'I am no player-manager, nor do I run a talent management company'
Karnataka State Cricket Association president and former India captain Anil Kumble has broken his silence on allegations of conflict of interest. The allegations, which appeared in a news magazine last week, claimed that his role as a promoter of a player management firm is in conflict with his administrative responsibilities.
"I am no player-manager, nor do I run a talent management company," the ace leg spinner declared, in an interview with CNN-IBN.
Outlook magazine, in its last edition, highlighted a possible conflict of interest involving Kumble, who is president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association as well chairman of the National Cricket Academy.
He also wears the hat of player-manager and runs a firm called Tenvic that mentors and looks after the commercial interest of several Karnataka players, including S Aravind and Vinay Kumar, who are both members of the Indian One-day team now. This has led to a potential conflict of interest.
The man himself breaks his silence on the issue.
It's been in the public domain for a week or so, you have thought about this. Where do you stand? Do you stand by the comments you made to the Outlook magazine in your initial reaction when this story came up?
Let me just clarify a few things. The reason I didn't speak on this matter was because there was the Champions League and RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) was in a position where we could go on to win. I didn't want any other distraction to take over from the focus of actually going on and winning the Champions League. And in your introduction, you did say a few things about what I am as of today. But one thing I would like to certainly clarify that I am no player-manager, nor is my company a talent management company. That needs to be very clear.
If I was a businessman, if I was looking after a talent management company, then I would go after the top international stars. The job of Tenvic is mentoring cricketers and we don't have all the Karnataka players. It's those two (S Aravind and Vinay Kumar).
And, as chief mentor of the RCB, we do mentor Indian players who represent Royal Challengers.
Image: Anil Kumble
'I am looking at the best interest of the player'
I guess, Anil, the question that is coming up again and again is: does Tenvic stand to benefit from the success of the players that are on your portfolio?
In fact, at Tenvic, it's an expense for the company in terms of mentoring these people. We have already conducted some psychometric tests, which incur a cost and that cost is to the company; it's not to the player. And the benefit of all this goes to the player, nothing to the company.
So you are saying that if there is success of a player, let's say a 16-17-year-old, identified by Tenvic who goes on to play for Karnataka, for RCB, for another franchise or for India, it brings no commercial benefit to your company?
Absolutely none. I am more than happy that he goes on to play. That's all I am looking at. I am looking at the best interest of that player and, hopefully, he will go on and represent (India). And it's not just about cricket! I've been through all this and I know what it takes to represent at the international level, what are the challenges that you face. It's just a sports mechanism for all these players and I think that's the need of the hour.
If you look at any sport, at least in cricket the world over, I don't think anybody has attempted this.
There is an admission in the Outlook story by one of the directors of the company that says it does not make sense for us to mentor the player if we are not going to look after his commercial interest. So, it's quite clear there is a commercial interest that you are looking after.
It's only incidental. As of today, there has been no transaction between the company and a player, wherein the company has benefited out of a player commercially. And if there is a talent management company who wants to represent Vinay, Aravind and other Indian cricketers we have, please feel free.
If that is what is against me, there is absolutely no conflict. Yes, there is some perception going around that there is a huge conflict of interest. [But] like I said, if I wanted to benefit, or if the company wanted to benefit, I have access to the Sachin Tendulkars, the Dhonis, the Yuvraj Singhs and everyone else, so why should I look at a youngster. That's the last thing I want.
Image: S Aravind
'There is no commercial entity benefiting Tenvic'
You used the word 'perception' there, Anil, and I think this is the debate that relies heavily on perception. In fact, all the comments that have been made in media circles are with deference to you. They look at you as this legendary cricketer, where the perception of a conflict of interest also is damaging. Do you at least concede that, that there is a perception that needs to be cleared?
I would like to just feel that it's is a great honour for people to look at me in that sense, but I can't always go around appeasing everyone and saying, 'Look this is a perception, so I need to be careful here'.
No! There is absolutely no conflict in my mind. The interest is the benefit of all these young cricketers. There is absolutely no commercial transaction, which has ever happened so far. If somebody wants to do that, please feel free.
If commercially these cricketers have been benefited, there is absolutely no fee that Tenvic has charged even as of today. And if somebody wants to take them up, please feel free. In fact, Tenvic has incurred cost, which I can show to you, and there is absolutely no conflict in that.
