Ramachandra Guha resigns from CoA June 2, 2017

Guha raises questions for Indian cricket

In showing no bias in pointing out various conflicts, and in naming names, Ramachandra Guha has penned a document that is bold and unprecedented
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Sambit Bal: "Guha saying CoA hasn't fulfilled its mandate"

When Ramachandra Guha was appointed to the Committee of Administrators, there were sniggers from various quarters. What did a historian living in an imagined utopia know about running Indian cricket, it was asked. Having found the kitchen too hot, it will be said, he has quit. He has quit all right, and arguably without accomplishing the primary objective of seeing the reforms through, but he has left with an important piece of what all his detractors consider him good for: writing.

Not many pieces have said more about the state of Indian cricket administration than Guha's resignation letter to Vinod Rai, the chairman of the CoA. The superstars of Indian cricket, of the recent past and present, stand exposed as lacking accountability and conscience. The BCCI has been reaffirmed as a manipulative body that allows the excesses of these superstars to keep them on its side. In the case of Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev, their cheerleading of the board comes as a bonus.

Not all of this is new but it is coming from a man who had the mandate from the highest court of the country, a man who spent four months in the system and was clearly frustrated by the inaction.

He saw the BCCI subvert a Supreme Court order, and he saw his colleagues not do much about it. He saw the old guard try to hold a world event hostage, and he saw his colleagues let it happen before swooping in at the last minute. He is seeing a coach being shunted out to supposedly appease a superstar captain, and he sees his colleagues - by the virtue of their silence - complicit in it. Perhaps the CoA can provide a counter-argument because the BCCI old guard will be happy with this chaos and confusion.

Guha would have done well to mention the irony that Kumble himself was appointed coach through the subversion of another process last year. Otherwise, from Dravid to Gavaskar to Dhoni to Kohli to Ganguly, Guha has mentioned them all. In Dravid's case, allowance could be made that his BCCI contract allows him to work in the IPL for two months a year; and he has also asked the board for clarity on his role in the past. He might be making a fair point, but Guha might also have been better off leaving Dhoni's contract grade to the men charged with these decisions: the national selectors.

However, in showing no bias in pointing out the conflicts of interest, in naming names, and in the clarity with which it does so, this is a bold and unprecedented letter. It says a lot that such a brave assessment can only be made by someone on the outside and with no designs of gaining materially from Indian cricket.

Rai and Limaye are practical men from the practical world who seem to be looking for practical solutions, but they could have done more to take along with them a man with intentions as noble as Guha's

These are not concerns that have emerged overnight out of love for Kumble, with whom, and Bishan Bedi, Guha had once taken a selfie and tweeted, "two of my greatest heroes". Guha has quoted emails in his letter to indicate that he has had these concerns ever since he joined the CoA, and that they had not been acted upon. Those who know him say he has been frustrated for a long time.

To be fair to Guha's colleagues at the CoA, their hands have been tied in certain cases by what is, in parts, an ambiguous order from the Supreme Court. In many instances, the CoA was reduced to going back to the Court for instructions. For example, when the CoA intervened to prevent disqualified members from attending BCCI meetings, the court order put the onus on the members to judge for themselves if they were disqualified or not. Or else. Such "or elses" have clearly not worked because N Srinivasan and Niranjan Shah, to name two of the disqualified members, attended the BCCI SGM in Delhi.

Perhaps, in a hyper-nationalistic age, the CoA didn't want to come across as the one who lost the BCCI part of what it used to get from the ICC, though the BCCI's insistence at the cost of globalisation is a bit like the USA pulling out of the climate deal. Perhaps it was also mindful of any disruptions to India's showcase event, the IPL, which is why it hasn't yet shown the old guard the full might of its mandate.

The CoA has also been looking at pushing for constitutional changes with minimal controversy as its primary objective. There is nothing stopping the committee from working on the issues Guha mentions - it did take up player contracts - but its bigger concern is the implementation of the Lodha Committee's reforms, which the BCCI old guard keeps resisting.

Even having made these allowances, the CoA has been slow and cautious, arguably overcautious. Whatever the reasons, it had the mandate to block some of these unfortunate events. For example, it intervened only one day before the BCCI was set to pull out of the Champions Trophy.

Rai and Limaye are practical men from the practical world, who seem to be looking for practical solutions, but they could have done more to take along with them a man with intentions as noble as Guha's. If a lawyer was changed - as alleged - without taking Guha into confidence, it could say a lot about what the committee thought of him and arguably, by extension, his concerns. If a man within the committee began to doubt the committee, those outside are bound to question whether the committee has forgotten its mandate.

It will be all too easy to say that if Guha cared so much he should have stayed and tried to change the system, but that is also to say that Indian cricket is no place for straightforward men with straightforward intentions, even if they come armed with Supreme Court orders.

