Conflict of interest has dented the game of cricket: Supreme Court

New Delhi: Arguments concluded, verdict reserved for January 2015. As lawyers representing the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) and the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) walked out of the precincts of the Supreme Court, many wondered whether — for the first time — the country's apex court will truly clean the game's dirty underbelly.

Former India captains Kris Srikkanth (left) & Sunil Gavaskar were among those named by BCCI as administrators having commercial interests in the game
Former India captains Kris Srikkanth (left) & Sunil Gavaskar were among those named by BCCI as administrators having commercial interests in the game  

There is a lot at stake, ostensibly because the Supreme Court will announce its verdict on the controversial Rule 6.2.4 of BCCI's Constitution, besides pronouncing whether Srinivasan can contest the BCCI presidential elections and what action should be taken against those named in the final probe report submitted by the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee.

And why not?

The court has — in all seriousness — admitted that deep-rooted conflict of interest has dented the game, especially after the judges were given a list of administrators with conflict of interest.

The list included — besides president-in-exile N Srinivasan — names of four former captains — Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Kris Srikkanth and Sourav Ganguly and others like Venkatesh Prasad, former India bowler and bowling coach, and Lalchand Rajput, manager for the 2007 World T20-winning Indian team.

Sundaram argued that all these men would be impacted if the controversial rule — amended in 2008 before the first IPL to facilitated Srinivasan's ownership of Chennai Super Kings — was struck down. The judges wondered what commercial interest commentators could possibly have in a game.

The judges continued their tirade, asking how come Srikkanth was a brand ambassador for CSK while heading the selection committee. "This is a clear conflict of interest," the judges observed. "There is deep rooted conflict of interest. It has dented the game," said the court, asking the board to explain the background under which the controversial amendment was brought in the rules.

Was it done in the larger interest of the public? Hope the BCCI has not faltered to maintain the purity of the game, asked the judges. It was a tough day for BCCI counsel CA Sundaram. Worse, there were enough sparks flying after BCCI named former skippers Ganguly and Gavaskar, current team director Ravi Shastri and former chief selector Srikkanth in the list of "affected people".

To start, Srikkanth did not take being named in the court lightly, saying it was wrong to label him as an individual in conflict of interest. "I was never in conflict of interest. I was the ambassador of Chennai Super Kings before I became the chairman of selectors," said the former captain. "The board should not have appointed me (as chief selector) if there was conflict of interest," he told a news channel.

As court papers were not available, it was not immediately known whether the BCCI counsel had included the name of another former skipper, Anil Kumble, in the list. The former spinner has been the head of National Cricket Academy and Karnataka Cricket Association and also mentors for both Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Also, he owns a player management firm.

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