived inaction — could cause an already irate judge to issue marching orders?

The year has begun badly for officials of the BCCI. But it is fair to assume that the sky has not fallen on Indian cricket. The game will continue to thrive, around a team that is on top of the world, through a fan base that has less love for the BCCI administrators than some judges, albeit in a future that is less than certain.

It is said that the new broom sweeps clean. But in this case, it is the oldest hand that has proven most firm. As Justice T S Thakur, the 43rd Chief Justice of India, hangs up his robe, he has ensured that Indian cricket will remember the name Thakur for a long time. And no, not an Anurag by the same name who once ruled the roost.

(This column first appeared in the Economic Times on January 3, 2017)