Perhaps we are better off looking at the circumstances that led to this. Perhaps this jolt will bring the urgency that Guha wanted to see in the CoA. Perhaps this is, as ESPNcricinfo's editor-in-chief Sambit Bal put it in the video above, a plea to the Supreme Court to unshackle the CoA a little. If that happens, it might be worth a couple of clinking glasses in the BCCI old guard.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • y on June 5, 2017, 13:50 GMT

    There appears to be lot of cynicism and everything about BCCI is wrong kind of message. Even assuming that things are grossly wrong in BCCI, it has been one of the successful and cash rich organisations in INDIA. Conflict of Interest appears to be totally misunderstood. Sunil Gavaskar does not have to hold a position or run an organisation to influence any body in cricket establishment at any time. If at all he runs an organization at least to that extent he will be careful. Same applies to all the names taken by Mr Guha. And in the same letter he has fallen into the same trap he was alleging others about. I am talking about raking the name of Srinath, Why detail a bit about Srinath and then say people like him. It is exactly we all do. We are comfortable with a familiar name or face. So let us look to refine the BCCI to perform better rather than damaging its reputation for no reason

  •   Narendra Kv on June 5, 2017, 13:40 GMT

    I think there is a lot of material for another Ramachandra Guha book on Indian cricket. He will be one of the heroes, for a change

  • mukundarajan on June 5, 2017, 12:32 GMT

    Mr. BV Nathan. This is what is expected of Mr. Dravid. What is wrong in giving his opinion when sought. Dravid is appointed as junior coach to give inputs to all concerned and that is how the selection process evolves. Has Dravid unduly supported a relative or a friend's son it is COI? But thro his inputs if the selection process is benefited it should be welcome. Do you mean to say that selectors hv to select based on seeing the player's ability in nets and very few matches they see? I think most of the readers want all and sundries to participate in selection by voting on a Nationwide poll

  • mukundarajan on June 5, 2017, 8:20 GMT

    Poor Sunil Gavaskar. I am not a great admirer of his comments because unlike Shastri he can not hide his feelings when a Mumbaikar or Mumbai team disappoints. But what Mr.Guha said of him is uncharitable. Conflict of interest will be there in every issue especially specialists are far and few and they hv to wear multiple hats. For the sake of avoiding COI you can not dole out specialist posts to club cricketers.

    The case in point is, Rohan Gavaskar tried his hand in giving commentary but he was shunted out because he was found wanting. Here the Senior Gavaskar did not force him on us and the junior guy is doing his job in odd first class matches.

    Thus if a person wears multiple hats as a specialist, prove that he has misused the powers vested with him to his advantage. (There are many chief ministers who are party presidents as well as CMs since the party post can not be given to others for obvious reasons.) Mr.Guha as well as many outside BCCI are allergic to the word COI.

  • bhanu67325088 on June 5, 2017, 6:34 GMT

    Nothing better could come from Guha who loves to call spade a spade.Lets admit it, we Indian are bit by the Superstar syndrome.We make heroes out of mortals,keep them at the highest pedestal and applaud everything they do.The likes of Sunny Gavaskar want to have finger in every pie, just because their names are synonymous with Indian cricket.The CoA is a motley group of individuals who already have been hijacked by these so called superstars, erstwhile administrators et al. Needless to say the politician cricketer nexus will continue to thrive despite the efforts of the Supreme Court to clean the Augean Stables. Period.

  • Nathan on June 4, 2017, 19:38 GMT

    @VISBAL, you are spot on. To cite one of your points, I want to highlight the influence of Dravid words or opinion matters. In the last Ranji season, Mumbai took the gamble of inducting PP Shaw to the team. No question or doubts about PP Shaw, who has immense potential. The chief selector of Mumbai has gone on record to say that, before he or his team made the final call, he had a discussion with Dravid who had coached PP Shaw in U-19 and sought his opinion. Dravids inputs finally helped him to make the decision to induct PP Shaw into the team. In reality, Dravid gave an opinion about PP Shaw capabilities and may be other points for Mumbai selector to ponder. Mumbai selector could have ignored Dravid inputs, but it did result in influencing the decision by Mumbai team.

  • Nathan on June 4, 2017, 19:27 GMT

    Guha has been one of my favorite writers since school days and I'm a great fan of his narration. Let us take a step back and articulate the contents of Guha's resignation letter. He is spot on to identify his role in CoA affairs and has brought out significant points that might have missed even Lodha committee. Credit to him, for able to bring out the delay and deficiency in the way BCCI operates and the inability of CoA to exercise their mandate. Guha in no way is discrediting the services of players of past and present, but he is pointing out the inadequacies in the current administration. So much is talked out Conflict of Interest (CoI) in case of Gavaskar, Dravid and et all. The question that I wish to pose is, how come we don't hear such CoI with other cricket boards and the members involved. We have many AUS coaches in IPL, but they don't hold any other positions in CA. Even Ian Chappell has ensured he doesn't have CoI with his work compared to other elite members of group

  • sahir on June 4, 2017, 4:51 GMT

    @Jose..You have got it wrong this time Jose. The reason why there is no conflict of interest with Allan Donald is simply SL is separate from SA. Allan may use SAs weakness to the advantage of SL, but he can't do vice versa simply because he doesn't hold any office with SA cricket atleast for now. In case of Rahul, he is the coach/mentor of DD and coach of India A & U-19 at the same time. He can drag players like Pant, Nair or others to national teams using his position.

  • Amit on June 3, 2017, 19:09 GMT

    This is how India works in general. It would be naive to expect BCCI to be any different.