When Ramachandra Guha became a member of the Committee of Administrators (COA) in Indian Cricket, many were surprised and raised their eyebrows. What did a historian know about running Indian cricket?
When he has quit, Ramchandra raised the most sensational and unattended question: Why should there be so much conflict of interest and star worship in Indian Cricket?
In showing no bias in pointing out various conflicts, and in naming names, Ramachandra Guha has penned a document that is unprecedented.
Not many pieces have said more about the state of Indian cricket administration than Guha’s resignation letter to Vinod Rai, the chairman of the CoA. The superstars of Indian cricket, of the recent past and present, stand exposed as lacking accountability and conscience. Not all of this is new but it is coming from a man who had the mandate from the highest court of the country, a man who spent four months in the system and was clearly frustrated by the inaction.
Ramachandra Guha has come down heavily on the superstar culture prevalent in Indian cricket and detailed out his fury at the inability of the Supreme Court-appointed committee to crack down on the various conflicts of interest that plague the system. In his resignation letter, he also brings up the need to increase the fee of domestic cricketers and laments the absence of a male cricketer in the COA, but it’s the superstardom and allied conflict of interests that saw him so fuming.
Guha cites the example of Sunil Gavaskar who heads the PMG company which manages cricketers like Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant and continues to work as BCCI commentator. ‘Either he must step down/withdraw himself from PMG completely or stop being a commentator for BCCI,’ writes Guha. Likewise, he points out the case of MS Dhoni, who has retired from Test cricket but continues to be placed in the Grade I category of national contracts. Guha believes its “indefensible on cricketing grounds, and sends absolutely the wrong message”. He also raises the issue of how Dhoni was a captain of the team while ‘holding a stake in a firm that represented some current India players’.
Guha doesn’t name Rahul Dravid but it’s clear that he criticises the fact that Dravid should not continue in his dual role: as India A and U-19 coach, and as a mentor of the IPL team Delhi Daredevils. ‘This was done in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner the more famous the former player-turned-coach, the more likely was the BCCI to allow him to draft his own contract that left loopholes that he exploited to dodge the conflict of interest issue,’ Guha writes.
Guha’s letter has created a huge hullabaloo in Indian cricket. Though many admit that Conflict of Interest is a Chronic disease in Indian Cricket. And the administrators have done nothing but to pamper the unhealthy practice. Even the honorable Supreme Court, though showed some intent to stop the practice, can not wipe out it completely.
When N. Srinivasan was at the helm of Indian Cricket, many national team cricketers used to work in his company, namely India Cements and used to get a huge amount of money as salary. Even MS Dhoni was posted as one of the honorary directors of India Cements.
Sourav Ganguly, besides holding a high post in Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), used to be in several BCCI Committees. Guha has raised the question how Ganguly can do commentary and write columns simultaneously. But which is unknown to many, Ganguly also runs a coaching camp in Kolkata, namely 22 yards Sports School.
Devang Gandhi is the current national team selector but runs a similar academy. And this practice is not new. Previously, Sambaran Banerjee, Kiran More and many others, besides being selectors of the national team, use to run cricket coaching camp.
Sunil Gavaskar, while became the interim president of the BCCI in 2014, continued his involvement with PMG.
The problematic issue of conflict of interest must be addressed. And it should be addressed for the sake of Indian Cricket. Guha is absolutely correct in questioning the system and also the COA members’ indifference to stop such practice. He saw his colleagues not do much about it. He also saw a coach being shunted out to supposedly appease a superstar captain, and he sees his colleagues complicit in it. Guha feels Anil Kumble, India’s coach, has been unfairly treated despite a good year at the helm. The historian took a dig at Team India skipper Virat Kohli for the way he has opened a tirade against chief coach Anil Kumble.
Guha’s letter clearly shows that such a brave assessment can only be made by someone on the outside and with no designs of gaining materially from Indian cricket.
To be fair to Guha’s colleagues at the CoA, their hands have been tied in certain cases by what is, in parts, an ambiguous order from the Supreme Court. In many instances, the CoA has been slow and cautious, arguably overcautious.
The only thing that goes against Guha is that he has remained absent from many BCCI meetings during his four-month-long tenure. And why didn’t he ensure that ineligible officials like N Srinivasan or Niranjan Shah were not allowed to attend several meetings during this time?