As the first-ever cricketer-president of the Indian cricket board (BCCI), Sourav Ganguly, inspiration to millions of young cricketers and fans, was expected to do the right thing. The former captain was expected to lead BCCI in the manner he led India — with passion and vigour, the interest of the team foremost in mind. This hope had its origin in the fact that in public consciousness, sportspersons are warriors who fight for the honour of the nation. However, bitter experience has shown us that in fact, off the field, sportspersons are just like us, weak and vulnerable in the face of temptation.
Ganguly is in a position of serious conflict of interest that is crying for immediate attention — he endorses My11Circle, a fantasy gaming company which is a rival of Dream11, the title sponsor of IPL 2020; this month, he also signed up to endorse Classplus, an educational coaching management company which is a rival of Byju’s, a major sponsor of the Indian team. Typically, Ganguly brushes off questions about his commercial interests being in conflict with the interests of BCCI. This attitude is reminiscent of the methods of the discredited old guard, which had to step back after the Supreme Court intervened to clean up Indian cricket.
It is ironical that the BCCI under Ganguly is petitioning the apex court to water down the Lodha Committee’s recommendations: It is these very reforms that allowed a great cricketer such as him to become BCCI’s president, instead of the usual suspects — politicians or businessmen! Ganguly’s efforts to remain BCCI’s chief for longer than mandated by the court-approved reforms show that excellence on the field is no guarantee against desire for power. His endorsement of commercial entities that are rivals to BCCI’s sponsors is against all principles of good corporate values, and it shows that even the greatest of cricketers, already fabulously wealthy, are susceptible to avarice. At BCCI’s AGM on Thursday, Ganguly’s conflict of interest was not raised by anyone — no one wants to antagonise the bearers of power. The court’s efforts to cleanse cricket would become ineffectual unless it renews its interest in BCCI’s reformation.