India news October 10, 2011

Questions raised over Kumble's player agency

ESPNcricinfo staff

Anil Kumble, the former India captain, is at the centre of a controversy over possible conflict-of-interest issues relating to his various roles in cricket administration.

Kumble is currently president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, head of the National Cricket Academy and is also mentor of the Royal Challengers Bangalore; he also co-owns a talent management firm called Tenvic that has on its books several young players including R Vinay Kumar and S Aravind, both part of the India squad for the forthcoming series against England.

It is the last role that has raised eyebrows. Tenvic - named after Kumble's ten-wicket haul against Pakistan in 1999 - looks after the commercial interests of the players, his partner Vasanth Bharadwaj told the Outlook magazine. "It doesn't make any sense for someone to do the mentoring and someone else to do the commercial handling," he is quoted as saying. That is being seen as an area of conflicted interests, given the potential for Kumble to influence selection in both Karnataka and Royal Challengers sides, and given his role at the NCA, the nursery of Indian cricket.

Kumble did not respond when contacted by ESPNcricinfo but explained his position to Outlook, who first ran the story. "I do not see any conflict of interest here. I am very clear in my mind about this. The important thing is to focus on what you are trying to achieve, and I am trying to do that."

Asked whether it was important to be seen to be above board, he said: "I focus on what has to be done, not on what people might be thinking. The positions with the KSCA and NCA are honorary jobs, and I have to look after myself. At this stage of my career, I have to do that. Otherwise, you would have to become like Gandhi and give up everything."

However, his explanations have not washed with several of his peers. Bishan Singh Bedi, another former spinner and India captain, told Outlook: "I can't believe it, I don't want to believe it. I don't want to sully the image I have of him."

A similar controversy broke out earlier this year, during India's tour of England, when Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, who were part of the ESPN-Star Sports commentary team, were seen in public perception as compromised given that they are also BCCI employees.

A more serious case of conflict of interest is currently being heard by the Supreme Court: it is former president AC Muthiah's petition that the current incumbent, N Srinivasan, cannot both be a BCCI official and the owner of an IPL franchise (his company owns Chennai Super Kings). The Supreme Court had allowed Srinivasan's elevation to the president's position to go ahead last month but said its decision was subject to the outcome of the larger petition.

In September 2008, shortly after the first IPL season, the BCCI had amended clause 6.2.4 of the regulations for players, team officials, umpires and administrators. Before the amendment the clause read: "No administrator shall have, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches and events conducted by the board." After the change, it read: "No administrator shall have directly or indirectly any commercial interest in any of the events of the BCCI, excluding IPL, Champions League and Twenty20."