Can someone who is directly responsible for selecting the Indian team invest in a commercial enterprise whose business model is based on fans picking the right or wrong playing eleven? Will the cricket board probe if India captain Virat Kohli’s links with Mobile Premier League, an online fantasy league game that promises millions in rewards for gamers and also sponsors the national team’s kit, pass the propriety test? Kohli, as this paper reported, along with his agent, is an MPL investor; the two are also business partners. But going by the present BCCI dispensation’s more-than-lenient stand on the conflict-of-interest issue and the prevailing lack of transparency, it’s highly unlikely that the office staff at Mumbai’s Cricket Centre would compose a “showcause” notice to the Indian skipper any time soon. This, in an institution that is headed by a president, former skipper Sourav Ganguly, who is a brand ambassador of a corporate entity that owns an IPL team. Fading lines between commercial and cricketing interests have suited this crony club for ages. Nothing, not even a Supreme Court order, has been able to change that.
Seven Supreme Court judges, including two Chief Justices of India, tried to lay down some lines. They specifically noted that the real villain was conflict of interest. The call to clean up the system has, however, flared into a yet more sophisticated interlocking of overlapping roles by the principal players. There’s not even a smidgen of disclosure in sight. The problem is not that cricket’s most credible faces can’t be trusted. It lies in their obstinate doubling down, with not a thought for how wrong an example they set for everyone down the chain.
The Indian board can do better. It has just finished hosting a blockbuster IPL, clearing the pandemic hurdles and transporting the mega cricket carnival across the Arabian Sea. It needs to set good governance examples. It is the richest board, the engine that fuels the game internationally. The BCCI can no longer be run by a coterie that watches each other’s backs. It needs to urgently draw some lines, act in a manner that befits its power and stature.