By Yajurvindra Bilkha
Indian cricket is in a state of turmoil, especially on the issues relating to the ‘conflict of interest’ clause. Indian legendary cricketers are being questioned in this respect. Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are facing this issue, with a demand for them to explain themselves. Cricketers of such stature and status should never be ridiculed in such an open manner. The BCCI’s ombudsman, D.K. Jain should have done his enquiry in a silent manner, rather than making it a public affair.
The conflict of interest clauses, proposed by the Lodha committee and being implemented by the BCCI, does have issues that could be a major bane of concern for the cricketers.
Earlier, cricket was not a lucrative and life-long profession to pursue. There was no money in the sport and after retirement, most cricketers were compelled to take up corporate jobs to sustain themselves once their cricket career was over. Therefore, it had become imperative for a cricketer to ensure that apart from honing his skills in cricket, he needed to get an educational certificate for his future. A degree was what stood by him, once his stint with the game was over. Very few, actually took up coaching and other such cricket activities, as there was no money in it. Some cricketers who ventured into cricket, in most cases, did it for the love of the game and for its progress.
Cricket has now grown enormously and become a money spinner and a career path for a cricketer. The immense competition, that now emerges from a cricketer’s school days and thereafter, very seriously in one’s teens, has made it impossible for a cricketer to complete a full-fledged college degree. Cricket at all levels is being played all throughout the year and so education, for most cricketers aspiring to play at a higher level, has become a back-burner. This is a new phase that has come about in the life of a present cricketer, as for most of them without a management degree, the option of a decent job in the corporate world is a difficult alternative. The only other option for them is to get back into the cricket world. A cricket academy, coaching, adjudicating, selecting, sourcing cricketers, umpiring, commentating and mentoring are some of the options available.
The new conflict of interest requirements of the BCCI constitution stipulates that a person cannot be involved in more than one of these activities. Therefore, an academy, if per se, started by cricketers such as Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and many other truly successful cricketers would then make them ineligible to be a part of any other cricket related jobs or activities in the BCCI or Indian cricket. In today’s world of specialisation, for a cricketer his future is all about his sport. Restricting him from making a livelyhood through cricket is most unfair. Why would a former cricketer take up an honorary position in the BCCI or a cricket association for him to lose out to earn a living? It is very easy for people to sit back and judge on the money some of these cricketers have made, solely because of the success that they have achieved. They deserve every bit of it and so do the majority of the other cricketers, unknown to many, who may not be able to etch a good lifestyle in years to come. A cricketer’s life span is short and with other alternatives of jobs evading him for lack of skill, the cricket world is all he has left to look forward to.
In the corporate world, a person can be running a successful company and also be a part of other companies as an advisory/Director. The knowledge and experience of such individuals is respected and admired and therefore, to restrict a cricketer from multi cricket activities is definitely unfair.
One can understand conflict if there is a direct connection between a cricketer and his immediate family. But, a system to encounter such eventuality can be easily taken care of. The ‘conflict of interest’ clauses need to be modified in respect to a cricketer. Cricket is his domain and passion and to put restrictions is just unacceptable. Indian cricketers, who have done yeomen service on the field, should be allowed to give as much back to the game as they can. A foreign cricketer has no such binding. Ricky Ponting is the coach of Delhi Capital in the IPL and the assistant coach of the World Cup Australian side as well as a commentator in the Australian T20 Big bash tournament. Similarly, many of the foreign cricketers, who are commentating and coaching around the world, are allowed to do national duty and be part of their several cricket related committees. India also needs to think much more broadly, as cricket to progress needs cricketers old and new. They know what it takes to play the game.
It was so wonderful to see Saurav Ganguly lifting the young Rishabh Pant after his brilliant performance for Delhi Capital in the IPL. For the youngster, being appreciated by a former Indian cricket captain, present Kolkata Cricket President and his team’s cricket mentor, this gesture will be a life-long memory. Maybe Saurav will carry him back to Kolkata, if so, Indian cricket will gain from it. But Indian cricket will definitely not gain if the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly are reprimanded about doing an honorary duty for Indian cricket as part of the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC). We need to applaud them for giving their thoughts and time and not by giving them notices and to ask them to give written declarations.
Wake up BCCI!
(The writer is a former Test cricketer)