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How Dravid can avert the conflict-of-interest charge

By SUDHIR BISHT
August 20, 2019 09:44 IST

What does Rahul Dravid need to do to be able to join NCA without carrying the blemish of perceived or potential 'conflict of interest'? Sudhir Bisht attempts an answer.

Rahul Dravid

IMAGE: Former India captain Rahul Dravid. Photograph: Ashley Allen/Getty Images

Rahul Dravid is the second-best test batsman that India has ever produced.

He ranks alongside Sachin Tendulkar, in my view, as the second-best test batsman of India.

The guy sitting at the top is that fabulous opener of yesteryears, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.

Kohli is not included in this list as he has a long career ahead of him still and he may even displace Gavaskar in less than a decade or so.

 

Rahul 'Wall' Dravid is also one of the most loveable blokes in the world of cricket.

He is determined but not overly ambitious.

He has a mind that can devise a strategy and he is willing to work himself industriously to implement the strategy on the ground to achieve the objectives that have been assigned to him.

There are very few men who are strategist as well as implementors in this world.

As the successful and influential coach of the 'India under-19' and 'India-A' teams, Rahul Dravid has proved his mettle as a coach.

He has demonstrated that he is committed to his teams and is able to indoctrinate a sense of discipline among his team members.

Dravid's record as India's all-time great batsman and his success as a mentor-and-coach is matched by his greatness as a human being.

Dravid was in the news in the early 2018 when he did not readily accept a Rs 50 lakh bonus after the under-19 team that he coached won the Junior World Cup win.

He argued that all his team members, including the support staff, should be awarded equal bonus.

In a super competitive era, such values can be exhibited only by the saints and rishis, and Rahul Dravid gets my vote for being the most respected of them all.

I am not so sure but I read somewhere that the BCCI did accept Rahul's suggestion and paid all squad members Rs 25 lakh each.

So it came as no surprise when Rahul Dravid was appointed as the director of National Cricket academy (NCA) at Bengaluru.

The NCA came into being in 2000 under the chairmanship of the late Raj Singh Dungarpur who wanted a cricket academy to be built in India that could rival the academies in Australia and England.

NCA is mandated to turn young players with outstanding promise into players who could represent India in future.

Many star players who have donned India colours have come from the NCA stables.

Parthiv Patel, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, KL Rahul and the maestro Virat Kohli, all had useful stints in NCA before they emerged as the key players for India.

Rahul Dravid's appointment was approved some weeks ago but then came an allegation of conflict-of-interest from an office-bearer of one of the state cricket associations.

It was revealed that Rahul Dravid happens to be the vice president of India Cements, the well known cement company from the south.

Now everyone knows that India Cements is the de facto owner of Chennai Super Kings, the three-time winner of Indian Premier League (IPL).

Rahul Dravid is employed with India Cements not for any of his business skills in marketing or technology or human resources.

His position in India Cements is to do with his strategic inputs in furthering the cause of cricket that is related to the employing company.

So Rahul Dravid would clearly have a case of conflict of interest if one of his best pupils in NCA were to become a target of acquisition by Chennai Super Kings.

Would Rahul Dravid's behavior towards that pupil change if he were to know that the pupil was the centre of attraction of his employer? May be, may be not.

And it is here that the case of 'perceived' conflict of interest comes in.

Let me give another example.

Rahul Dravid is a VP of India Cements and in his capacity as the director of NCA, he comes across a rare talent among his wards, would he not be tempted to tip off the CSK management about the young lad? May be, may be not.

But this is what conflict-of-interest is all about.

A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances in which a professional individual has competing allegiances.

Conflict of interest is faced by a person who has two associations that may (not always but in some situations, however rare) struggle with each other for his/ her loyalties.

So Rahul Dravid has this clear case of 'potential' or 'perceived' conflict of interest, I have absolutely no doubt.

But it is not the end of the road for Dravid's ambition to claim the directorship of NCA, or rather, our eagerness to see that Rahul Dravid adorns the title of director of NCA.

What Dravid has done to deflect the charge of conflict of interest is that he has taken leave-without-pay from India Cements.

However, taking leave-without-pay doesn't remove the perception of his likelihood of remaining loyal to India Cements.

Leave-without-pay means that you have a foot in the door.

You have someone to fall back upon if the situation so demands.

If you are removed as director of NCA or if you find the job uninteresting, you just leave and resume work at India Cements.

So what does Rahul Dravid need to do to be able to join NCA without carrying the blemish of perceived or potential 'conflict of interest'?

Rahul just needs to give up his position in India Cements and join NCA whole hog.

He is too big a resource to remain tied to just one company.

The entire nation needs him and he is a national hero, not just an India Cement VP.

No disrespect meant to India Cements here. It is a Rs 5672 crore company that paid Rs 25 crores as corporate income tax last year.

Not to forget that it gives direct and indirect employment to over five thousand people.

Rahul Dravid can rejoin India Cements after his NCA stint and I am sure that India Cements would welcome him with open arms.

Happy ending!

Sudhir Bisht, PhD, author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht.

SUDHIR BISHT
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