The BCCI’s decision to invite Kevin Pietersen to deliver the Tiger Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Bangalore on June 12 has earned rebuke from the cricket board’s acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary. In an email to the BCCI general manager – cricket operations – Saba Karim (copies to the Committee of Administrators, cricket board CEO Rahul Johri, the BCCI acting president CK Khanna and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry), Choudhary has aimed a sharp dig, questioning “whether it’s a Pataudi Memorial Lecture or Sir Len Hutton Lecture or Sir Frank Woolley Lecture”.
Karim had earlier sent an email to the CoA and the BCCI office-bearers, saying that he was “happy to inform” Pietersen’s availability for the cricket board’s annual event after Kumar Sangakkara expressed his unavailability because of his “commentary commitments”.
“In fact, this last email on the trail by GM (Cricket Operations) and expression of happiness on it had left me wondering whether the Memorial Lecture was indeed MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture or Sir Len Hutton Lecture or for that matter Sir Frank Woolley lecture. The reasons for the same will become clear from the following paragraphs,” the acting secretary has written.
He added: “The national selection committee meetings were scheduled on the 8th May at Bangalore. Shortly before the meetings at 5 PM, GM (Cricket Operations) spoke to me on a few subjects including the Pataudi Memorial Lecture. During our discussion, I mentioned the names of some living Indian stalwarts who could also be considered. He too offered some names but I requested him to first check on the names I had suggested. I had also advised there was enough time and there was little need to hurry.”
Choudhary said the said discussion wasn’t followed up with any other mail till May 10, when Karim, the BCCI general manager (cricket operations) shortlisted Sourav Ganguly, Sangakkara, Pietersen and Nasser Hussain to deliver lectures on the subjects: 1. Peace and sustainability through Cricket – Relevant since Afghanistan is a wonderful story. 2. Behaviour and conduct of international players in the modern age – Players perspective. 3. Cricket as an Olympic Sport – Way forward.
The acting secretary responded to that, saying: “There was obviously no explanation about the suitability of the so called panelists in a Lecture meant to commemorate Tiger Pataudi except that they were distinguished cricketers/commentators/coaches, which they undoubtedly were. It did not get commented upon that the panel of four had as many as three foreigners. Neither did it explain whether any discussions were indeed held before putting up the panel.”
Eventually, the process of exploring Sangakkara’s availability to deliver the Pataudi Lecture began, although Choudhary wanted a Pataudi contemporary like Nari Contractor, Chandu Borde, Erapalli Prasanna or Abbas Ali Baig to do the honours.
CoA calls it non-issue
CoA head Vinod Rai, meanwhile, described the whole thing as a “non-issue”. Talking to The Indian Express, he said: “This is a non-issue. Rather than rake up the issue after the decision has been taken, when my email went, asking to build consensus, anyone could have suggested Contractor’s name, which I would have happily accepted. Contractor is my hero as well. Contractor, Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar; they were my heroes. Last year we invited Farokh Engineer to deliver the Pataudi Lecture.”
He added: “In his mail, CK Khanna consented to Sourav Ganguly and Sangakkara, in that order, and only then Sangakkara’s name was finalised as the keynote speaker.”
In fact, on May 12 Rai had written to Saba Karim, saying: “We do not propose to complicate things for you. Diana and I are not privy to any discussion/consultation which took place in Bengaluru. Since we were not in the loop, our suggestion followed… Four names were proposed to us. We picked one name out of those. Since you are already following up on that name, please continue to do so. Failing his availability, I am open to any name that is suggested. These are non issues on which evolving a consensus should not be a problem.”