BCCI steps in to ease ECB concerns over tour

Ajay Shirke (left) was removed from the post of BCCI secretary by the Supreme Court on January 2 © AFP

Ajay Shirke, who was removed as BCCI secretary by the Supreme Court of India, had expressed “concerns” to ECB president Giles Clarke over the BCCI’s ability to host the limited-overs series against England, despite no longer holding office in the Indian board.

On January 6, four days after the court ordered Shirke and BCCI president Anurag Thakur to give up their posts with immediate effect because they had impeded the implementation of the Lodha Committee’s recommendations, Clarke wrote to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri about phone conversations he had with Shirke.

In his email, which ESPNcricinfo has seen, Clarke did not indicate when he received the calls from Shirke but referred to him as not being secretary any longer.

“I have received calls from Mr Shirke who I understand is no longer the Honorary Secretary of BCCI,” Clarke wrote. “Can you please confirm to me that the England team will continue to be looked after by the BCCI in the usual fashion, with proper security, player daily allowance payments, hotel bills covered and the like, with transport organised at all times.

“Obviously it is entirely a matter for BCCI where matches are played, but please advise soonest that the schedule will be adhered to, or any changes.”

Johri replied the same day and assured the ECB that the series would go ahead as planned and that the England squad had “arrived and settled well.”

“The BCCI has announced the teams for the warm-up matches, the ODIs and the T20 matches, the ticket sales for which have kicked off with the first game sold out, as of last week,” Johri wrote.

The venue of the first ODI between India and England on January 15 is incidentally Pune, where Shirke was president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) for more than nine years. Apart from losing his post as BCCI secretary, Shirke was also unable to continue as MCA president after the court order on January 2 because his term had exceeded the Lodha Committee’s nine-year cap on tenure for BCCI and state office bearers.

MCA officials confirmed to ESPNcricnfo that tickets had been sold out nearly three weeks before the match.

Johri also told Clarke that the remaining five venues had confirmed hosting the matches. His email stated the BCCI was in control of the situation and that he would oversee the process.

“The other venues have shown similar uptake in anticipation of an exciting contest between our teams. As you must have followed, the Supreme Court has delivered their verdict early this week, and we are expected to work with the court-appointed administrators, who will be appointed by the 19th of this month and till such time, we are making every effort to ensure that the matches live up to the expectations of all our stakeholders, including ECB.

“We have been in touch with all the hosting centres and they have expressed confidence that the games will be managed successfully, just like always, and as on date, we do not anticipate any form of disruption to the series. Rest assured, I will personally monitor the series as it unfolds and will keep you posted on the progress.”

In another email on January 7, Johri asked Clarke to divulge what Shirke had “communicated” in his “calls” in order for BCCI to “assuage any other concerns” the ECB may have.

Clarke replied: “His concern was the BCCI and relevant association having funds and expertise to manage security and safety of our players, and transport, allowances, all usual issues for a tour.”

In the email chain, ECB chairman Colin Graves also acknowledged Johri’s assurances.

Clarke declined to comment on the exchange when contacted. “I am not going to make any comment,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “I don’t even know what this is.”

Shirke would not confirm whether he had made the call to Clarke and did not comment on the email exchange either. “I have no comments to offer,” he told ESPNcricinfo. Shirke said that people with “obvious malicious and vested” interests were trying to suggest that he was trying to scupper the Pune ODI.

“I have got messages from some people in the media that we are obstructing the match (from taking place),” he said. “This is a record opportunity for MCA: my gate collection is INR 6.2 crore and my in-stadia sales is INR 2.2 [crore]. So we have got a total collection of about INR 8.5 crore.”

With regard to funds for the associations hosting the matches, on December 7 the court had approved a maximum of INR 25 lakh for each state hosting the three ODIs and three T20Is. The court had rejected the BCCI’s request to release INR 3.79 crore as advance for the limited-overs series.

On January 7, Shirke along with other longstanding office bearers of the BCCI and state associations who were removed by the court order on January 2, had an informal meeting in Bangalore to discuss their next step. That meeting had been called by former BCCI president N Srinivasan and included about 24 state associations.

The Lodha Committee was formed in January 2015 to determine appropriate punishments for some of the officials involved in the 2013 IPL corruption scandal, and also to propose changes to streamline the BCCI, reform its functioning, prevent sporting fraud and conflict of interest.

In January 2016, the committee released its report, which recommended an exhaustive overhaul of the BCCI’s governance and administrative structures. On July 18, the Supreme Court of India approved the majority of the recommendations and directed the Lodha Committee to supervise the BCCI’s implementations of the same. However, despite the Lodha Committee laying out timelines and other directives, the board did not cooperate because it said that its state associations objected to the recommendations. This impasse eventually led to the Supreme Court removing Thakur and Shirke from office on January 2, 2017.


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