Daily Archives: 26 October 2010

Conflicts of Interest…

I congratulated the BCCI in a blog post I wrote a few days back.

It was perhaps a bit too premature. The BCCI, meanwhile, has begun an exercise that it has developed a reputation for being extremely good at: Dithering.

We do not yet know if the cricketers know whether they are going to South Africa early. The cricketers involved have not been intimated. The BCCI, meanwhile, has said that Team India Test players who also play in the ODI team will have to honour their ODI commitments in the New Zealand series. I guess the BCCI is engaging in that famous dance made more famous in these parts — “1 step forward 3 steps back”!

The BCCI has made a habit of dithering. It dithers on UDRS. It dithers on the relative importance it places on Tests and ODIs. It dithers on pre-tour practice games. It dithers on allocation of matches to grounds. It dithers on its stand on anti-doping. It dithers on almost everything that does not involve money. In fact, the BCCI appears to dither on almost all aspect of the game except conflicts of interest of its officials!

That is one aspect of governance that the BCCI appears to have mastered and is quite unambiguous about! If, as owner of the Chennai Super Kings IPL franchise, N Srinivasan, the BCCI President-in-waiting, does not have a conflict of interest, then I am a banana! If Ravi Shastri — no doubt an excellent former Team India Test/ODI player — does not have a conflict of interest in his role as broadcaster and IPL Governing Council Member (and formerly NCA Director) then I am a ripe old banana!

But today’s newspapers provide another pearl as an example in the long list of BCCI officials that have (had) conflicts of interest. Mind you. Conflicts of interest are not bad, as a rule. They exist just as night follows day! These conflicts have to be (a) declared, (b) effectively managed, (c) seen to be managed. It appears that Sunil Gavaskar might have a conflict of interest with respect to the Kochi IPL franchise.

Witness this: Gavaskar was on the IPL Governing Council that approved/accepted Kochi’s bid as an IPL franchise. Today, we hear the announcement that Gavaskar has provided in-principle acceptance to Kochi to be their “cricketing director”.

What is stunning and brazen is that the same article in the Times of India quotes the Kochi IPL CEO, Gaikwad, as saying “Sunil Gavaskar had unconditionally supported Rendezvous Sports, which won the franchise rights for the team for $333.33 million (Rs.1,533 crore).”

Notwithstanding the fact that Gavaskar is no longer a member of the IPL Governing Council, what we do not know is whether Sunil Gavaskar said to the Kochi IPL franchise, “I will support you unconditionally on the condition that you appoint me cricket director once the bid is successful.”

It is very likely that Gavaskar is an honourable man. It is very likely that Gavaskar has declared and managed the conflict of interest that follows his decision to join the Kochi IPL. However, we do know that the BCCI is replete with individuals who are terribly conflicted in their interests. So the emergence of a new instance of an individual with what seems to be the taint of a potential conflict of interest comes neither as a surprise nor as a shock!

Today, Gavaskar has said, “They have asked me, individually and collectively, to come in for the cricketing part of the team. I will take a call once the internal issues are resolved.”

The BCCI, on its part, claims that it is not aware of Gavaskar’s links with the Kochi IPL franchise. Sunil Gavaskar, one remembers, had turned down a seat on the IPL Governing Council over a pay-dispute with the BCCI. It is likely that I am launching into the zone normally reserved for conspiracy theories. However, this GC-seat-turn-down by Gavaskar and the subsequent and perhaps convenient appointment to Kochi’s cricket directorship — just 2 weeks later — does beg a few questions around Gavaskar’s conflict of interest.

With Rajasthan Royals filing an appeal against their ban in the High Court, the IPL mess has just gotten bigger. My sense is that the mess will certainly get bigger before it gets even bigger. After all, with the BCCI, one cannot rule out anything!

— Mohan