The current crisis in Indian cricket was triggered by corruption in the Indian Premier League and allegations of conflict of interest against N Srinivasan. Thus the Supreme Court’s interim orders on Friday focused a lot on Sunil Gavaskar’s appointment.
Having suggested the former India skipper should head the Board whose credibility is at its lowest ebb, the apex court has made him only the ‘IPL 7 president’, one tasked with running the league with BCCI vice-president Shivlal Yadav to handle the rest of the affairs. There will be no over-arching role for Gavaskar.
Will he deliver?
But the big question is whether Gavaskar will be up to cleaning the mess that the IPL has become following last year’s spot-fixing scandal. Gavaskar himself has had to ward of criticism about conflict of interest due to his lucrative commentary contract with the BCCI.
In his book West Indies fast bowler Mike Holding rated England’s Geoff Boycott as a better opener because he felt, when conditions were tough for batting, Gavaskar was happy to let his partner face the music. His 13 Test tons against West Indies in its pomp puts that assessment in perspective but Gavaskar has been more a bystander than someone willing to dirty his hands as an administrator.
In May, 2008, he quit as the International Cricket Council’s cricket committee chairman to continue as an IPL TV commentator after the conflict of interest issue was raised. Eight years earlier, he was accused of ‘running with the hares and hunting with the hounds’ by the then National Cricket Academy chairman, Raj Singh Dungarpur after Gavaskar, in his column, questioned the NCA team being given a three-day game against the visiting Zimbabwe instead of a ‘more deserving’ set of players. As a member-advisor to the NCA, he was expected to back the trainees. He resigned.
In 2006, he pushed for Mohinder Amarnath as India coach despite being in the panel which chose Greg Chappell. Happy to criticise, he never offered to take over as coach himself, where he would have been held accountable for the team’s failure or if there were fissures in the camp. He has done the job as a stop-gap though. In 2004, he was appointed batting consultant before the home series against Australia, to the discomfiture of coach John Wright who had to contend with a new power centre in the dressing room while airing his views on batting.
An NRI based in the UAE, Gavaskar will be at home as the first phase of the IPL is being played in the Gulf from April 16. But to resurrect the league’s standing, he may have to take strong decisions. And that could mean changing the COO, Sunder Raman, seen as Srinivasan’s man. Gavaskar was very much part of the IPL set up when the early controversies hit. He was in the governing council until 2010, a period when FERA allegations came up after the 2009 edition in South Africa.
The court is yet to take a call on a fresh probe, with the next hearing on April 16. Gavaskar’s position looks temporary, but it is a situation that would suit him.