Historian Ramachandra Guha, a former member of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) that ran the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during the reforms process ordered by the Supreme Court, has lashed out at the superstar culture in Indian cricket that has allowed top cricketers to have veto power over every decision.
In an interview to www.espncricinfo.com about his new book, The Commonwealth of Cricket, Guha lavished praised on former India captain Bishan Bedi but blames the Board, especially the Vinod Rai-headed CoA, for not showing enough spine to stand up to the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
“When Bedi once gave a television interview where he said some sarcastic things, he was banned for a (Test) match in Bangalore in 1974. Players had to get more power, they had to get organised, they had to be noticed, they had to be paid properly, which took a very long time. The generation of Bedi and (Sunil) Gavaskar was not really paid well till the fag end of their careers,” said Guha.
“But now to elevate them into demigods and icons — one of the things I talk about is (Virat) Kohli and (Anil) Kumble and their rift (Kumble was forced to step down as coach after the 2017 Champions Trophy). How essentially Kohli had a veto over who could be his coach, which is not the case in any sporting team anywhere,” Guha questioned the power given to the Indian captain.
Guha also touched upon an incident during a CoA meeting when he had asked the committee to consider demoting Dhoni in the central contracts system as he had retired from Test cricket. The rest of CoA, he says, was too scared to do that.
“(MS) Dhoni had decided: I’m not going to play Test cricket. He was only playing one-day cricket. And I said (in the CoA) that he should not get a (Grade) A contract. Simple. That contract is for people who play throughout the year. He has said, ‘I’m not playing Test cricket’. Fine. That’s his choice and he can be picked for the shorter form if he is good enough. (They said) ‘No, we are too scared to demote him from A to B’. And more than the board, the CoA, appointed by the Supreme Court, chaired by a senior IAS officer, was too scared. I thought it was hugely, hugely problematic. So I protested about it while I was there. And when I got nowhere, I wrote about it,” he explains.
Guha also lashed out at the current BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, saying that the former India captain has capitulated.
“(Sourav) Ganguly (the BCCI president) has capitulated. I mean, there are things he should not be doing, given his extraordinary playing record and his credibility, whether he should be practising this shocking conflict of interest. The kind of example it sets is abysmal. I say this with some sadness because I admired Ganguly as a cricketer and as a captain. I’m glad I’m out of it and I’m just a fan again. I can just enjoy the game and not bother about the murkiness within the administration,” he said.
Guha called Bishan Bedi a man of character.
“He is a person of enormous character, integrity and principle. He never equivocates, he never makes excuses. And he calls it as it is. These kinds of people are rare in public life in India. To find someone like Bishan Bedi, who is ramrod straight in his conduct, in any sphere of public life in India today is increasingly rare. He is also an incredibly generous man,” Guha said of Bedi.