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Good week for Indian sports, bad news for cricket board officials

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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)

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War of Words Between Associations, Irks Ganguly

"The CAB had done nothing about it for a long time. For the pair, it was business as usual till the letter came and stirred a hornet's nest," a source close to the development said.

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Ganguly shot off a letter, a copy of which was circulated to the media, asking Banerjee not to pay heed to such cases since the complainant did not reveal his or her identity. Flickr
Ganguly shot off a letter, a copy of which was circulated to the media, asking Banerjee not to pay heed to such cases since the complainant did not reveal his or her identity. Flickr

An anonymous letter has triggered a war words between Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) ombudsman Ushanath Banerjee and state board President Sourav Ganguly over alleged conflict of interest of selectors Palash Nandy and Madan Ghosh.

Banerjee had received an anonymous letter a few days back which pointed out that senior selection panel chief Nandy was associated with a cricket coaching camp.

Further, it alleged that Ghosh, who moved from the senior to junior selection recently was both associated with a coaching camp and had also represented White Border Club in CAB meetings previously.

“The CAB had done nothing about it for a long time. For the pair, it was business as usual till the letter came and stirred a hornet’s nest,” a source close to the development said.

Ganguly shot off a letter, a copy of which was circulated to the media, asking Banerjee not to pay heed to such cases since the complainant did not reveal his or her identity.

“The Cricket Association of Bengal will not entertain any such anonymous communication and as such you being an important part of the organisation should follow the same. I feel you are not entitled to give any reply,” Ganguly wrote.

"You have been incorrectly advised by persons without any homework being done and based on mere knowledge in the subject matter in issue," Banerjee wrote to Ganguly. Flickr
“You have been incorrectly advised by persons without any homework being done and based on mere knowledge in the subject matter in issue,” Banerjee wrote to Ganguly. Flickr

Banerjee hit back within hours using strong language. The four-page rejoinder was also circulated to the media.

Banerjee rejected the former India captain’s diktat, saying: “it is widely acknowledged that in the interest of maintaining transparency, organisations world over take cognizance of anonymous information.”

To butress his point, he cited in the letter examples of cases where the judiciary has acted on the basis of anonymous information.

“You have been incorrectly advised by persons without any homework being done and based on mere knowledge in the subject matter in issue,” Banerjee wrote to Ganguly.

“I humbly request you to kindly point out the said policy of CAB, as referred in your letter, and the date when so adopted,” the reply read.

Also Read: Sourav Ganguly receives Death threat in a Letter warning him against attending Vidyasagar University’s Cricket meet in Midnapore

When contacted, the senior advocate gave an impression that the issue had been resolved but did not want to be quoted on any further action. (IANS)