When he led India, Sourav Ganguly was always ready to chat - on or off the record. The only condition was that it was up to you to find Ganguly and be in the same place as him at a suitable time. When the stars aligned thus, he would speak expansively, never rushed, taking little offence at what was being asked. Always urbane, he listened patiently to advice - and then did as he pleased.
With the BCCI's December 1 annual general body meeting and its lopsided agenda out in public, let us use the familiar rules of engagement and ask him: Sourav, honestly, what are you thinking?
The board's main attention is on overturning key sections of the Lodha recommendations ordered by the Supreme Court. First up is removing the need for the court's permission before any changes can be made to the BCCI's constitution - but only the court itself can give permission for this change. Given this, we could be in for some amount of legal tail-chasing.
Amendments such as the ones proposed were to be expected once the BOGOs (BCCI's Old Guard Officials) returned to the main stage, with Ganguly established as their player-totem. As a former player turned president, his appointment generated feel-good headlines and warded off public disapproval.
But what about the cricket stuff, Sourav? It's where the real work lies. Even with only ten months in the job, there's enough to be done. Remember Ajay Maken? Named India's sports minister after the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam, which featured corruption over Games-related contracts, over-invoicing, administrative irregularities, and resulted in jail terms for leading sports officials, Maken had only 17 months, in which time he became the country's best and most proactive sports minister, setting benchmarks.
On taking office, Ganguly said he had been put in charge when the BCCI was "not in the greatest of positions". The board is in this position due to poor decision-making by those who preceded him, so he should be wary of his new army of old advisors. He would be better off calling on sports-governance lawyers to reasonably sort out the various intricacies of the conflict-of-interest rules rather than trying guerilla tactics against the Supreme Court.
There is much thin ice in our game. It could crack at any point and drown the reputation of Indian cricket once again in the eyes of the world. Here, then, is a bucket list for President Ganguly, even with only ten months at hand.
Get rid of state-level private T20 leagues
Do we need them? There are no profits to be made by owning a state T20 league team, so what are the owners in it for? Does no one vet them or their cash? There have been seven arrests in the Karnataka Premier League corruption case: seven, including a former Ranji Trophy team captain and a team owner. As of now, more than 30 players and officials are being questioned.
Each state association gets approximately Rs 30 crore (approximately US$4.1 million) a year from the BCCI. The big ones spend around Rs 18-20 crore a year and the smaller ones around Rs 12 to 15 crore a year, which means about half of the money received remains surplus. Why not use that money to host the BCCI's own district/region-centred T20 events? Rather than drum up a zero-profit business that attracts dodgy individuals into the ecosystem.
What more signs do we need to accept that state T20 leagues are platforms for illegal betting? Underworld figures wandering around games with pistols in their pockets? Encouraging private ownership of state T20 leagues is like adding water to stagnant puddles outside your house and then wondering how you caught dengue.
Deal with selection fraud
This is another elephant in the room. First up, Ganguly must ring Ambati Rayudu, whom his former captain Mohammad Azharuddin termed a "disgruntled cricketer". Last week Rayudu accused his state team of being "influenced by money and corrupt people". Yes, Rayudu is eccentric, volatile and unpredictable, but why would he risk calling out his state association for no good reason? People working in Indian cricket accept that in some corners of the junior game, selection deals are struck between parents, coaches and selectors. To include boys at various levels - in the probables, in the list of 25 picked for a camp, in a squad, in a playing XI. It is rumoured that there are "rate cards" for three-year deals between selectors and parents.
The Under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy has just ended. The BCCI paid for 15-strong teams plus support staff. Of the 36 teams that took part in the tournament, seven fielded more than 20 players; one fielded 27 and another 35. In a tournament where a team could play a maximum of seven matches, on average five. Only seven of those 36 teams played 15 players or fewer; 22 fielded between one and three more than the stipulated 15.
What can Ganguly do? Make it mandatory for all BCCI-level events to allow teams to field only 15 players, requiring every replacement, injury or otherwise, to be vetted.
Tackle age fraud
There is much less of this than before, but tougher strictures are needed. Ganguly's stature allows him to enforce a rule that penalises state associations, selectors and coaches for fielding overage players. Hold a press conference, make a public announcement about age fraud and team-number limits, and say associations and individuals censured will find their names posted on the BCCI website annually. In ten months, if state-association bosses don't love you, big deal, Indian cricket fans certainly will have greater reason to.
Institute contracts for first-class players across the country
These have been promised, and Uttarakhand has been the first team to announce them, followed by Punjab. Why are the big guns - Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi - silent? Push for a formalisation of first-class contracts for every team by the end of the season. It's a simple box to tick. Everyone will want to make nice with the new Prez. It could be easier than imagined.
Decide on the future of the Duleep, Deodhar, and NKP Salve Challenger trophies
They served their purpose once, but with zonal cricket non-existent, what's the point of events featuring colour-coded squads? Surely, the three gentlemen these trophies are named after would not want to be associated with cricketing meaninglessness.
Stop flexing muscles at the ICC
World cricket is more unequally resourced than before, and for the BCCI, headed by a modern cricket icon, to throw its weight around in Dubai is cringeworthy. Also, some math: the reckoning of the amount the BCCI is owed (over eight years) has swung between $570m and $405m, and includes Ganguly's mystery figure of $372m. The $570m is the dream figure from the Big Three recommendations, the $405m is what the BCCI has been promised under a July 2017 agreement. The difference between the $570m wished for and the $405m promised is $165m. Over eight years this is $20.6m (about Rs 150 crores) a year. Sounds like a lot of money but the BCCI's other recent sponsorship deals offer perspective.
ALSO READ: 'I'll do it the way I know' - Ganguly
Media rights (2018-22): $2.55 billion (Rs 16347.5 crore; or Rs 3269.50 crore a year).
Jersey sponsorship (2019-22): $162 million (Rs 1079.29 crore; or Rs 269.82 crore a year).
Title sponsorship for India matches (2019-23): $45.8 million (Rs 326.8 crore; or Rs 81.7 crore a year).
For Rs 150 crore a year, does Ganguly want to be responsible for cutting the smaller nations' share of ICC money? When Jagmohan Dalmiya died, perhaps the richest tribute came from Malcolm Speed, Dalmiya's most fierce adversary in the ICC, who said, "While India's concerns were always first and foremost, he saw the bigger picture of world cricket." What legacy do you want as an administrator, Sourav? Boardroom leader or boardroom lumpen?
Influence the passing of anti-corruption laws
Now that Ganguly has a fresh set of political friends, what's the best he can do for Indian cricket with them? Get either the Prevention of Sporting Fraud Bill 2013 or the National Sports Ethics Bill 2016 tabled and passed in Parliament, followed by presidential approval. The winter session is on and surely this can be done overnight. Show those in cricket the possibility of a jail term for hanging around with bookies and let's see if it works.
Go on, Sourav, you're not a BOGO. You can do it. Be a star.