Sourav Ganguly addresses the media at his first press conference as the BCCI president in Mumbai on Wednesday. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: A fair amount of thinking must have gone behind Sourav Ganguly’s decision to wear the India blazer on a day when he was formally taking charge as the 39th President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). If there was a subtle message of underlining the difference between himself and the former administrators, who had assumed the role, it also spoke about the intent with which he wanted to play his role on the hot seat — albeit for a period of 10 months.

“No compromise on credibility, corruption-free and same for all BCCI, just as I led India,” Ganguly said in his first media conference as the BCCI President at it’s General Body meeting in Mumbai. The buzz at the Cricket Centre was hard to miss as the 47-year-old, one of the most successful and iconic Indian captains became the latest incumbent to the position — which saw the Indian cricket fraternity rise as one to usher him into the role on Wednesday.

It was quite a watershed day for the richest cricket board in the world, which saw its first AGM taking place after a gap of nearly a three-year tenure of the Committee of Administrators, appointed by the Supreme Court in 2017 for implementation of Justice Lodha Committee’s recommendations to clean up the cricket administration. Welcoming Ganguly as the President, Vinod Rai, the Chairman of CoA, said: “I am exceedingly happy that a former cricketer of the stature of Ganguly, who has been one of our most successful captains has been nominated for election as President because nobody better than him understands cricket and cricket administration because he has been at CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal) for so many years. There could have been no other better person to take over is my feeling,” he said.

“I am also happy that Brijesh Patel (IPL Chairman) is there and two former players (Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy) have come into the Apex Council,” he pointed.

The unique position that Ganguly now occupies in the Indian cricket history can be gauged from the fact that only one former captain (Maharajkumar of Vizianagram) had been the full-time president of BCCI in the 1950s. The legendary Sunil Gavaskar had taken charge in an interim capacity during the 2014 IPL — under the High Court’s orders — when the match-fixing scandal shook up the board’s administration.

Ever since the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ emerged as a consensus candidate about a week back for the top job, cricket writers had been drawing a parallel with the murky backdrop under, which he took over the captaincy of the Indian team in 2000 after the match-fixing scandal had wrecked havoc on the game in India. “The situation is familiar for me when I took over the captain’s role. I find myself in a position where I can make a change and it’s a challenge,” Ganguly said on Wednesday.

The expectations are naturally sky-high and Ganguly only has 10 months as of now — unlike the six years that he was at the helm of an extraordinary team — as he has to step down after 10 months to adhere to the mandatory ‘cooling off’ period as per the Lodha recommendations. The knives will be out no sooner if he fails to deliver — and the man himself is only too well aware about it.

Laying down his priorities from Day One, Ganguly said he will speak to current skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday to frame the roadmap of the senior Indian team. “Virat Kohli is the most important man in Indian cricket, we will listen to him. Mutual respect will be there, opinions will be there,” Ganguly responded when asked whether he will be speaking to Kohli.

“I will speak to Virat Kohli tomorrow, we will support him in every possible way, whatever he wants,” he said.

Asked about the speculation surrounding the future of former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is on a sabbatical since India’s semi-final exit from the ODI World Cup earlier this year.

“Champions don’t finish very quickly. Till I am around, everybody will be respected. It’s an honour that I have been asked to take this role. It’s a new start for the BCCI,” said Ganguly.

One has to wait and watch to find out if history will be kind to Ganguly in less than a year’s time!

The challenges before Sourav Ganguly

* Money matters: A ticklish issue before the new BCCI president, Sourav Ganguly, will be to open up the channels of communication with the International Cricket Council (ICC). The board’s share from the ICC revenue will be a whopping $405 million in the 2016-2023 cycle, and his challenge will be to ensure an Income Tax exemption from the Indian government for the ICC T20 World Cup in 2021 and the World Cup in 2023. It will be interesting to see if Ganguly can pull his newfound clout with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to get the job done.

* Conflict of interest: Ganguly had been a vocal critic of the existing ‘Conflict of Interest’ rule as formulated by the Lodha Committee as some of the biggest names of Indian cricket like the President himself, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman has come under scanner due to this. “If you look at all the appointments that have happened in various forms — whether it is the NCA or CAC or the appointment of batting, fielding coaches, there has been issue with everything. Then come to commentators or IPL. This needs to be sorted as it is another very serious issue in Indian cricket,” Ganguly said.

* First class cricket: Ganguly has gone on record after assuming the chair that his priority will be to improve the lot for first class cricketers.

In the recent past, former cricketers have been vocal about the falling standards in first-class cricket. Even though the teams have increased, the facilities haven’t witnessed a change in numbers, leading to a chock-a-block calendar along with pitch issues.

— G.B.