Strange is the logic of a world which sees nothing wrong or unethical in a professional relationship that has conflict of interest written all over it. Our cricketers and administrators are past masters in performing dual roles which give them the advantage of exploiting one role at the expense of the other.
The maze of interlinked layers of ownership in the Indian Premier League and N Srinivasan’s blatant misuse of his administrative powers and various other misdemeanors finally led to a Supreme Court-monitored probe and the start of cleansing the game of corrupt practices.
The Board, aware that its very existence as an autonomous body which creates rules that benefit a chosen few is under threat, is trying to give the impression that it is keen and willing to transform itself.
The Board’s recent missive to its members and players to declare any links that put them in conflict of interest situations is the first positive sign in a long, long time that they mean business.
Given this backdrop, it is simply shocking that the Indian Team Director — a high-sounding name given to the coach of the team — is now going to be an employee of the India Test captain in a professional venture, even if it has nothing to do with cricket. Virat Kohli has become an owner of an IPTL (International Premier Tennis League) team and has hired Shastri as its advisor/ consultant.
We don’t know what the financial arrangement between the two is, or between the other owners of the IPTL team and Kohli. Neither is it germane to our argument here. One thing though is sure, that both these players won’t come for free and it is safe to assume that Shastri the coach has now a commercial relationship with the man who captains the India team.
Shastri was quoted in a newspaper as saying that there is no conflict of interest here as this relationship has nothing to do with cricket. Sure, it has nothing to do with cricket, but no conflict of interest? You must be joking!
Both are paid by the Board for their services, for helping the India team perform well. Doesn’t this professional arrangement get vitiated when the two get into a mutual arrangement where one is the employer and other the employee? Does this not change the relationship between Kohli and Shastri? Any decision, especially if it is controversial, taken by Shastri at the behest of Kohli or vice versa, could acquire a meaning beyond professional in nature.
That apart, aren’t both contracted with the Board and shouldn’t there be a clause that bars them from any outside activity that could interfere with their assignment? The IPTL, where Shastri is supposed to teach “team work” to the likes of Roger Federer, will be held during the peak cricket season when India will be playing South Africa at home. Shouldn’t the Indian Board question both why in the first place should they be allowed to take up this new assignment, even if, for the sake of argument, it may be ornamental in nature?
If Shastri, an extremely intelligent man who, as a broadcaster, enlightens the world about what is right and wrong, and Kohli, who has the potential to be one of the truly greats of the game, do not see anything wrong in this and neither does the Board, then it would be a sad reflection of the world they live in.
(The views expressed are personal)