What’s this conflict of interest issue eating up Indian cricket?
Is there a conflict of interest in Rahul Dravid’s appointment as chief of the NCA? Dravid was appointed as director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in July. He has been sent a notice by BCCI’s ombudsman-cum-ethics officer following a complaint from a Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association member, based on the fact that Dravid is also employed full-time as a vice-president with India Cements, the owner of IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings. Rules 38 (4) (f) and 38 (4) (j) of the BCCI constitution prevents any individual from holding two separate posts. The complaint against Dravid did not go down well with his former colleague Sourav Ganguly, who too has faced allegations of conflict of interest for holding more than one post within the BCCI ranks.
Dravid, meanwhile, called “abeyance”—which means ‘a state of temporary inactivity’—on his India Cements post for the period of his NCA assignment. But when a second complaint was filed over Dravid’s abeyance, Justice (retd) DK Jain, the BCCI’s ombudsman-cum-ethics officer, was forced to send Dravid another notice. “I have sought a reply from him as there still was another complaint against him,” Jain told Hindustan Times.
This complain points out that even in abeyance, Dravid, who has been with India Cements since 1994, is deemed to be holding two positions. He will have to quit the India Cements job to satisfy norms in the constitution.
Vinod Rai, chairman of Committee of Administrators (CoA), was clear that he didn’t have a problem with Dravid’s position, saying that the CoA is satisfied with abeyance, where he is not being paid by India Cements, and is actually being recompensed for that by the BCCI.
So if he’s not in India Cements’ pay, but only his position is being held for the future, what’s the problem?
The potential problem is that conflict of interest is not just defined as someone holding two paying positions at the same time, but as anything that may unduly influence a person’s professional conduct. The important word here is “may”; since India Cements owns an IPL team, holding even a position in abeyance with them may be reasonably seen as conflict of interest, which is not defined by the evidence of wrongdoing, but by the possibility.
Also, it is important to take into account that this “possibility” is independent of the individual, so the argument that Dravid is well-known as a person of great integrity is irrelevant.
Which other former cricketer currently holds a position in the BCCI that could be a conflict of interest?
Apart from Dravid, several legends of Indian cricket including Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Kapil Dev all find themselves in a position of conflict. Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly were the three members of BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), while also being involved with their respective IPL teams, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Delhi Capitals.
Laxman and Ganguly were found to be in conflict in June even as Tendulkar freed himself by resigning from the CAC. Following Tendulkar’s resignation, the CAC became a defunct board, until it was reconstituted with Dev, Shanta Rangaswamy and Anshuman Gaekwad. This lot, set to choose India’s next head coach later this week, too face the same allegations.
Apart from being a member of the CAC, Dev is the owner of a company that supplies floodlights to cricket stadiums and is also a director of the Indian Cricketer’s Association, a body of ex-cricketers in which both Gaekwad and Rangaswamy hold top posts. Gaekwad is also the owner of a cricket academy and Rule 38 (4) clearly states that individuals working for the BCCI cannot hold more than one of 16 posts, one of which being the owner of a cricket academy.
Ganguly’s position as advisor of Delhi Capitals is even more, given that he is president of the Cricket Association of Bengal—which is in contract with DC’s rivals Kolkata Knight Riders. On top of it, he is also a TV commentator and news channel pundit.
Ganguly’s excuse (and Tendulkar’s for that matter) has been that he does not charge money to be in an advisory role with an IPL franchise. But, again, that line of reasoning holds no water as the conflict comes not from drawing a salary but from holding a position of influence.
Why has it been difficult for the BCCI to avoid former players who are in conflict of interest?
The BCCI believes—ever since the constitutional reforms began a few years ago—that it needs former cricketers to be a part of the decision-making process. But almost every high-profile former player has his or her professional/business commitments beyond the realm of cricket and that now comes in the way of undertaking full-time responsibilities because of the checks that have been laid in place. Since like any sport, cricketers have a short shelf-life as professional athletes, they necessarily need to find professions related to the game once they retire, which may include commentary, or running an academy, or being employed with a company (whether private or government) where they are involved with the sporting activities of the group.
Hence, at every step, the board walks into a new hurdle; a hurdle that was placed there by its very own constitution. So, bringing into the official fold men and women who have served the game well has been far from easy.
While Rai believes the conflict of interest issue cannot be extended to a point where its implementation borders on the ridiculous, the strict rules as per its new constitution (one that is supposed to aid good governance) often does. Hence, the board finds itself trapped in a governance-maze of its own making.