India's powerful board elects Thakur president

Published May 22, 2016
Thakur was the sole nomination on Sunday for the top post — AFP/File
Thakur was the sole nomination on Sunday for the top post — AFP/File

MUMBAI: Lawmaker Anurag Thakur was elected on Sunday as the youngest-ever head of India's embattled cricket board, charged with reforming one of the most powerful organisations in world sport.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) posted pictures on Twitter of its members congratulating the 41-year-old Thakur after electing him to the presidency at a meeting in Mumbai.

“Congratulations Mr. President,” the BCCI said in a tweet, posting a picture of Thakur shaking hands with members at the meeting. A BCCI spokesman also confirmed the appointment.

Thakur, who is a member of parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, succeeds Shashank Manohar.

Thakur issued a warning to former Pakistan T20 skipper Shahid Afridi for 'issuing a political statement' during the toss before the ICC World T20 group-stage contest between Pakistan and New Zealand earlier this year.

“We have a lot of support today. A lot of people from Kashmir have also come to support us,” Afridi had said, prompting the BCCI secretary to go public in condemnation of his words.

Manohar stepped down earlier this month to become the first independent chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Thakur, who was secretary of the cash-rich BCCI, was the sole nomination on Sunday for the top post, seen by many as the most powerful in global cricket.

The board benefits from huge TV deals that allow it effectively to run the world governing body the — ICC — along with its allies, Australia and England.

However under reforms that Manohar had himself supported, it is no longer possible to be both ICC chairman and to head the national board of a member country.

Manohar had been serving as head of the ICC in his role as president of the BCCI in line with the organisation's previous system of rotating chairmanships.

But under the reforms, the ICC has amended its constitution to bring in direct elections for the position. It will now be officially an independent post, a move designed to ensure the incumbent no longer feels obliged to promote his own country's interests.

Thakur will have his hands full as the BCCI is under enormous pressure to introduce reforms after being tarnished by scandals including accusations of corruption and match-fixing in the glitzy Indian Premier League.

In the wake of those scandals, the Supreme Court ordered a retired judge to draw up a report on the BCCI's governance to try to avoid future conflicts of interest.

Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha's report recommended the BCCI introduce age limits for its office-bearers and a ban on television adverts between overs during live broadcasts.

Manohar quit the BCCI presidency, saying the reforms were not in the BCCI's best interests and he felt he could no longer carry on in his role.

On Saturday he told reporters that the recommendations on no adverts between overs “would destroy the financial structure” of the BCCI. “The board revenue would come down drastically to about 15 percent of what it is getting today,” he told Indian media.

Thakur, a three-time MP in Himachal Pradesh state, has been involved with the BCCI since he was elected president of his state association aged just 25.

Last year he pipped the incumbent to the secretary's post by a single vote.

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