There are a lot of hypothetical questions that are doing the rounds, and pardon me when I ask you those, Anil. But let me put one hypothetical scenario to you. Here is a 16-17-year-old batsman coming through the ranks, let's say someone with an enormous amount of talent. He has the option of going between two management companies in Bangalore: one that offers him a good commercial deal and the other that is run by the president of his state association. Wouldn't the young player be tempted to choose the company that is run by the president of his state association?
I am saying there is no commercial entity here, which is benefiting Tenvic. I am saying that the player is free to choose whether he wants to accept this mentoring role, which we are putting the expense on. RCB has about, I think, 15 Indian players. All of them have been tested so far, including the support staff, and the cost of it is borne by the company. This is the first of its kind. I can't answer hypothetical questions. It's impossible!
I can only state facts, and the fact is, commercially, Tenvic has not benefited, nor will I sit as president of KSCA or any other [position for that] matter. I don't need an administrative platform to influence a cricketer to join my company, nor do I need a commercial entity to approach a player.
Over the last 18 years, I think I have done enough in Indian cricket to earn that respect and I don't think I need an administrative platform to approach any player, nor do I need a commercial entry to say that 'Look, I will make money for you'. No!
Image: Anil Kumble
'I don't take part in any selection meeting'
In fact, the stature that you enjoy in Indian cricket is unquestioned, and that has been among the talking points over the last week or so. Tell me one other thing. You are among the few cricketers who actually read things. Tell me about this one: President of the Karnataka State Cricket Association appoints the selectors that are going to be picking players for the Karnataka team. Wouldn't those selectors pick players who are mentored, as you say, by Tenvic?
Come on! I am the president of the association. We have a managing committee. It's not the president who appoints the selection committee; it's the managing committee which appoints the selection committee. By saying this, you are easily casting aspersions on the selectors, saying that 'Listen, they can't do their job!'. That's totally wrong! May be this was the case earlier. That's exactly why I got into administration, to change all this. And if the so-called perception feels that president is in charge of the selection committee, I am sorry.
The constitution clearly states that in every selection meeting, it's the secretary who has to convene the meeting and I don't even take part in any selection meeting.
So there has never been a case in which a situation emerges where a Tenvic player is being discussed in the presence of Anil Kumble and you will then say, 'Listen, this is not something I can be part of'. You have never even had to deal with a conflict?
No, even if there is a conflict, I've made a disclosure to the managing committee, which has been recorded, that this is my company, this is the business that I am in. I recuse myself from whatever so-called conflict of interest comes up. If at all people see in it, I back off. I'm not party to any of those discussions, nor am I party to whatever decisions are taken.
Image: Anil Kumble
'The company came into existence before I became KSCA president'
This is something we've been waiting to clear the air with you on. Just tell us, you call Tenvic a business yourself, it's a business you're saying doesn't gain financially from the success of players, then how is that business successful?
This is only one per cent of the overall business that we do, and this is more like a CSR for us. I would like to clarify one more thing. This company came into existence in 1999. It's not that after I became president of Karnataka or I became chairman of NCA that I registered this company. It's a 1999 registered company and it's on record. I don't even have to say it. So I've been in the sporting business for the last 15 years. Yes, this is the time after total retirement from cricket that I can spend on the business.
The company was registered in 1999 but the branding of Tenvic is a January 2011 branding. Is that right?
No, it's not January 2011; it's January 2010. It doesn't really matter; it's just the branding. The company was in existence; it's the same business. Instead of calling it Anil Kumble Sports Promotion Pvt. Ltd., that's too big a name, we thought this is the best way to have a brand.
Now I want to bring this to your attention. Anil, please excuse me for doing this, but I am bringing to the attention some of the media comments that have been doing the rounds. The other is your role as chairman of the National Cricket Academy. There are some people who are worried that here you are in the National Cricket Academy looking after India's young players, sporting talents not just as the chairman of the National Cricket Academy but also as a scout for Tenvic.You tell me what's the benefit of Tenvic in that?
Image: Anil Kumble
'Today players enjoy contractual benefits with BCCI because I started something in 2002'
Well the allegation is that if a player in this scenario succeeds, then it naturally benefits Tenvic.
In what way?
Your argument is that there is no commercial benefit that accrues from a player being chosen by Tenvic.
Yes. So it will only benefit the player. You are saying if a talent is spotted, it benefits Tenvic. In what way? I have explained the situation. You are again asking me the same question. I can't answer it again. I have said to you that commercially it's not benefiting. So what other things you want to ask? I have answered this.
