Kenya April 28, 2009

The business magic of Sharad Ghai

This hardly needs comment

Sharad Ghai: 'There was good money but I was not going to share it with busybodies' © Getty Images
This hardly needs comment. It’s about Sharad Ghai in the Nation.

“After ending his contractual obligation to pay the salaries of Kenya cricket players after the end of the shenanigans in 2006 the country’s performance has been dismal. But the indefatigable Ghai, a former Kenya table tennis international, could as well have been weaving his business magic in any other sport outside cricket.

“He has a passion for all top-flight competition -- from rugby football, swimming, volleyball and football. In a short stint, he involved himself with the national football team, Harambee Stars, hoping, then, to put the players on the same professional status as the cricketers. Familiar Kenya Football Federation lack of foresight put breaks on Ghai’s venture.”

Read on. It gets better.

“When it came to money in sport, Ghai walked the talk. His wage bill throughout the nine years or so he paid the Kenya cricket tem was, at the minimum, Sh12 million a year. That was for basic salaries; no allowances. When the team was busy playing here and touring, it went as high as Sh44 million a year. Players had a good life and prospects.”

How did Sharad Ghai do it?

“At the time I had wonderful business partners and sponsors including Kenya Breweries Limited, Safaricom, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Emirates, and British Airways. The work was backbreaking and it did not help that those who cannot roll their sleeves and do a job are always the ones who think there are easy pickings. There was good money but I was not going to share it with busybodies. And perhaps the situation would have been phenomenal now had the rot of envy and sheers stupidity set in.”

Just for balance, it is worth noting, yet again, that when Ghai was ousted from office - by the stakeholders with the full sport of the sports minister - he had not managed to arrange a single ODI for a side that were the World Cup semi-finalists in two years. Kenya were in international isolation because of the dysfunctional nature of the KCA.

The players he claims had “a good life and prospects” had been on strike for months over money they maintained had not been paid to them. The relationship between KCA and the team was non existent.

And his “wonderful business partners and sponsors”? There were none by the end, and Kenya didn’t even have a shirt sponsor on the eve of their World Cup semi-final game. Nobody wanted to touch cricket as it had become tarnished, and the new board inherited hundreds of thousands of dollars of debts on top of that. It’s taken several years for trust to be rebuilt and sponsors to start drifting back.

This remarkable article confirms rumours that have been doing the rounds for some time. Ghai appears to be on the comeback trail.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa