India's top court sacks BCCI chief

Anurag Thakur: It was not a personal battle. It was a battle for the autonomy of the BCCI. (Reuters)
Updated 02 January 2017
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India's top court sacks BCCI chief

NEW DELHI: Judges ordered the dismissal Monday of the Indian cricket board's president over the failure to enact a series of recommended reforms, plunging the game's most powerful body into turmoil.
In a shock ruling, a panel of Supreme Court judges said Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Anurag Thakur and its No.2 Ajay Shirke must stand down immediately.
Thakur said he would respect the decision, while voicing bitterness at the court for siding with a retired judge who had been demanding the shake-up in the BCCI's governance.
"The Supreme Court passes an order directing the BCCI president and secretary to desist from any board functions from hereon," said the ruling.
The order comes after judges slapped restrictions on the BCCI's accounts last year over its failure to implement a series of reforms recommended by a panel headed by a former top judge, Rajendra Mal Lodha.
Cricket's massive popularity in India has helped the BCCI become by far the wealthiest of all of the sport's national boards, netting massive money from sponsorship and TV deals.
But it has also been embroiled in a series of scandals, including accusations of corruption and match-fixing that tarnished the Indian Premier League (IPL) -- the board's lucrative Twenty20 competition.
A corruption and match-fixing scandal in the sixth edition of the IPL in 2013 brought about the downfall of the board's then-president Narayanaswami Srinivasan after his son-in-law was accused of betting on matches.
The elevation of Thakur and Shirke had been seen as representing a break with the past.
But the board's reluctance to implement Lodha's recommendations, which included age limits and term limits on office-bearers, had triggered a number of legal battles.
The recent series against England was nearly cancelled on the eve of the first Test as a result of the funding restrictions.
In a video message posted on social media, Thakur indicated he would abide by the verdict while expressing bitterness at the decision.
"For me, it was not a personal battle. It was a battle for the autonomy of the sports body," said Thakur, who is a lawmaker for India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
"I respect the Supreme Court as any citizen should. Supreme Court judges feel that BCCI could do better under retired judges, I wish them all the best. I am sure Indian cricket will do well under their guidance."
Lodha said Thakur's removal was an inevitable consequence of the board's foot-dragging.
"One should understand that when the order of the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of the land, has come, it has to be obeyed by all. It is the law of the land. Nobody can escape it," Lodha told reporters.
The judges also ordered Thakur to explain why he allegedly lied on oath about seeking a letter from the International Cricket Council stating that Lodha's recommendations amounted to government interference. They threatened to charge him with perjury and contempt of court.
Thakur, who has until Jan. 19 to reply to the contempt notice, only took over as head of the BCCI in May 2016.
But he had been effectively running the board for much of the previous year as secretary as a result of the illnesses and absences of his superiors.
Thakur said the game's administration and development had been at "its very best" under his stewardship.
"India has the best cricket infrastructure, built and maintained by the state associations with the help of BCCI," he said. "India has more quality players than anywhere in the world."
India, the world's number one-ranked Test team, is in the middle of a busy season, with England due to play a one-day series later this month ahead of tours by Australia and Bangladesh.
Veteran commentator Ayaz Memon said the turmoil should not have an impact on the field but important issues would remain up in the air until a new leadership team is put in place.
"It's not just hosting of the IPL but there are broadcast rights and so many other things," he said.
Cricket writer Prem Panicker agreed that the players would be unaffected.
"They will go about their business as usual," he said.


“Captain fantastic” Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

Updated 21 min 19 sec ago
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“Captain fantastic” Harry Kane to the rescue as England beat Tunisia at the death

  • Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner
  • England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes

VOLGOGRAD, Russia: Captain Harry Kane came to the rescue with two goals, the second a dramatic injury-time winner, as England began their World Cup Group G campaign with a stuttering 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s men almost paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half chances when Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi slotted home a softly-awarded penalty 20 minutes before half-time.
And the north Africans were still level as the game went past the 90-minute mark.
But Harry Maguire won a header from a corner and Kane was on hand at the far post to nod in the winner before being mobbed by his ecstatic teammates.
“I’m so proud of the lads,” Kane said. “They kept going, kept going to the last second.
“I am absolutely buzzing, everyone on the staff is. It shows good character to get the job done.”
England had started brightly in a blur of passing and movement and could have been two goals up inside the first four minutes.
First Jordan Henderson’s lofted first-time pass released Dele Alli and when the ball eventually broke to Jesse Lingard he saw his shot from six yards saved by the outstretched left boot of Mouez Hassen in the Tunisia goal.
Kane had been kept quiet in the opening salvos but he exploded into action in the 11th minute when he cut inside from the left and saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner.
Ashley Young delivered the set piece for John Stones to rise highest and meet with a powerful header. Hassen saved acrobatically but Kane was on hand to tap home the rebound with his right foot and open his World Cup account.
Hassen, who had injured his left shoulder making an earlier save, could not continue and left the field in tears as he was replaced in goal by Farouk Ben Mustapha.
England continued to press and were made to pay for not converting a succession of chances when they conceded a soft penalty.
Kyle Walker swung a lazy arm across Fakhreddine Ben Youssef who fell as if poleaxed and Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the spot, with his decision being upheld by the VAR.
Ferjani Sassi took one step and fired home confidently past the hitherto unemployed Jordan Pickford and Tunisia who had been outplayed for the first half-hour were somehow level 10 minutes before half-time.
Still there was time for Lingard to come close again twice, first from a goalbound shot and then a dink over the keeper which agonizingly struck the post.
Alli too hit the woodwork with a header and England went into half-time wondering how they had not sealed victory already.
England still enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but could not find the same zip and penetration they had enjoyed at the start of the first half.
The ineffective Sterling gave way to Marcus Rashford with just over 20 minutes to go and the Manchester United man almost fashioned a chance straight away with a jinking run into the box.