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Conflicts of interests abound in world cricket

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JUST NOT CRICKET!The contention of Ravi Shastri, seen with the suspended IPL Chairman Lalit Modi, that his role in the IPL board was to only provide cricketing guidance does not enthuse the author.
JUST NOT CRICKET!The contention of Ravi Shastri, seen with the suspended IPL Chairman Lalit Modi, that his role in the IPL board was to only provide cricketing guidance does not enthuse the author.

Peter Roebuck

Now and then Bishen Singh Bedi cuts to the bone. In typical maverick vein he has demanded the resignation of the IPL Board, lock stock and barrel. Of course he is right.

All these delays and investigations cannot disguise the fact that the Board did not do its job properly. Never mind that they are honourable man, they've got to go. Overseeing was their primary task and they did not carry it out.

Nor can the cricketing contingent remain intact. As a rule Ravi Shastri keeps a steady line and length but his observation that his role was restricted to providing cricketing guidance was wide of the mark. A Board member is a Board member. They hang together. Mansoor Ali Khan's comments were more apposite. Accepting responsibility, he admitted that all and sundry had been blinded by Lalit Modi's light.

But the imbroglio raises an even more important issue, one that affects every nation, not least Australia. Benjamin Franklin and the authors of the American Constitution insisted on a clear separation of powers, and with reason. A democratic society depends on its checks and balances, and protects them earnestly. A wise institution goes about its business in the same manner.

Yet cricket tolerates widespread conflicts of interest. Besides taking seats on the IPL governing body, Sunil Gavaskar and Shastri also cover the matches on television. Doubtless they also contribute columns. In effect they are writing their own reviews.

Harsha Bhogle, another esteemed friend, has assisted the Mumbai Indians. None of them is in a position to subject IPL to the scrutiny required by their media responsibilities.

Global weakness

Nor is the weakness restricted to India or IPL.

The Australians, especially, are just as lax. Officials are allowed to run with the foxes and hunt with the hounds.

Mark Taylor works as a television commentator and also as a member of the Cricket Australia Board. That he carries out both tasks with characteristic aplomb is beside the point. Radio stations, too, invite current coaches to sit as regulars, as opposed to guests, in the expert chair.

For that matter, Jamie Cox is a both a national selector and the high performance coach with South Australia.

Recently his dual role sparked controversy as the Croweaters tried to lure a promising paceman from Victoria. Had not the presence of a selector been part of the temptation? Sanath Jayasuriya is standing for parliament in a country where cricket and politics share a bed.

Meanwhile Neil Manthorp, another respected pal, works as a widely published journalist and as Zimbabwe Cricket's media officer. As in the other cases, it is all open and above board. Inevitably, though, Manthorp's articles on ZC will be put on the same plate as press releases — he can hardly be objective about his own employers — but even pieces on other matters need to read in that context. After all “ZC media officer condemns South African selection” is not the sort of headline likely to be applauded in Harare.

Benefits

Of course the conflict is not without its benefits. Taylor, Gavaskar, Shastri, Bhogle and the rest count amongst the best thinkers in the game. They have a wide range of skills and play their parts in advancing the interests of the game. That is the reason so many people want to employ them.

Accordingly it may seem churlish to suggest they cannot have it both ways. Sincerity, though, is not the issue. Every estate has its part to play. As has amply been proved in India over the last few weeks, the media is the watchdog. All the more reason to insist that it is free to bark whenever it sees fit.

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