There was a story in this morning’sTimes of India headlined: Kumble faces ‘conflict of interest’ charges. In another age and time, we would have blinked twice and raised a huge hue and cry about the whole deal. But now, having a conflict of interest seems to be the norm, so much so that many officials and cricketers are doing it openly.
For those who came in late, the story, which first appeared in Outlook magazine, claimed that his role as director of a player management firm Tenvic is incompatible with other key administrative posts held by the former Indian skipper.
The other key administrative posts include being president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) and chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA). Big posts, important posts… powerful too but is that enough to be able to influence the selection of players managed by Tenvic?
Two Karnataka players, who have been selected to play for India against Alastair Cook’s England, Vinay Kumar and S Aravind are with Tenvic and that’s what sets the argument rolling.
But in essence what’s true for Kumble, is also true for Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, BCCI president N Srinivasan, Chief Selector K Srikkanth, top commentators Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri and plenty more such people who are involved with the game at different levels
Many were surprised by Rudra Pratap Singh’s call-up for the tour of England. The left-arm seamer arrived looked well-rested and plump and even though the selectors tried hard, they just couldn’t hide the fact that he was clearly unfit.
So how did he get into the squad? Of course, it helps if the skipper (Dhoni) likes you but it helps even more if you are managed by the same company that manages Dhoni. The management company, Rhiti Sports Management, is in turn run by Arun Pandey – Dhoni’s childhood friend and manager. It’s all in the family, if you know what we mean.
Can a skipper influence the selectors? Well, he is part of selection meetings and can speak to the selectors, make his point and convince them to play players he wants in the squads. After all, the selectors pick the 15 but the final XI is picked by the skipper.
Suresh Raina, another case in point, is also contracted with Rhiti Sports. And somehow despite his horrible form he persisted in the Test squad. He found his game in the ODIs but during the Test series, he looked badly out of form and deserved to be dropped. But he wasn’t. Now, not for a moment, are we alleging anything but is it all a coincidence?
Then, there’s the case of Dhoni’s continual backing of Harbhajan Singh despite the latter's poor form in recent years. Of course, the fact that they are business partners has nothing to do with that. Right?
To add more meat to the argument – the exclusive marketing rights for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are with Rhiti Sports. More coincidence? But surely, this is a business deal, shrewdly conducted. Is it any wonder Dhoni doesn’t miss any CSK matches even when he pleads with the selectors to give him time off during the ODI series against England?
Now, this is all stuff that is freely available on the net and elsewhere. We don’t even know what lurks in deeper waters. Should we be worried?
N Srinivasan, BCCI president, could probably have ‘conflict of interest’ as his middle name. But he refutes everything with a stony face – devoid of human emotion and character.
K Srikkanth, chairman of the selectors, manages to get the rest of the selectors to unanimously agree on the selection of his son in the Emerging India squad and no one bats an eyelid. Furthermore, he even gets an extension as a reward.
Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, two of India’s most respected commentators, haven’t escaped the whole rot either. It was recently revealed that the BCCI is actually paying both of them to commentate and of course, toe the BCCI’s line where necessary. They have both denied the charges but there really is no escaping the charge.
The more closely you look at the system, the more inclined you are to believe that everyone involved in the running of Indian cricket has his own axe to grind. And no one can tell anyone anything because at the end of the day, everyone – right from the president to the skipper has some vested interest. And right now, all of them have a conflict of interest with Indian cricket. That can’t be ideal, can it?