Conflict of interest. If there were an award function for issues that have plagued Indian cricket in recent years, it will sweep the nominations. From being brought up by the Supreme Court of India and the Lodha Committee to occupying several pages in the new BCCI constitution, the issue is still being talked about by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) and BCCI president-designate Sourav Ganguly.
The latest from the CoA is that it believes the issue has been interpreted in a "straight-jacketed" manner, which is proving to be "counterproductive and disproportionately restrictive". The committee has now urged the Supreme Court to amend the BCCI constitution so that the issue is brought up only when the application is warranted.
But what is the conflict of interest issue really? How is it defined in the BCCI constitution currently and what is Ganguly saying about it? Here's a lowdown.
What did the Supreme Court and the Lodha Committee say about it initially?
January 2015: Not long after the IPL corruption case blew up and there were allegations of conflict of interest against then BCCI president N Srinivasan, the Supreme Court urged "fair play", "transparency". and "objectivity", and was against the board administrators holding commercial interests in events like the IPL and the now-defunct Champions League. The court's definition: "It is an interest where one may abuse the public office to gain personal benefit either directly or indirectly."
January 2016: The Lodha Committee announced sweeping reforms of the BCCI and took the court's judgement a step further by asking for provisions in the BCCI constitution related to conflict of interest. Their report even spelt out specific types of conflict.
It said, "every office bearer, player, councilor, employee, administrator, team official, umpire, or other person connected to the BCCI, its Members or the IPL and its Franchises" should avoid situations that would "bring the interest of the individual in conflict with the interest of the game of cricket".
What does the new BCCI constitution say about conflict of interest?
August 2018: Conflict of interest was incorporated into the BCCI constitution, approved by the Supreme Court, in August 2018, and was laid out specifically in over seven pages with numerous examples of what the various forms of conflict of interest could be. It stated that no individual should occupy more than one of the following 16 posts at a single point of time: player (current), selector/member of a cricket committee, team official, commentator, match official, administrator/office-bearer, electoral officer, ombudsman and ethics officer, auditor, any person who is in governance, management or employment of a franchise, member of a standing committee, CEO & managers, office bearer of a member, service provider (legal, financial etc.), contractual entity (broadcast, security, contractor, etc.), and owner of a cricket academy.
2019: Through the year, Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association life member Sanjeev Gupta has raised complaints with the CoA of several former cricketers allegedly violating the conflict rule. Sachin Tendulkar for being part of the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) and on Mumbai Indians' support staff; Ganguly for being the Cricket Association of Bengal president, a Delhi Capitals support staff member and a commentator; Rahul Dravid for being the NCA director and being employed by India Cements, owner of Chennai Super Kings; VVS Laxman for being on Sunrisers Hyderabad's support staff and being a commentator; Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy - all members of the last CAC - for also being part of the Indian Cricketers' Association. Dev and Gaekwad, Gupta pointed out to BCCI's ethics officer Justice (retd) DK Jain, were commentators and TV pundits respectively too.
What did the CoA say about conflict of interest finally?
October 2019: The succession of complaints prompted the CoA to raise the issue in their 11th and final status report to the Supreme Court. The allegations and the "straight-jacketed" interpretation of the conflict rule, it said, was proving to be "counterproductive and disproportionately restrictive" to both current and former players. It said there had been various instances, which "did not warrant such application".
In simpler terms, the CoA said unnecessary misinterpretation of the rule was not allowing former players to hold multiple posts even when they were "unrelated" or very tangentially related.
As a result, the CoA has now asked the Supreme Court to let the ethics officer have more "flexibility and discretion" to resolve conflicts in each case, rather than be "bound" by a "straight-jacketed formula".
What does Ganguly say about conflict of interest
October 2019: Soon after he filed the nomination to take over as the board president, Ganguly spoke at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, saying conflict of interest was a "very serious issue", and had to be looked at.
"Conflict is an issue. Whether you will actually get the best cricketers in the [BCCI] system, I am not sure because they will have other options to avail," Ganguly said on October 14. "Because if they [former players] come into the system and not get to do what is their livelihood, it is very difficult for them to be part of this system and make a difference.
"So that's one issue which really needs to be looked at. Look at all the appointments that have happened in various forms whether it is the NCA or CAC or the appointment of batting coaches, fielding coaches, there has been issue with everything… commentators, IPL. This needs to be sorted as it is another very serious issue in Indian cricket."
The issue has been troubling former players and administrators for a few years now but all Ganguly has at the BCCI for the time being is ten months. Will he be able to resolve it so quickly, among the other issues on his priority list?