‘If Kumble contract had extension clause, I would have extended it’: Vinod Rai
The Vinod Rai-led Committee of Administrators’ (CoA) tenure ended on Wednesday as an elected body took charge of BCCI for the first time in almost three years. In a free-wheeling chat, Rai discussed his experience at the helm.
How was the experience?
It was very satisfying. We achieved quite a few things. We brought in total transparency. Everything—minutes, decisions—was on the website. The second thing was aligning players’ requirements in terms of compensation and other things. When we took over, their salaries had not been looked into since 2011. The office-bearers’ allowances had been increased. We aligned their salaries with Cricket Australia and the English players. We raised it for every category and called it a flat pyramid (without much difference). Thirdly, in terms of the constitution, I wasn’t convinced about One State, One Vote too. We got it changed. Then we got the number of selectors increased from three, as demanded by the constitution, back to five. Fourthly, we made conflict rules more flexible because it was working to the detriment of our own players. You could happily employ a Ricky Ponting but not Sourav Ganguly. That is why we made the recommendation in the last status report. Fifth, women’s cricket; from about R8 lakh they were getting, we got them about R50 lakh. We more or less aligned them with the men’s team, not just in travel but other things too. More importantly, we started IPL type games. Finally, we got states like Uttarakhand, in existence for 18 years and supplying players to other states, recognised. Pondicherry and North East states too got affiliation.
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When did you expect to finish?
We expected to finish by end of 2017.
What extended your panel’s stay?
The office-bearers were working against the Supreme Court directions. We were called in because despite the SC giving verdict in July 2016, the Board hadn’t implemented till January— the time Ajay Shirke and Anurag Thakur were removed. When we were brought in, our role was seen as contrarian because we were got in to displace people refusing to go. The office-bearers were not cooperating. Nobody wanted transparency. Nobody wanted cooling off. They succeeded in delaying it—92 interlocutory applications were filed just to delay it. All of 2018 was spent in that. It was with great difficulty that we managed to get SC to give a verdict in August and we faced another set of applications against cooling off. That is when SC appointed a second amicus and he did a tremendous job. We have succeeded in bringing a thoroughly ideal constitution, not strait-jacketed. That is what has been satisfying.
But old faces, politicians are back through their wards?
The constitution doesn’t bar a brother or sister or daughter from coming in. It is the mindset of those who were holding BCCI captive that has tried to find loopholes. I still don’t care. I think the cooling-off principle will restrict that... the three states who didn’t comply were not there at the AGM.
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Shastri and Kohli were given a free hand.
If you don’t give a free hand to coach and captain, who do you give it to? Since I was not equipped to sit in judgement over Kohli and Shastri, I didn’t allow others (including Diana) to interfere. I kept them away. I would do the same again. Anil Kumble was the best coach available. If his contract had an extension clause, I would have extended it. I have too much respect and regard for Kumble. But since there was no extension clause and since I wasn’t equipped to decide, we fell back on CAC. We inherited the CAC, not created it. I had a long chat with Sachin then and Sourav now. I met Sachin in Birmingham during the Champions Trophy—they were meeting Kumble and Virat—and I told Sachin I had a long chat with Virat (when he was in Mumbai and I was in Hyderabad) on telephone. I barely knew Virat then. I told Sachin, ‘I felt he was not willing to accept that Kumble continues. So you people have a word with him. Coming from people of your stature, you may be able to persuade him’. I know Sachin and Sourav spoke to him. Sourav told me recently that they had a long chat with him. If they couldn’t persuade him how could I? Look, if there is a difference in the dressing room between captain and coach, who is more dispensable? Obviously, the coach. That’s where we got caught. Dirty linen got washed in public. Ramachandra Guha resigned (as CoA member). Same thing arose with the issue of Mithali Raj and Ramesh Powar. Dissonance in the dressing room and we had to fall back on CAC again. There was so much controversy. Who could have handled it better? If this had happened today, Sourav would have thrust Kumble down Virat’s throat. But it could have created more tensions. I respected Kumble because he walked out.
Did Guha, Vikram Limaye going out have an impact?
Ram Guha is an academic and with conflicting opinions coming in, he couldn’t take the tension. Vikram wouldn’t have because he got such a good job and SEBI wasn’t allowing him to keep both assignments. Diana and me, we come from totally different backgrounds. Our perspective was different. Our differences arose because she had a terrible inter-personal relationship with CEO Rahul Johri. She asked me to sack him. But I said we’ll have a vacuum and said we’ll have what natural justice demands and give him a chance to explain. That’s where we fell out.
Domestic structure has been in a mess. Vijay Hazare had issues, Duleep Trophy lacks sheen?
I was aware of the situation. But I didn’t want to scrap or re-engineer anything because we were a nominated body for short-term. These are the issues to be taken up by elected people who have a long-term perspective. In National Cricket Academy’s case also, I got into it but promptly withdrew. I realised people were thinking we will spend big money. I was keen an elected body with longer-term perspective should get into it.
About interim office-bearers...
CK Khanna was no problem. Amitabh Choudhary was no problem till Khanna & Co complained about his travels. Anirudh was with N Srinivasan.
CoA is blamed for not being aggressive with ICC.
When we took over, there was a mythical 2014 formula. I am calling it mythical because our revenue share was R570 crore. How much of it came in till 2017? Not a single dollar. It was never operationalised. We inherited R293 crore from ICC. Vikram went, re-negotiated and got it increased to R405 crore. That is where it stands. CoA was not a nominee to ICC. Supreme Court said Amitabh will be the nominee. I was being persuaded by the office-bearers to boycott Champions Trophy. Do you think that was feasible? I told them today informally, I will be the happiest person if you get additional funding.