When writing the Supreme Court Committee’s Reforms in Cricket Report, Justice (Retd) R.M. Lodha highlighted that “the understanding of the concept of conflict of interest by a player or official is very different from that of a legal professional who is attuned to conflict mechanisms and their avoidance on a daily basis.”
He also stated that “several cricketers of impeccable repute were surprised when queried about what were obviously potential conflict situations, needing to be convinced that no wrongdoing was necessary for a conflict to exist and that the Committee had to point out to them that the very holding of a position which could be abused to undermine the integrity of the game renders the occupant vulnerable to such a charge.”
But some three years after the Supreme Court accepted the Lodha panel’s reforms report, members of the CoA are at odds on the issue of what constitutes conflict of interest (CoI) for players.
Former India captain and CoA member Diana Edulji, first in conflict with Vinod Rai’s opinion on many matters since January 2017, now finds the third CoA Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ravi Thodge is also with Rai on the CoI issue.
A recent development, following a complaint by Sandeep Gupta, a life member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, saw the Ethics Officer Justice (Retd) D.K. Jain, apply the CoI rule to Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) members Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman.
Free of conflict
The CoA — which is guided by the BCCI’s legal team Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CMD) — is grappling with the issue of Gupta’s complaint against Rahul Dravid, who has been appointed Director, National Cricket Academy.
Both Rai and Thodge believe that the former India captain, and coach of the India under-19 and A team, is free of any conflict. The CoA also felt that the CAC in Kapil Dev, Aunshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy were not in conflict, although they held or hold positions in the BCCI set up or Indian Cricketers Association.
The Dravid matter is with the BCCI Ethics officer to decide; after seeking responses to Gupta’s complaint from Dravid and CoA. Justice Lodha has said that the Ethics Officer will be appointed for the purpose of guidance and resolution in instances of CoI.
Apart from the Dravid CoI issue, Justice Jain is also to give his opinion on whether the process followed to appoint W.V. Raman as coach of the national women’s team was correct.
While Justice Jain’s ruling on Dravid’s alleged CoI situation because of his employment with India Cements (which has interests in IPL team Chennai Super Kings) is awaited, Thodge has initiated a move for a discussion on the CoI issues with former cricketers, including Dravid and Ganguly here on Monday. It’s possible that the players’ view will be conveyed to the amicus curiae P.S. Narasimha.
Niranjan Shah, a former secretary with BCCI, is opposed to CoA’s idea of talking to the cricketers in the CoI matter. “Why this love for cricketers and not for administrators,” asked Shah.
BCCI members also believe that the CoA has no right to start the process for the BCCI AGM and election till the Supreme Court sees the report submitted by the amicus curiae. The amicus, after several meetings with members, appears to have noted among other things, that the composition of the BCCI and the State’s apex council cannot be the same; for the BCCI it’s nine and it appears the amicus has agreed to recommend between 9 and 19.
The CoA Diana and Thodge will meet the players.
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