Just for the sake of argument let us assume that Ramchandra Guha got it wrong... that Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly knew nothing about the conflicts of interest that they were indulging in.
It is highly unlikely that they didn’t, but bear with me. Let’s just give the ‘superstars’ the benefit of doubt. They are innocent of any wrong and whatever they did, they did it with no malicious intent. But now that Guha has called them out, would the superstars come clean – will they (as they should) resign or at least acknowledge that they are in the wrong?
If we go by past instances, they won’t. Nothing will change.
- Rahul Dravid exploiting a ‘loophole’ in BCCI the contract that allowed him to coach India ‘A’ and India U-19 in addition to Delhi Daredevils team was brought up last year as well. The result? Nothing happened. He returned to do exactly the same thing a year later.
- VVS Laxman, who was part of the committee that selected Anil Kumble as Team India’s coach, is the second biggest shareholder in Kumble’s company Tenvic Sports Education Private Ltd. Should he have even been on the panel?
- Sunil Gavaskar is the head of a company which represents Indian cricketers while commenting on those cricketers as part of the BCCI TV commentary panel. Cricketers are praised and then signed, resulting in an increase in market value.
- Mahendra Singh Dhoni found himself in the middle of a controversy when it came to light that he had 15 per cent stake in Rhiti Sports, which also managed Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha, apart from him. Then president Jagmohan Dalmiya promised that nothing would be swept under the carpet but guess what happened?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more such instances that look at just not these players but many others too. But no one in the Indian cricket system will even blink when these conflicts of interest are mentioned because once you became a superstar, the system becomes that little bit more accomodating... and who doesn’t like that?
A superstar knows people, and people want to know a superstar. So turning a blind eye to their misdemeanours is mandatory. In fact, it might even earn you a nice thank you, a few match tickets and an IOU.
But bend the rules for them and you end up having everyone else who attains a similar kind of stature demand the same. Then, you can’t refuse. In that way, the superstars of Indian cricket have killed not just the game, but also their consciences.
Sportsmen are not infallible – they make wrong choices, they train in the wrong way... with the wrong people, they eat wrong, they get injured – and with each of those choices, they inch ever closer to the end of their career. Hence, there is the urge to cash in while you can; to cash in while you are at the top. After all, isn’t that why a majority of sportsmen choose cricket over other sports in India? In cricket, you have a better chance of making money.
If you are good, you might make the Ranji team. If you are very good, you will make it to the IPL. If you are very good and liked by the right people, you will make the Indian team. At each level, you hope that your game speaks for itself but it is rarely if ever as simple as that. The malaise that dogs our junior system does not miraculously clear up by the time we reach the senior level.
But still when you consider that these conflicts of interest have continued quite brazenly even after the Lodha panel’s recommendations show that Indian cricket’s problems stem from a lack of a conscience.
When Kumble was once asked about his other conflict of interest (Director of Tenvic while being president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association and chairman of National Cricket Academy), he responded thus: “The positions with the KSCA and NCA are honorary jobs, and I have to look after myself. At this stage of my career, I have to do that. Otherwise, you would have to become like Gandhi and give up everything.”
They key statement being “I have to look after myself,” which in itself isn’t a bad thing but when it could lead other players or Indian cricket being harmed, then you are in dangerous territory. If Dravid, Kumble, Ganguly, Gavaskar and other truly want to show that they deserve to be called greats, then they need to set the right examples... on and off the field.
Is it really too much to ask?
As someone long deceased once said: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”