A deeply tragic event happened nearly two years ago, a freak accident that took the life of a young man who seemingly had the world ahead of him. The death of Phillip Hughes brought Australia together like few events had, and the wider cricket world joined in mourning the loss of one of their own. Given the unprecedented nature of the event, how the game dealt with the aftermath was instructive.
The spontaneous, immediate reaction was emotional, the intellectual response that followed was measured and reasoned, and the long-term impact was a tightening of regulations on the kind of helmets that were to be used in top-flight cricket. But, as Malcolm Knox, the Australian cricket writer who has spent time with the Hughes family, so eloquently points out, there has been no moving on for those closest to young Phillip.
The inquest into the events past has been deeply painful, peeling scabs and poking wounds that anyway refuse to heal. But, it was still something that had to be done. There was a legal obligation for authorities to look into the death, given the circumstances in which it occurred, and unpleasantness was unavoidable. This was a fact-finding exercise, not a fault-finding one, although it was inevitable that fingers got pointed in the course of the hearings.
But, apart from being a legal necessity, this was, as Knox points out, an exercise in soul-searching for those who were hit the hardest, and good could yet come of it.
New Delhi is as far away from Adelaide as the legal intervention in cricket is from the inquest into Hughes. As the Board of Control for Cricket in India face their biggest existential crisis since their inception in 1928, they will do well to accept certain realities.
Of all the recommendations, soon to become orders, that the Justice Lodha panel has listed, some are common sense, some are logistically difficult to implement, some may be farfetched and perhaps even overreaching. But, the question of whether the recommendations are right or wrong, good for the game or not, ais largely irrelevant, given that the highest court of the land has the authority to ensure they are implemented. Individuals in the BCCI may not like the pill that they are being asked to swallow, but they should not make the mistake of thinking they have any choice in the matter.
That the courts were forced to act was largely because of the predatory nature of power grabs in the BCCI, the labyrinthine opaqueness of the functioning of state units when it came to how they spent the funds they received and, in some cases, an unsavoury clinging to posts with all the tenacity, guile and attendant danger as poison ivy embedding itself on a perfectly good wall.
Having chosen not to introspect when the time was ripe of it, and set their house in order in a manner that would satisfy not just stakeholders in the game, but the authorities as well, the BCCI forced the hand of the courts. When officials of the Board pretended to play along with the reforms suggested, but cherry-picked what they would implement and what they would oppose, the tone of the courts went from merely sardonic to eviscerating.
While there is much good about cricket in India, and even in how it is administered, and not merely in comparison to the mess that other sports in the country are, it is a demonstrable fact that while there is incredible love for the Indian cricket team, its fans are thoroughly disgruntled with the BCCI. When India is the No. 1 Test team in the world, cricket is on the front pages of newspapers for all the wrong reasons, and this is something that should sadden every administrator who claims to be working for the good of the game.
If the courts, charged with administrative reform, end up purging the BCCI of not only the bad eggs, but also those who do selfless work for the good of the game, it would be deeply unfortunate. If the courts dismantle legitimate structures that have helped the game grow into what it is, in the process of ushering in more transparency, it would be a shame.
But one thing is evidently clear. Whatever the implications, whatever the consequences, there were several things that needed cleaning up, and when BCCI officials chose not to undertake the task themselves, it was they who invited the wrath of the courts.