Monday March 25, 2019
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Good week for Indian sports, bad news for cricket board officials

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BCCI

By Veturi Srivatsa

Good news for Indian sports in the last one week. The men’s and women’s teams have won the Twenty20 cricket series in Australia even as tennis star Sania Mirza claimed her first women’s doubles title at the Australian Open, and Pusarla Venkata Sindu clinched the Malaysian Badminton Masters. A rare coincidence!

The focus is back on the sports, coming out of courtrooms and board rooms, or so it appeared. But the Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha Committee recommendations to cleanse Indian cricket and its administration continue to be a subject matter of intense discussion among the state associations and officials, each one trying to read and interpret the fine print to suit his personal interests.

Even before the detailed Lodha Committee report is fully studied by state associations, as instructed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the appointment of Justice Ajit Prakash Shah as the board’s ombudsman, as suspected, is getting flooded with complaints, the initial ones on the alleged conflict of interest involving some top guns.

Smartly, Justice Shah lobbed the ball back into the court of the complainant, asking for the specific rules under which the allegations can be taken up for examination!

The complaint is against three high-profile administrators, two of these former India cricketers, Sourav Ganguly and Vikram Rathour. The third person dragged into the conflict is board secretary Anurag Thakur. A free-lance journalist from Mumbai found a serious conflict of interest with the functioning of all three.

It was pointed out that Ganguly has business contacts with owners of the new franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), and Thakur and Rathour are said to be cousins and have business connections. The issue has apparently been raised because Thakur is the board secretary, and during his tenure as one of the principal office-bearers Rathour was appointed as a national selector.

Justice Shah has taken up the issue with Ganguly and the board for clarification, and even said that he had not heard from Ganguly, though the former India captain insists he had sent in his reply.

Thakur was quick to refute the allegations, stating his business relations with Rathour has nothing to do with cricket and that their families have known each other for four decades.

For good measure, Thakur points to a sinister motive behind the complaints as he sees names of only a particular section of the board officials are being dragged. He also defended the board’s media manager, saying he has no stake in the media company he has been linked to. What Thakur doesn’t say is that the media manager was involved with a couple of former Test stars as their agent.

Whatever Ganguly and Thakur might say, prima facie they cannot deny their personal relations with the people they are involved with and they have to come clean. The complainant has done extensive research before filing his complaints and it is up to the ombudsman to take the call.

Ganguly, who is a member of the IPL Governing Council, is a co-owner of Indian Super League football club Atletico de Kolkata along with well-known businessmen. Nothing wrong with the arrangement till one of the tycoons bought IPL’s new Pune-based franchise. It would be interesting to see how Ganguly explains it away logically with legalese thrown in.

In Thakur’s case it is more personal. He was joint secretary when Rathour was appointed as a national selector and he was secretary when the former India opening batsman got the extension, though Rathour qualifies by virtue of being a former Test player.

The crux of the matter is not whether Rathour deserves to be a selector, the complainant brought into focus Rathour citizenship, pointing out that he is a British and carries that country’s passport.

In the case of the BCCI’s media manager, the allegation is that a family member of his is taking care of his business interests. Here it must be mentioned that he also fits in with the media job as he had worked with electronic media for a few years before getting into event management. His proximity to some top players is all too well known. In the past, there were disparaging whispers about a board’s media adviser being a columnist.

Thakur has also obliquely stated that the appointment of the ombudsman has given rise to some people to make false allegations. Eventually, he has to explain his position and it is for the ombudsman to decide whether there is any conflict of interest in Ganguly and Thakur-Rathour business dealings.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), of which Ganguly is president, is the first state unit to officially come out with objections to 10 of the 21 recommendations of the Lodha Committee!

Good week for sport, bad news of board officials. (IANS)(Photo: www.holdingwilley.com)

(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal)

Next Story

“Corruption Exists in all Fields and Cricket is No Exception”, Says Kabir Khan

According to Kabir, the ban of the team was not only shattering for the players but also for the fans

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kabir khan
"I think there is corruption in every profession... a grey area exists in every field, be it cricket, corporate, cinema…it is ultimately dependent on how an individual holds himself or herself", says Kabir Khan. Wikimedia

Filmmaker Kabir Khan, whose latest docu-drama titled “Roar of the Lion” revolves around the downfall of the Chennai Super Kings for match fixing, followed by their victorious comeback in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL), says that corruption exists in all fields and cricket is no exception.

Asked if young players get influenced by power and money that the IPL offers and get involved in match fixing, Kabir told IANS here: “I think there is corruption in every profession… a grey area exists in every field, be it cricket, corporate, cinema…it is ultimately dependent on how an individual holds himself or herself.”

“Of course in cricket, when players are starting at a young age for an obvious reason… with IPL when they get exposed to huge money, attention and celebrity status, it is easy to lose control and get carried away.”

kabir khan
According to Kabir, the ban of the team was not only shattering for the players but also for the fans. Wikimedia

“Ultimately, more than an opportunity, it becomes more important how you are utilising the opportunity. If you conduct yourself right and stay focussed on your game, you will become a successful professional,” he added.

Many players earn celebrity status overnight thanks to the IPL.

Asked if becoming a celebrity cricketer is easier now, Kabir said: “I think becoming a celebrity itself is much easier these days. One can become a celebrity by writing a blog or travelling the world…but some get the fame of 15 minutes and some find a place in the history books…in their respective fields depending on their consistent contribution.”

“The IPL is, of course, one of the great platforms to find talent from the hinterland and they are getting the opportunity to play international cricket. But yes, unless your performance is consistent, you won’t be able to survive in the competition.”

kabir khan
During the filming of the show, he interacted with some of the fans who had strong faith in CSK and said that the team will come back and again win the trophy. Wikimedia

The story of “Roar of the Lion” has already been reported by mainstream media.

Emphasising on the unique elements of the show, Kabir shared: “We have never seen Dhoni (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) opening up and talking about what he went through when the team got involved in the match fixing allegations and was banned for two years. During that time, Dhoni was completely silent.”

“Nobody knows how he dealt with the whole situation internally. I think that conversation makes the show different, makes it unique,” he added.

According to Kabir, the ban of the team was not only shattering for the players but also for the fans.

kabir khan
According to Kabir, the ban of the team was not only shattering for the players but also for the fans. Wikimedia

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During the filming of the show, he interacted with some of the fans who had strong faith in CSK and said that the team will come back and again win the trophy.

“When the team came back… since the age group of the players was above 30, the new team was ridiculed by the media and fans of other teams. They called CSK as ‘Chennai Senior Kings’, ‘buddhe ki fauj’ etc. Despite all that, when the team won the 2018 IPL, their victory was the answer to all the criticism. That is why it is an inspiring story that deserved to be told,” said the filmmaker, who is also making a movie on the 1983 Cricket World Cup.

“Roar of the Lion” is streaming on Hotstar. (IANS)