It didn’t take long. The Committee of Administrators spent almost three years trying to clean up Indian cricket and less than a month after control was handed back to the Board of Control for Cricket in India officials, we are seeing a concerted effort by the Board to go back to its old ways.
There are reports about how the BCCI, in its first Annual General Meeting in three years on December 1 in Mumbai, is going to propose a constitutional amendment that could lead to president Sourav Ganguly’s tenure being increased.
The same reports also state that the BCCI members are set to revisit the age-cap of 70 years, the cooling off period of three years after a period of six years and curtailing the powers of the executives including the Chief Executive Officer.
And now, Ganguly, by brazenly tweeting about My11circle (a fantasy cricket league which gives a chance to its users to win a cash reward for predicting the best playing eleven for a given match) has brought a huge conflict of interest issue to the fore.
On November 8, Ganguly tweeted: “The #INDvsBAN series is on fire! The excitement continues in the 3rd match with series levelled. Will #TeamIndia keep up the winning streak or will Bangladesh bounce back? Beat my team on @My11Cirlce & Win Big. Make Your Team Now!”
Now, there are three major problems with his tweet:
a) As BCCI president, anything and everything related to the game of cricket in India can put him in a conflict of interest situation. Firstly, his endorsement stands out as a case of ambush marketing by a board official as Dream11 is an official partner with the board-run Indian Premier League. Secondly, in case My11Circle ever decides to bid for anything related to Indian cricket over the next few years, he could be seen as influencing the deal.
Ganguly, on his part, feels this is his personal thing.
“I don’t think there is any conflict in it, it’s my personal thing. Had I tweeted about Dream 11, it would have come under conflict of interest. I don’t see any conflict in that tweet,” he said outside the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai.
But this blurring of personal and professional is precisely what conflict of interest is.
b) Ganguly has regular access to India captain Virat Kohli and chairman of selector MSK Prasad. While the team he makes on MyCircle11 may be purely based on his own intuition, can he deny that the intuition is not being subconsciously influenced by his knowledge of what the India team may be looking to try out or not? Is this not a conflict of interest?
c) The BCCI conflict of interest rules state:
An administrator of an affiliated unit or his near relative shall not have any commercial interest in any activities / tournaments of the affiliated unit.
So isn’t Ganguly’s commercial interest in a series being played by the Indian team a direct contravention of the rule? As BCCI president, should he be making money from the game and do these deals put him in a position where he can be exploited?
A big problem
Ganguly may not be doing anything wrong at the moment but it is his responsibility to hold himself to a higher standard. He needs to eliminate even the possibility of a conflict of interest.
A lot of BCCI officials and cricketers associated with the Board seem to treat the conflict of interest clause as an unnecessary problem.
But the problem isn’t the clause. The issue rather is the lack of professionalism in the BCCI. If the players or administrators can prove they have no conflict of interest, they can carry on as usual. And that is all they need to do.
It is even more worrisome that Ganguly doesn’t even see the problem. If the BCCI president is going to do this, then what will stop the other officials from following suit. They may not get endorsements like the former India captain but they are so many other ways to make money from the game.
When Ganguly took over, he promised to lead BCCI just as he had led India.
“No compromise on credibility, corruption-free and same for all BCCI, just as I led India,” Ganguly had said.
But one can safely say, without any conflict of interest, that on a wicket that is seaming, he has got off to a scratchy start.