Nothing can be more distressing for a sports fan than to find out that the player he idolizes for his achievements on the field is a "compromised" individual off it. We, somehow, attribute qualities of integrity, strong moral fibre and a will to fight against all sorts of adversities to a sportsman who has given us intense moments of joy with his skilful display while representing his country.
That is why a revelation that someone of Sunil Gavaskar's stature could be putting self-interest above that of the sport he represents is very disturbing. We want to remember Gavaskar for his technical virtuosity that helped him counter the fiercest pace attack the world has ever known.
When that same Gavaskar, the idol of many millions across the world, is found to have compromised his position as an independent commentator by being on the payroll of the Board for doing that job, we wince in pain.
That a superman who fought for his country and gave it pride and dignity on the sports field can in real life be so vulnerable and given to temptations, much like most of us, can be a shattering experience.
The news, which was highlighted in this paper a few months back, that even Anil Kumble - India's greatest match-winner, leader par excellence, a role model for most -- is in a serious conflict of interest with the job he is doing as cricket administrator is equally depressing.
On sticky wicket
In fact, Kumble's position is worse, almost untenable and indefensible. That the man who is president of a state cricket association and chairman of the National Cricket Academy is also a player agent should come as a shock to most of us.
It has been revealed that his company Tenvic had signed two cricketers who have now been picked for the ODI series against England.
I wonder if there can be any defence for a board official who is also an agent for the players. The only defence would be that if the Board president can be an owner of an IPL team, what's wrong with an official doing private business of promoting players for making profits.
Gavaskar in his defence had made two points. One was that he sees no conflict of interest in what he is doing. The second was that he too, like most of us, has two eyes, two hands and a stomach to feed.
Kumble too has echoed these sentiments. Apart from seeing no conflict of interest in what he is doing, he had this to say in his defence to the Outlook magazine: "The positions with the KSCA and NCA are honorary jobs, and I have to look after myself. At this stage of my career, I have to do that. Otherwise, you'd have to become like Gandhi and give up everything." What can one say to a man to whom the Indian cricketing fraternity owes so much for his deeds on the field, except that why get into such a position at all.
Using one's skills to make money is perfectly legitimate. He can choose his calling, and in any case no one has forced him to become a board official.
To the Board one can say they should pay him and all those who do an honorary job for them on the condition that they can't take up jobs which put them in a conflict of interest position.
To the world one can say that this appears impossible as long as N. Srinivasan is at the helm.