Without a doubt, Indian cricket is now battling its worst crisis of credibility.
Allegations of spot-fixing by three players, betting by Chennai Super Kings’ “team principal” in close contact with punters and bookies, the meek surrender of the so-called anti-Srinivasan group at the BCCI’s working committee meeting in Chennai and now the controversy over a possible “conflict of interest” involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni have brought into focus the dark side of our cricket administration and the players lounge.
In fact, the “conflict of interest” stories in Indian cricket have come up across the spectrum. However, not all instances that come to light have kicked up a storm.
Prominent names Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, K. Srikkanth, Mr. N. Srinivasan and now Dhoni have all been seen as beneficiaries of ‘conflict of interest’ while holding various positions.
In 2008, Gavaskar had to resign as chairman of the International Cricket Council’s Cricket Committee after the governing body had put him on notice. It had sensed a conflict of interest for a TV commentator who also chaired the panel. Gavaskar resigned, saying that with more and more cricket it was not possible for him to do justice to two jobs.
The year 2011 saw a series of such stories. In August, during India’s tour of England, Gavaskar and Shastri faced a potential conflict of interest as TV commentators having signed a reported annual deal of Rs. 3.60 crore each with the Board.
However, the Board was quick to come to their defence with vice-president Rajiv Shukla saying: “The Board does not dictate to them on what they speak [on television]. They are independent commentators and what they speak is purely their opinion.”
But it was no secret that the duo refrained from speaking against the Board or the Indian Premier League even as England pounded India to its worst possible defeat in Tests.
An interesting tweet by commentator Sanjay Manjrekar summed up the Board’s control over its players: “Fans like Boycott. Only guy who is free from BCCI shackles on our show”. Not surprisingly, he was said to have been “warned” not to repeat such utterances. Recently, Danny Morrison was understood to have been pulled up for describing Virat Kohli as “future India captain”.
Shastri, then a media representative on the ICC’s 16-member Cricket Committee that recommended the partial use of the Decision Review System (DRS), vehemently defended the Board that has been opposing the use of this system while commentating during the second Test at Trent Bridge. In fact, Shastri and the former England captain, Nasser Hussain, were involved in an ugly spat on air over India’s stand.
In September, when the Board amended its regulations to enable the then secretary, Mr. Srinivasan, to buy an IPL team, there was much noise over his conflict of interest. Since 2011, when Mr. Srinivasan took over as BCCI president, his mentor and former BCCI president, A. C. Muthiah, has opted for legal recourse to prevent him from taking charge, citing conflict of interest. The matter is in the Supreme Court.
Srikkanth’s name too came up during the debate on conflict of interest after he was named Chennai Super Kings’ Brand Ambassador while he was working as chairman of the National Selection Committee. Now Dhoni’s “stakes” in the company that manages him and a few other players have kicked up a controversy. But like the ones before him, Dhoni, too, will smoothly weather the storm and move on.
After all, the credibility of our cricketers and cricket administrators comes at a premium. Then why be surprised!