Sourav Ganguly is crying foul. His sharp statement calling on god to save Indian cricket stems from the anguish of the conflict of interest notice served on Rahul Dravid by the BCCI Ethics Officer. Rahul, the NCA Director and dedicated coach of young Indian teams is the least conflicted of former national cricketers.
At the heart of the criticism may be the former player’s wish to be able to wear as many hats as he can in the game. Ganguly has cleverly chosen the least conflicted case of Rahul Dravid to hit back at the BCCI on the ethics issue. In focussing on Dravid, what Ganguly is aiming to do is to force the BCCI to tread softly on the issue of conflict of interest, which the Supreme Court had pointed out during the arguments in the famous cricket case of this decade.
Besides the main coaching and talent development job, Dravid does nothing else now. He is not attached to any IPL team. Nor does he sit in the media or commentary box. As a former player of India Cements Ltd in the Chennai cricket league, Dravid was made a Vice-President of the company. India Cements Ltd is no longer the owner of Chennai Super Kings either.
Dravid in on leave from the company so long as his tenure as head of NCA runs. He remains VP but draws no salary in this period. Dravid is in no conflict of interest situation as India Cements has no formal connection with Indian cricket save as sponsor of teams in the Chennai league as well as a team sponsor of Chennai Super Kings just like any other sponsor or advertiser.
However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is also a Vice-President and plays for Team India in limited-overs cricket, draws a salary as VP. Professional players cannot be stopped from seeking employment with companies, including those that have teams playing in national cricket or even Air India that fields teams in prestigious tournaments.
It is a fact that Ganguly, and the likes of VVS Laxman and Dhoni, may face more of the heat in this issue. Ganguly is not only a media man and commentator but also the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal. His is the biggest conflict of interest as he is also in administration while commenting on the game too, besides being the face of an online cricket game, which in effect is vicarious gambling. Ganguly's may be the clearest case of wanting to eat the cake and keep it too.
Sachin Tendulkar wriggled out of the complaint against him as he proved he did not charge a rupee for being mentor of the Mumbai Indians IPL team helmed by Mrs Nita Ambani. Many other former cricketers are guilty of being transactional in pursuing various interests in the game, many of which some with a fat payment from an IPL team, its sponsors, advertisers or media companies.
VVS Laxman is attached to Sunrisers Hyderabad IPL team, does commentary and also sat on committees to pick the national coach. Dhoni, a VP of India Cements, is in trouble as brand ambassador of Amrapali builders who stand accused of diverting flat buyers' money to fulfil commitments to Dhoni. Anil Kumble was in cricket administration while heading Karnataka State Cricket Association and also being Team India coach, besides Mumbai Indians’ mentor in IPL.
A conflict of interest is one of cricket’s old themes. It started with Donald Bradman writing articles for Kerry Packer’s grandfather’s newspapers in the 1930s. He was prepared not to play in The Ashes in order to report on the matches before Mr Packer solved the issue by releasing Bradman from the contract and still paying him while asking him to play and not write.
If the principle were to apply strictly today, current players can do little other than playing the game while former cricketers would come under microscopic scrutiny for the various hats they wear in the game as administrators, selectors, and its fringes. Ganguly and others would wish that there be no restrictions whatever on former cricketers so that they can dip into the small fortunes available with many of the roles they play.
The advent of IPL saw the problem grow manifold. But in all such instances it was the cricketers who were placing themselves in such situations by signing up for anything that would fetch them some monetary compensation. A former Ranji Trophy cricketer, who did not wish to be named, said, “Former cricketers can be greedy when it comes to taking any assignment connected with the game, be it brand ambassador, media, commentary, mentor, team coach, mind coach, fielding coach. But they have the expertise for most of those jobs. They have played the game and they know a lot of the things that connect with the game.”
While that could be true, cricketers have never been chary of contributing to ghosted articles and tweets in exchange for a few bucks. Their readiness to accept anything to do with the game has often led to their getting into conflicting situations, more so when it comes to selection of their sons to teams. Former players have been accused by some of forming an old boys' club that would dominate the international television and media presence. No one else, however talented, would be allowed to take on an assignment connected with the game. Harsha Bhogle is a rare exception, but he too faced resistance in his early days as players dominated TV and other media and did their best to shut the doors on others.
Former Test bowler Pragyan Ojha reflected the players’ point of view on the issue best in saying that the legends should not be questioned as they are contributing to the game. He tweeted, “Today most cricketers wanting to contribute to the sport would have a conflict of interest. Everyone wants to be settled in life. For a regular family settling in life doesn’t mean tons of money or luxury cars, it means a stable job. If we need some quality people serving the game post-retirement we need to rethink. Legends of the games being questioned with notices; how will cricket prosper and young generation get to work with them? (SIC)"
Would the BCCI, chastened after a dressing down from the Supreme Court, agree is the question. Its Ethics Officer would be duty bound to examine it case by case when it comes to conflict of interest....