New Delhi: Indian cricket’s “superstar culture", unaddressed conflict of interest issues and the Board Of Control For Cricket In India’s (BCCI) “insensitive" handling of coach Anil Kumble—noted historian Ramachandra Guha has opened a pandora’s box in his resignation letter to the Committee of Administrators (CoA).
Guha spared no one and questioned skipper Virat Kohli’s role in selection of coach, besides alleging conflict of interest on part of Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid.
The letter also questioned the move to give former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni a Grade A Central Contract despite not playing all three formats.
In a seven-page letter, Guha has expressed his disgust to Rai for the “extremely insensitive and unprofessional manner" that the speculated Kohli-Kumble fallout was handled by BCCI chief executive officer (CEO) Rahul Johri and the BCCI office-bearers (Amitabh Chaudhary).
He accused the COA of “silence and inaction", claiming that the panel was “unfortunately being complicit in this regard." In his parting shot, he recommended Javagal Srinath’s name as his replacement as a former cricketer in the Committee of Administrators.
While Guha, in his submission to Supreme Court cited personal reasons for quitting COA, his letter asks a lot of uncomfortable questions to the powers that be of Indian cricket.
Guha has directly questioned Kohli’s “veto power" on deciding matters like appointment of a coach and even the commentators’ panel. It also makes it clear that Kumble-Kohli rift is a reality.
He writes: “If indeed the captain and the Head Coach were not getting along, why was not this attended to as soon as the Australia series was over in late March? Why was it left until the last minutes, when a major international tournament was imminent, and when the uncertainty would undermine the morale and ability to focus of the coach, the captain and the team."
“And surely giving senior players the impression that they may have a veto power over the coach is another example of superstar culture gone berserk? Such a veto power is not permitted to any other top level professional team in any other sport in any other country," he categorically states.
In a veiled dig at Kohli, Guha writes that today, players are interfering in matters pertaining to appointment of coaches and commentators (Harsha Bhogle was removed for on-air criticism of Virat Kohli), tomorrow it may well be that they would like to have a say on office-bearers.
“Already, in a dismaying departure from international norms, current Indian players enjoy a veto power on who can be the members of the commentary team. If it is to be coaches next, then perhaps the selectors and even office-bearers will follow?"
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Guha lambasted the superstar culture prevalent in the Indian cricketing set-up that has allowed Dhoni to retain a ‘Grade A’ contract when he has given up on Test cricket in 2014.
“Unfortunately, this superstar syndrome has also distorted the system of Indian team contracts. As you will recall, I had pointed out that awarding M S Dhoni an ‘A’ contract when he had explicitly ruled himself out from all Test matches was indefensible on cricketing grounds, and sends absolutely the wrong message," he wrote.
He was also severe on the likes of Rahul Dravid for having dual contracts with both the BCCI and IPL franchises.
“No person under contract with an India team, or with the NCA, should be allowed to moonlight for an IPL team too," he writes.
Taking an indirect dig at Dravid (India A coach), and R Sridhar (fielding coach), the former COA member questioned BCCI for allowing them to have IPL contracts with Delhi Daredevils (Dravid) and Kings XI Punjab (Sridhar).
An excerpt of the letter states: “The question of conflict of interest, which had laid unaddressed ever since the Committee began its work, and which I have been repeatedly flagging since I joined. For instance, the BCCI has accorded preferential treatment to some national coaches, by giving them ten month contracts for national duty, thus allowing them to work as IPL coaches/mentors for the remaining two months."
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“This was done in an ad-hoc and arbitrary manner; the more famous the former player-turned-coach, the more likely was the BCCI to allow him to draft his own contract that left loopholes that he exploited to dodge the conflict of interest issue," Guha wrote with fingers clearly pointed at Dravid, someone whose reputation till date has been unquestionable.
Apart from taking on Kohli and Dravid, Guha also had strong reservations about Sunil Gavaksar’s business interests in Professional Management Group (PMG) and his firm managing a current player—Shikhar Dhawan.
He, in fact, told Rai how he had apprised them of PMG signing up Dhawan’s endorsements.
“Sunil Gavaskar is head of a company which represents Indian cricketers while commenting on those cricketers as part of the BCCI TV commentary panel. This is a clear conflict of interest. Either he must step down/withdraw himself from PMG completely or stop being a commentator for BCCI."
After Gavaskar, Guha then trained his gun on another former captain Sourav Ganguly, who is a TV pundit apart from being current president of the Cricket Association of Bengal.
“Conflict of interest is rampant in the State Associations as well. One famous former cricketer is contracted by media houses to comment on active players while serving as President of his State Association (read Ganguly)."
Guha urged Rai and his colleagues to take some “bold decisions" on which the credibility of the committee rests.
“COA’s credibility and effectiveness hinges on our being able to take bold and correct decisions on such matters. The ‘superstar’ culture that afflicts the BCCI means that the more famous the player (former or present) the more leeway he is allowed in violating norms and procedures.
“Dhoni was captain of the Indian team while holding a stake in a firm that represented some current India players. (Referring to Rhiti Sports that had Suresh Raina, Karn Sharma, RP Singh in its rolls). This must stop – and only we can stop it," he writes.