Imposing fines on K L Rahul and Hardik Pandya for their comments on a talk show earlier this year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ombudsman Saturday directed the two India cricketers to donate Rs 20 lakh each to widows of constables in paramilitary forces and to a fund to promote cricket for the blind.
The ombudsman, D K Jain, in a detailed order, has asked the two cricketers, in the dock for inappropriate comments on women on the TV show ‘Koffee With Karan’ in January, to donate Rs 10 lakh for the promotion of cricket among the visually challenged and “Rs 1 lakh to each of the most deserving widows of ten Constables in para-military forces who have lost their lives while on duty, through the medium of ‘Bharat Ke Veer App’.”
The players have been told to pay the fine within four weeks and that any delay will result in the BCCI deducting the amount from their respective match fee. The ombudsman, however, does not mention how the players will identify “the most deserving widows” or if they need to submit to the BCCI proof of these donations.
Jain, a retired Supreme Court judge, who is also BCCI’s ethics officer, evoked “justice and fair play” and said that since the players had repeatedly apologised for their conduct and missed five ODIs, there was no need for further sanctions that could keep the World Cup-bound players out of more games. The BCCI had suspended Pandya and Rahul after the controversial episode was telecast in the first week of January this year.
The ombudsman’s order hasn’t gone down well with a section of the BCCI. “This is setting a very confusing precedent. It is not clear whether this decision is valid or not. An ombudsman can decide a fine or a ban but he cannot decide where the fine money should go. The ombudsman is not a judge, he is ombudsman. He is not the BCCI, he is part of the BCCI,” said a board member, who did not want to be identified.
The order hints that the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), which runs Indian cricket, was of the view that Pandya and Rahul shouldn’t be punished any further.
“The (BCCI) CEO stated on behalf of the CoA that the Committee feels that the recall of the players from the remaining tour of Australia and New Zealand; the loss of match fee and sitting out for five games was sufficient penalty for the acts of misdemeanour…,” stated the order.
However, the BCCI had stated that the ombudsman was the final word on the issue. The order mentions the BCCI as saying: “They will be guided by any decision, which may be taken and the direction issued by the undersigned in the matter.”
The ombudsman argued that a “player owes his fame and status to the game … he has a greater responsibility … I have no hesitation in observing that being an active participant in the show he also offended sensitivities which ought to have been avoided and hence he, like his fellow colleague, make amends.”
In the order, Jain also stated: “…cricket is often treated as religion … the cricketers are idolised, and since impressionable young adults try to emulate not only their style of playing but also their conduct and demeanour and therefore, they cannot be unmindful of the impact of their casual and off the cuff remarks.”