By now, Ravi Shastri must be used to receiving SOS calls from the BCCI headquarters. He’s after all been the board’s crisis man on a number of occasions already. This time Shastri has been asked to be a part of the BCCI’s much-needed clean-up drive in their apparent bid to erase corruption.
Shastri’s inclusion was justified by references to the BCCI constitution which deems that an in-house member ought to be a part of any panel investigating board issues, but the choice is nonetheless contentious.
Shastri will be part of the proposed three-member panel that look into he spot-fixing allegations that have marred the image of the IPL and the board. Back in 2007, post India’s debacle in the World Cup, the former India captain had been appointed interim coach for the Bangladesh tour. And then on the eve of the inaugural IPL, Shastri was among the first names to be included in the tournament’s governing council, of which he still remains a part.
Quite what makes Shastri the neutral observer is doubtful. For starters, he has too much at stake. Unlike in 2007, Shastri doesn’t come to the party as just a former cricketer. Instead he is one of the BCCI’s foremost employees.
How someone who is the recipient of BCCI’s largesse is expected to be fair to a probe that looks into the alleged misdemeanours of those involved with the board is anyone’s guess. Already, Shastri has proved to be a silent observer even as the IPL’s reputation took a major hit in the wake of the fixing scandal last year. Instead, he stuck to his routine trumpeting of the T20 extravaganza in the commentary box.
Meanwhile, as the Indian team continued to struggle overseas, Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar, who now heads the BCCI in the IPL, often refrained from being too critical of those performances. Shastri defended BCCI’s stubborn stance against the DRS, even taking on former England captain Nasser Hussain during the England tour in 2011. It was around that time that news broke out of Shastri and Gavaskar’s BCCI contracts as commentators. Shastri is also part of the ICC media committee, nominated by the Indian board.
With the BCCI desperate to rid themselves of the conflict of interest saga, in Shastri they have gone with someone with way too many vested interests in the board’s affairs.
Devendra is a special correspondent, based in Mumbai