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From conflict of interest to confluence of interests

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Cricket administration is both politics and business in India, so officials believe they are twice entitled

If we accept that cricket is a reflection of society, then we shouldn’t be surprised that daughters and sons and brothers of powerful former rulers are bidding to join the family business. Our politicians and businessmen see it as their birthright to promote their kin, and keep the levers of power in their own hands. Cricket administration is both politics and business in India, so officials believe they are twice entitled.

When he took over as the boss of Saurashtra cricket, Niranjan Shah, later secretary, Board of Control for Cricket in India, said this was a move to bring in democracy. He enjoyed democracy so much that he stayed in power for four decades. And now he feels his son Jaydev Shah is ready to take over. The loving father has pushed his son before. Jaydev has played 120 First Class matches, his batting average in the 20s. He has led in more games than any other Ranji captain. He also led an India A team and was contracted to play in the IPL for various teams. He is probably kind to animals and treats children well, but it would have been interesting to see how far he might have got without the family name.

One of Niranjan Shah’s famous quotes is: “Moral grounds don’t exist in the BCCI.”

Glass ceiling?

In Tamil Nadu, former president Narayanswami Srinivasan, now ineligible to stand for election, will be represented by his daughter Rupa who in all likelihood will be elected unopposed and thus become the first woman to head a cricket association in the country. Had the circumstances been different, this would have been a memorable thing, and Rupa feted for cracking the glass ceiling.

If sons and daughters are too young or don’t exist, then there are siblings and more distant relatives to count on. Another former president, Anurag Thakur will be represented by his brother Arun in Himachal Pradesh while there is talk of Sourav Ganguly’s uncle coming through in the Cricket Association of Bengal.

That word “represented” is no accident. Legally, the new generation will represent their respective associations in the BCCI; but in a larger sense they represent their relatives, allowing them to carry on ruling in the manner that has worked for them for decades. This might sound unfair, but administration should not only be absolutely above board but seen to be above board; relatively won’t do.

Not illegal

None of this is illegal, of course. Each case falls within the rulings of the Supreme Court, and after all, this is a free country. Yet, can anyone shake off the feeling that all this is old wine in new-generation bottles? Or that the coterie will not retain power, thus stymieing one of the things the Supreme Court order was trying to avoid — too much power in the hands of too few? And the perpetuation of a one-family rule?

It is entirely possible that the younger folk deserve to take on the mantle of their fathers and brothers, and might have inherited their best qualities. Men like Srinivasan have been spending money from their own pockets for local cricket for many years, which explains their popularity in their states.

But a new-look association, hoping to be free of the accumulated ills and dictatorial styles of functioning cannot afford to be indistinguishable from the old one.

Still, the fact that these newcomers face no opposition merely shows the grip that the older generation has on the system. Conflict of interest is being replaced by confluence of interests.

Endgame

Still, after nearly six years of acrimony and court rulings and ego-driven problems and match-fixing issues, there is some hope that the endgame is near. When Vinod Rai of the Committee of Administrators characterised his role as that of the nightwatchman, it did sound overly optimistic. The BCCI versus BCCI battles were then reflected in the CoA versus CoA ones, and at one point it was difficult to distinguish between the two.

With the elections to the BCCI slated for next month, an imperfect system might be better than no system at all.

At the national level, however, it might not be just the relatives who try to get a foot into the governing body. Politicians and friends of politicians are likely to emerge as contenders too. Many of them see sport as politics by other means, and see a position in the BCCI as an impressive addition to their bio-data. Politicians have been board presidents before — the late Madhavrao Scindia being a good example. He loved his cricket, and that’s not something you can say for most politicians.

The choice cannot be between a pumped-up relative and an agenda-driven politician. This is the very thing the Lodha Committee Report — on which the Supreme Court based its rulings — was trying to avoid. Going forward to the past is seldom a good move.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 2:19:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/from-conflict-of-interest-to-confluence-of-interests/article29501511.ece

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