Cricket clips

#1 With Sahara now becoming a franchise owner, the BCCI has a bit of a problem on its hands. Or rather, an existing problem got escalated:

The board’s existing sponsorship deal with the Sahara Group ends on June 30. Sahara originally won the right to sponsor the Indian cricket team for a period of four years beginning in December 2005 for Rs 400 crore. But the BCCI was unable to find a new sponsor last year, failing to attract even a single bid. So Sahara agreed to continue its sponsorship of the team for an additional six months on the same terms.

That said, indications are the BCCI has learnt nothing from the recent auction fiasco involving the IPL. Check this out:

According to PTI, the bid document is available for a non-refundable fee of Rs. 5 lakh. The notice requires all bidders to satisfy the eligibility criteria laid down by the board, which has also reserved the right to “cancel or amend the entire bidding process at any stage and to reject any and/or all bids without providing any reasons, including calling for a re-tender.”

In other words, I get to shell out Rs 5 lakh for the privilege of bidding to sponsor the Indian team — and that money is non-refundable. I have to satisfy certain criteria — and I don’t know what they are until I shell out said five lakh and get the bid document in my hands. And after I go through this entire process, the BCCI might decide to scrap the entire process “without providing any reason”, which is a nice clause to have if you intend to manipulate the process to favor any one particular party.

And to think it is Shashank Manohar and N Srinivasan, the architects of this process, who are the most vocal when it comes to complaining about the IPL and Modi’s idiosyncratic ways of running things.

#2. In a Rohit Mahajan piece in Outlook, spotted this bit: when India was knocked out in the league stage of the last ODI World Cup, former captains waxed indignant about player endorsements and demanded that it be capped. The BCCI promptly — and unilaterally — issued an edict restricting player endorsements. When then captain Rahul Dravid — prefacing his remarks with the usual diplomatic language about there being no conflict between the board and the players — suggested that the issue was best resolved through dialogue, Shashank Manohar responded thus:

“I do not think there is any scope for rethinking on the endorsement policy already announced,” Manohar told PTI. “The rules and conditions are set. A player may or may not accept [them] but it is not a problem of the BCCI.”

Manohar dismissed suggestions that the board’s decisions could be questioned in the court of law because they infringed on the players’ right to earn.

“Nothing will happen in the court because the players are not models,” said Manohar. “If they want to play for the board and India, the board is putting conditions. You may or may not accept them. If a player is not willing to sign the contract and uphold the conditions of the contract, it amounts to saying that he is not willing to play for India.”

Manohar said there was no question of the board having a dialogue with the players’ agents who have come out strongly against its decisions. “Who are the managing agents when it comes to the board. We don’t even recognise them. When we recognise the players, why should we talk to the agents.”

Consider the sum of those statements: The Board won’t talk to the players because there is nothing to discuss — we have decided, you can take it or do the other thing. The Board won’t talk to players’ agents, because it is talking to the players [to whom it is not talking]. If a player wants to play for “the board and India”, he can do what we tell him to. Or else.

That response is indicative of the ‘tail wags dog’ arrogance that permeates all levels of the BCCI, from the top down. [Note that around the same time, the BCCI “brushed aside” Dravid’s concern that the team was being over-scheduled — a frequently voiced concern, that has as frequently been ignored by the board, up to and including the latest T20 WC fiasco].

Back to Mahajan’s Outlook piece — in which he makes the point that while India’s performance in the latest world level competition was equally disastrous, the once combative captains who demanded caps on player endorsements have been suspiciously silent. He tells you why:

Thus, three years after that noble effort to create practice time for players, India again travels to the West Indies, this time for the Twenty20 World Cup. The team is jaded—45 days of non-stop play, travel and party for IPL-3 has taken its toll. However, this time around, six of the seven ex-captains are silent. Three of them—Sunil Gavaskar, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Ravi Shastri—are massively compensated members of the IPL. A fourth, K. Srikkanth, is the (paid) chief selector and also brand ambassador of the winning IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings. S. Venkatraghavan is the director of BCCI’s umpires’ committee. Kapil Dev has spoken, but perhaps only because he hasn’t been part of the BCCI structure (since 2007), penalised for floating the Indian Cricket League. Wonder why Chandu Borde remains silent? Perhaps to show his gratitude to the BCCI for the stray crumbs that fall his way—he was the manager of the team on the tour of England in 2007. The seven also spoke then, and are now silent, because silence is what the BCCI now wants of them.

So when captain M.S. Dhoni says that the IPL parties were detrimental to the Indian team’s interests, we had Gavaskar, not surprisingly, countering: “Tell me one thing, there were no parties in the West Indies, were there? So how can you say that the team performed badly in the Caribbean because of parties in India.”

In passing, the point about Srikkanth is particularly interesting. Check out what Manohar, with trademark arrogance, had said when the Board decided that players couldn’t sign endorsement contracts without first getting permission from the BCCI:

He also defended the board’s decision to ask the players to seek its permission before signing an endorsement contract. “We do not want to know the players’ figures [of earnings from their personal endorsements]. This is mainly to investigate whether there is any clause that conflicts with the interests of the game or the board or the ICC. We have every right to scrutinise the contracts.”

It’s a wonder the words “conflict of interest” come trippingly on the BCCI honcho’s tongue, no? Also note how easily the board abrogates to itself the right to scrutinize private contracts between players and their sponsors — while the same board and indeed, the same Manohar, was responsible for inserting into IPL guidelines the clause that contracts between the franchises and the IPL could not be subjected to public scrutiny.

#3. Worth a read, one of the more balanced pieces to have come out of the aftermath of the IPL fiasco — from Sharda Ugra.

Thoughts? Comments? Oh, and by the way, will be live today on the Yorker show, 3.30-4.30 PM IST. Link on Twitter, as soon as it is ready.