This conflict of interest phrase is not new in Indian cricket. It's been around for a while.
Not just in Indian cricket, it's in all walks of life. I would like to clarify that. In every walk of life there is conflict. It's all about integrity. Do people exploit this conflict? Yes! I can put my hand up and I can tell everyone in the eye that I never exploit any conflict. If at all there is a conflict, I say that this is the conflict, but this is where I draw my line and then take those decisions.
In the BCCI, there is an established conflict of interest, which a lot of people have spoken of often. It's a phrase that gets thrown around quite often. We won't get into the specifics of those that involve board officials, commentators, brand ambassadors. Do you see that scenario, and you see what has happened over the last week, and say, 'Listen, I'm not one who can be painted with the same brush'?
I don't like to go into the specifics of what people discuss. There is conflict everywhere. As long as I know that there is no conflict, the only interest that I have is for the good of the cricket and good of the cricketers. I have always taken a stance as a player.
I took the players' side when it came in 2002-03 when there was a players' conflict with the ICC. I had nothing to benefit. I didn't have a single contract, nor did I benefit. But I took it up because I felt it was the right thing to do at that point in time. And today, I can say proudly that the players are enjoying their contractual obligations, contractual benefits with the BCCI because I started something in 2001-02.
So I don't know what the conflicts are, whatever interest they have. I don't want to get into it. But what I would like to certainly say is that conflicts exist everywhere and it's a hypothetical scenario if you sit down and try and address those.
It's impossible for you to work in a public domain when it's an honorary position, when you have an existing business running, or when you have certain existing facilities that you need to address. It's impossible for you to have any conflict. It's how you address them. Do you exploit them? Are you upfront and open about what are the things that you have, what are the things that you are doing? That's the most important factor, not how many conflicts you have.
Image: Anil Kumble with RCB owner Vijay Mallya
'I do believe that I need to contribute for Karnataka cricket'
Okay, Anil, you obviously sound as someone who is affected by this. You are troubled by the talk that has gone around.
No, I'm not troubled. People think that I'm troubled. No! It's a wrong notion. Do I look troubled?
I'm just going to ask you final couple of questions. What are you going to do now, Anil? Now you have stated your position publicly. Does life go on as it was before this entire scenario came upon us?
Yes, absolutely. Why is there any difference? What do you want me to do? You put yourself in my position and tell me what I need to do.
Anil, I'm not a legend of Indian cricket who has got unfortunately these questions to answer.
It doesn't really matter. You are seeing a conflict in this whole thing. There is a perception of a conflict. You please tell me what I need to do.
My perception of this entire scenario is that there was a question mark which you needed to answer and that's the reason why you have answered these questions. My view on it is not really that important. My final question: there has been some talk that there should be a paid CEO position, which someone like Anil Kumble would be best suited to take and once that position is available, then even the perception of conflict of interest would go away. Is that something you accept?
No, that's something, which is personal. If I want it, I will accept it. It's a case that I can't accept what people want me to do. That's exactly what has happened. People have persuaded me. That's the reason I am the Karnataka State Cricket Association president, because people wanted me. It's not that I wanted to be the president of KSCA.
Yes, I do believe that I need to contribute for Karnataka cricket and I strongly felt; it's not just me but my entire team in KSCA, which includes Rahul (Dravid), (Javagal) Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Vijay Bhardwaj and the list of all the players who wanted to get into the administration, felt that this was the best opportunity for us to give back to the game and that's the reason I put my hand up.
Image: Anil Kumble
'This is definitely a planted story'
So do you see this as a situation created by vested interests around you?
Of course, yes! It is definitely a planted story because of all that has been said about KSCA. Conflict is, yes. Again, as you said, it is perceived. It's a hypothetical thing and you can always find conflicts in everything, but the rest of the story about KSCA, about all the things that they have said (is planted).
I will tell you a short thing. My office is 100 metres from my house; everybody knows that. I have been there five times in the last 11 months. The rest of the time I spent only at KSCA. You can ask anyone. It's not the question of time spent; it's also about the quality that you put in. I have also put in quality work at KSCA and it's been ten months.Remember that seven World Cup matches, one one-day international, seven IPL games and ten Champions League games has never happened in the history of Karnataka cricket. So many matches being organised successfully in the last 10 months.
Image: Anil Kumble