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'I won't say it was unfair, I will say it was totally unfair'

By HARISH KOTIAN
October 11, 2022 09:39 IST
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'Why was he was given only a one-year contract?'
'Nobody has ever asked that question and obviously nobody has answered that question.'

IMAGE: Virat Kohli with then India head coach Anil Kumble during a Test match against New Zealand in Indore in 2016. Photograph: BCCI

In the final part of an exclusive interview with Rediff.com, Vinod Rai, former chief of the Committee of Administrators, reveals why Anil Kumble was forced to quit as India head coach.

"I was keen on continuing Kumble. So, the same CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) who had appointed him in 2016 was tasked to reconsider and his application was automatically considered. It was then that the other issue broke out that there was dissonance between the team members and Anil Kumble, which, of course, he was not aware about," Rai tells Harish Kotian/Rediff.com

Another controversy which dragged on through the COA's tenure was 'conflict of interest'. Historian Ramachandra Guha resigned from the COA in June 2017 after just five months, citing problems with implementation of the Conflict of Interest clause. Were steps taken to address the issue?

What happened was that there were two issues that he (Guha) was very upset with.

One was, which he called this star culture and conflict of interest and other one, was Kumble's extension. Both are very reasonable, I accept.

But he resigned within four months of the COA taking charge. Now, in four months' time, when we were struggling with three things. First, was this financial model in the ICC, because we took over on 30th January (2017), and the ICC meeting was on February 4th. The final ICC decision came in June.

Number 2, we were struggling with was to ensure that IPL 2017 takes place because you know that some of the states wanted to disrupt it.

And Number 3 we were struggling with the ICC Champions Trophy. Remember, they said we pull out of the Champions Trophy if our financial model is not accepted.

So those three things we were struggling with. Now, when we are struggling with these kinds of things, how do you just cancel contracts on conflict of interest?

You remember the coaches were given contracts for 10 months only. We can't cancel contracts unilaterally. So we had decided that was a point, there was a content issue of conflict of interest, but we would tackle that issue when those contracts came up for renewal and that is exactly what we did.

10 month contracts we made it one year contracts, but in the process, we were denying this coaches two months of IPL earnings so we substantially increased their compensation.

Now, he decided to resign and leave and there is nothing we could do about it.

You had said earlier that you follow Indian cricket keenly. Would you say that conflict of interest continues to be a big issue in Indian cricket?

I believe that it is not so much of a big issue. Conflict of interest is not a big issue among cricketers, in fact it is a bigger issue among administrators.

Former India coach Ravi Shastri recently termed it as a 'stupid conflict of interest clause that exists in some stupid constitution that binds us' as it prevented him from doing commentary during the IPL when he was the coach. What is your reaction to that?

In the last status report -- which is there on the BCCI Web site -- we have mentioned that the conflict of interest clause needs to be reformulated. I have given the example that Sachin Tendulkar cannot coach an IPL franchise, but Ricky Ponting can do it.

Ricky Ponting can coach Delhi Capitals, and after going back to Australia he can coach his entire team.

We have argued for that clause to be modified. Between Ravi Shastri and me, I don't think we have too much of a difference of opinion on that.

You mentioned about the head coach saga in your book Not Just A Nightwatchman: My Innings in the BCCI (Rupa). Was it unfair on the legendary Anil Kumble that he was forced to step down after just one year as head coach?

I won't say it was unfair, I will say it was totally unfair.

But my first question is that why was he was given only a one-year contract. Nobody has ever asked that question and obviously nobody has answered that question.

And why was there no extension clause in that contract?

Now, if Ramchandra Guha says or you say that automatically extend Kumble's contract when there is no clause in his contract to extend it, and you had just said that the COA was under scrutiny all the time, then all these guys who call themselves administrators would have gone to town to say that how can we do a patently unfair thing, a legally incorrect thing.

They would have tried everything possible to try and embarrass us. Now, what was the option available to us? In a situation like that would you have forgotten legal considerations and extended the clause in the contract?

I could not do that, I have been an administrator for 40 years and I know the infirmities of taking a decision like that. And that's where Mr Guha has not been an administrator, so he doesn't understand that.

So, I did the next best thing possible, I was keen on continuing Kumble. So, the same CAC (Cricket Advisory Committee) who had appointed him in 2016 was tasked to reconsider and his application was automatically considered.

It was then that the other issue broke out that there was dissonance between the team members and Anil Kumble, which, of course, he was not aware about. So that created the unnecessary avoidable embarrassment in the media.

Would you like to see Kumble back as the coach again in the future, given the unfair treatment he got the first time around?

I don't think he will be willing. I have written that he took a very dignified decision of himself moving out.

And I have written the book that is vintage Kumble, that is a mature and sedate Kumble, who said: 'Well, if you think that my being that is creating dissonance, I will move out' and despite the CAC re-recommending his appointment he volunteered to move out.

Will we see you back in cricket in some role in the future?

I went there not because I wanted to go there, I went there courtesy of the Supreme Court. So how do you expect me to go back?

What if another surprise chance presents itself in the future?

No, no... because when I crossed 70 they questioned me and now I am far beyond 70. So why should I go back?

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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