CoA’s new 'conflict of interest' diagnosis upsets the apple cart

In attempting to prevent India’s coaching and support staff members from associating with the Indian Premier League franchises, the Committee of Administrators may deprive the League of a lot of quality professionals.

Rahul Dravid, who has served as coach of India’s ‘A’ and Under-19 teams, asked the BCCI to allow him to serve his IPL team or be compensated for missing out.   -  M. MOORTHY

It seems the Committee of Administrators (CoA) is in a hurry to incorporate reforms within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

In one of the major proposals mooted by the CoA, it has prioritised the avoidance of a possible ‘Conflict of Interest’ among the coaching and support staff members who are associated with India’s national team as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises. Haven’t a majority of India coaching and support staff been involved in the IPL ever since its inception? So, why have such considerations cropped up suddenly?

A major incident that prompted the CoA to take the issue seriously took place during a one-day series in Mumbai between the U-19 teams of India and England.

With the series having been sealed with a match to spare, India U-19 coach Rahul Dravid released five players from the squad and preferred to try out a newer group of promising youngsters. Three of those five flew to New Delhi the next day to undergo trials for Delhi Daredevils, ahead of the player auction. That Dravid was also the Daredevils mentor fuelled speculation about the players having been released to be tried out by the franchise. When this incident was informed to the CoA, it decided it had to step in.

Let’s make one thing very clear. Nobody has any doubt about Dravid’s integrity or his intentions. In fact, Indian cricket has benefitted with his stints as coach of India’s U-19 and ‘A’ teams. Most importantly, even before he took charge of the these teams 18 months ago, the eminent former India batsman had made it very clear to the BCCI that he should either be allowed to work with an IPL franchise or be compensated for it.

Dravid is understood to have been paid almost Rs. 4 crore per year for handling both the teams. His IPL franchise is learnt to be paying him almost half of it, just like the other senior support staff members of the team.

Dravid isn't alone when it comes to donning the IPL and India hats simultaneously.

Among the existing support staff of the Indian team, fielding coach R. Sridhar and performance analyst Ashish Tuli are associated with Kings XI Punjab while masseur Arun Kanade is employed by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Besides, batting coach Sanjay Bangar and physiotherapist Patrick Farhart were with Kings XI Punjab till last year.

Andrew Leipus, the lead physiotherapist at the National Cricket Academy, has served Kolkata Knight Riders for a long time.

Some of the former India coaching and support staff members, from bowling coaches Venkatesh Prasad to B. Arun, masseurs Ramesh Mane to Amit Shah and trainers Ramji Srinivasan to Shankar Basu, have also enjoyed fruitful IPL stints during their tenure with the Indian team.

With ‘Conflict of Interest’ having become a term frequently cited in the BCCI ever since N. Srinivasan's own ‘Conflict of Interest’ was questioned by the courts four years ago, all these professionals are now loosely accused of ‘favouring’ their IPL franchise players when it comes to the national team.

Not many realise that none of these professionals have a say in India’s selection. The selection panel consults the captain and the head coach and no India head coach has taken up an IPL role while being in charge of the national team.

CoA’s concern

So, what exactly is the CoA’s concern? It is primarily attempting to restore the perception of sanity among the cricket fraternity.

Cricketers and the coaches are the torch-bearers of Indian cricket. And this bunch has ensured that the faith among aficionados hasn’t wavered despite multiple scandals the IPL has been involved in over the last decade. Therefore, the CoA feels all doubts have to be removed.

The professionals are set to be contracted for the full year instead of 10 months, as is the current arrangement. Since most of the coaches and experts were not supposed to be engaged in any India-related activity during the IPL window, the previous BCCI dispensation allowed them to utilise that period. Besides the financial windfall, the coaches and support staff members could also monitor players from close quarters.

The CoA feels that all professionals should be compensated for the whole year and be made to utilise the IPL window to either monitor a wider pool of players or plan for the next international cycle. The intention is not to convert the two-month window into a paid holiday but instead extract the optimum from these experts.

If it is implemented from the next year, it may deprive IPL of a lot of quality professionals. It may also result in more opportunities being given to a string of Indian professionals who are now ready to work with the best of cricketers behind the scene. Whether the supposed ‘Conflict of Interest’ is independent of this move is something that could be clear only when the proposal is tried out.