Players get raw deal, but officials exploit conflict of interest loopholes
In an eco-system riddled with multiple levels of conflict of interest, it is imperative that the mechanism used to get rid of this malaise is transparent, perfect and doesn’t reek of any favour or bias. In the context of Indian cricket, however, this is easier said than done.
On one hand, we have members of the board spread across state units who elect office-bearers for smooth administrative functioning. Among the various resources available to them are the players themselves, who play a crucial role in formulating technical aspects of the game and selecting state as well as Indian teams.
We all know what gave rise to the Lodha reforms, which are now in the final stages of implementation, even though they are being honoured more in breach than in observance. It was greed from the administrative side that forced the Supreme Court intervention. One of the key recommendations of the Justice Mudgal panel, which was probing the IPL fixing allegations, was to get rid of all conflict of interest situations that the board was mired in.
The panel, tasked with preparing a board constitution that helps in transparent governance, put stress on eliminating all potential or existing conflict of interest situations. The players, due to their multiple involvement with various commercial/governance/technical aspects of the game, were also brought under stringent clauses that were resented by some of the true greats of the game.
The argument that “since we have served the country with integrity, this clause should not be applicable to us as we can’t be cheats” did not find any merit with the former Chief Justice. He explained that the rule defining conflict does not accuse anyone of wrongdoing, it just lays down a framework that avoids putting players in a situation where they can derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity, even if taken in good faith. A Tendulkar or a Dravid won’t do anything wrong but someone else may, hence exceptions can’t be made.
The purge of the “vested interests”, if one may call the Lodha recommendations so, was from the administrative as well as players’ side. The irony is that administrators are finding multiple loopholes in circumventing these, and are now going to control the board through proxies — sons, brothers, wives, relatives, friends. The board is now much like our political parties: dynastic. Anurag Thakur’s brother, N Srinivasan’s daughter, Niranjan Shah or Amit Shah’s son can become board presidents, but a Dravid or a Kapil Dev can’t. The players are being subject to these stringent conflict of interest clauses by BCCI’s ethics officer, former judge DK Jain.
Fair enough. They should be and a player, howsoever great he may be, has to abide by the rules that are only going to enhance the image of the game.
However, there is one troubling aspect to this scrutiny which lets board members get away with manipulative games and penalises only players. For long have players felt that rules are meant only for them, and that board members can get away even with murder. The board has, over the years, come down harshly on any player whom they felt was a “rebel” and was questioning the arbitrariness of some decisions.
Today, when a lot has changed and is changing, especially with a players association being formed and two of them set to be part of the board’s apex governing body, they can still feel aggrieved. This sense of victimhood can gain legitimacy if the board members are seen manipulating — even flouting — rules while players are the only ones who are made to fall in line. In this reformed “New Indian Board”, some members should not be seen more equal than the others.