India news March 28, 2014

Gavaskar's moment of truth

Sunil Gavaskar's forays into administration have been brief, abortive and ridden with conflicts of interest. Now, as he answers the Supreme Court's call, will he be able to translate his administrative potential into performance?

Sunil Gavaskar, who has had a chequered past in cricket administration, now enters the trickiest phase of his post-player career with the Supreme Court nominating him as the interim BCCI chief. Unlike in his playing days, the administrative positions Gavaskar has held were marked by an inability to complete any of those roles. Several assignments had been curtailed because of a perceived conflict of interest.

When asked a day before the appointment if he would be ready to take on the challenge, Gavaskar evoked his playing days, and said as an opener he had the experience of doing the "dirty work". Gavaskar was an enterprising cricketer, never shy of taking on the establishment or the established order. He managed to write two books - no ghost-writer needed for him - even as he played international cricket. He was more aware of the world around him than an average athlete, and seemed to have the nous to take on an important role after he retired.

However, the promise failed to materialise. We have heard a lot from Gavaskar the columnist and commentator, but his involvement with administration has been limited. It began with a brief stint as a co-opted member of the Mumbai Cricket Association in the early '90s. Since then he has shown enough interest in administration to be part of committees, but hasn't gone all the way by contesting elections or taking full responsibility.

Gavaskar's two most high-profile forays into cricket administration were in the ICC cricket committee and the IPL governing council. Neither ended well. Malcolm Speed, who was then the ICC chief executive, had to tell Gavaskar "very clearly" that he would have to choose between his role at the ICC and as a columnist, because of the sometimes controversial nature of his columns.

When Gavaskar was on the IPL governing council, he was also reported to have been a mentor to the conglomerate that bought the Kochi franchise. He eventually quit the governing council citing financial reasons. He sought US$1 million as compensation as opposed to the Rs1 crore ($200,000) promised, which was denied by the BCCI.

"I opted out of the governing council simply because I think that the IPL is a total commercial enterprise," Gavaskar had said then. "Those who are giving their expertise, experience, inputs, time and credibility with their names should be remunerated for it. Please remember I have not asked for nor received a single rupee for being the coach and consultant of the Indian team in the past. That I felt was my duty towards Indian cricket for what it has made me. However, the IPL is not Indian cricket but a commercial enterprise and so the former players in the governing council should be remunerated for that."

When Gavaskar served as the batting consultant in 2004-05, though, he wrote a column months later saying the players were not happy with the coach John Wright, a situation he neither tried to correct nor report to the BCCI. There was previous to this too: Gavaskar had not been happy when Wright was appointed the India coach without his approval. He was on future committees to select the India coach, but remained a critic of Greg Chappell.

When Gavaskar was the head of the BCCI technical committee, it would meet once a year or twice at best. When he joined the MCA cricket improvement committee, he resigned soon after, in May 2011, citing "busy professional commitments till India's tour to Australia ends in February". Gavaskar has also served as chairman of the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. Even before that appointment he had once left in a huff when Raj Singh Dungarpur criticised his column that in turn criticised an NCA team getting a match against the touring Zimbabwe side.

As a media man, too, Gavaskar has put his credibility and independence on the line by being on the BCCI payroll. He is also linked to PMG, a column-syndication, player-management and event-management company. This time, though, the highest court of the land has ruled that he will have to give up all his other commitments, for which the BCCI will compensate him. Have the decks been cleared for all the administrative promise you saw in Gavaskar the cricketer?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo