No real progress in BCCI's agent accreditation plan
Three weeks have passed since the BCCI stated its intention to initiate procedures for player-agent accreditation, but there is little clarity about how the board plans to go about it. While players and agents seem to be optimistic about the BCCI's seriousness, it appears the board itself is yet to figure out the process more than two years after first announcing it.
BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya had announced the plan on August 2 but little has moved since then and few officials are willing to talk about it. Ushanath Banerjee, the BCCI's legal consultant, is understood to have been put in charge of formulating the policy and is believed to be studying various agent accreditation models - that of Australia and England along with effective systems put in place by FIFA and ATP.
The BCCI is also believed to have approached some experts for their views. Banerjee along with the legal team will study the suggestions, compare it with all relevant cricket agent-accreditation systems and then hopefully finalise it along with the Code of Ethics before the next month's annual general meeting.
While almost every major cricketing nation has initiated an agent registration system, the BCCI has not taken a concrete step towards it. Cricket Australia and the ECB have been leading the way with the most advanced systems, and the PCB introduced an agent registration procedure after the 2010 spot-fixing scandal.
However, the fact that the policy took a backseat after being announced in 2013 indicates the BCCI isn't really keen to address the problem. There is a feeling that the announcement is a publicity move and its implementation would come as a surprise.
The agent-accreditation plan was part of Dalmiya's clean-up effort during his short stint as the head of BCCI's day-to-day affairs in the aftermath of the IPL corruption scandal but it never took off. Srinivasan's subsequent return to the president's post a few months later saw Dalmiya's announcements put on the backburner.
The role of player agents had been at the forefront of the 2013 IPL corruption scandal. Jiju Janardhan, a friend of Sreesanth's, was believed to have posed as Sreesanth's agent to alleged bookies before the player's arrest. It had led to the BCCI deciding to regulate player agents for centrally contracted players. In his report on that episode, which formed the basis for the BCCI's stringent action, the then BCCI anti-corruption unit chief Ravi Sawani had underlined the need to regulate player agents.
It confirmed to many the suspicions over the seemingly dubious role of the unorganised sector. Over the last two decades, player agents - despite not being recognised officially by the BCCI - have enjoyed a growing clout in Indian cricket. There have been instances of key player agents being marked on important BCCI communication. Similarly, the presence of "close friends" and "agents" accompanying established India cricketers, even being booked in the team hotel wherever the Indian team travelled, came under the scanner.
Even before the Sreesanth-Jiju episode in 2013, the problem had been highlighted during the India TV sting operation in 2012. The expose, which resulted in five domestic cricketers being handed punishments - from a one-year suspension to life ban - was conducted with undercover reporters posing as player agents.
Player agents have become an integral part of a professional sportsperson's life. Murali Kartik, the former India spinner, said they were crucial to a player's wellbeing in the modern era. "In any sport, agents allow players to concentrate on the game. It's never easy to talk money with anyone, be it your boss or anyone else," Kartik said. "While agents can take care of the financial well-being, more than that, the main reason player agents have evolved is to ease players to perform to the best of his abilities on the field."
With the IPL's growth in popularity, random agents have cropped up in every nook and corner of Indian cricket. "Whether they do anything or not, every player likes to have an agent," Kartik said. "That makes them [players] feel good about themselves. It's like a clamour. I would like to have one who will make me feel important.
"It is imperative that you have guys with solid background and who are clean so that players can blindly trust them. The players know if these are the recognised player agents and not get entangled with wrong or rotten individuals and bring their own."
Atul Srivastava, founder of Gaames Unlimited, a player management agency that represents 18 Indian cricketers including Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin and Umesh Yadav, hopes the recent announcement will lead to something concrete in order to recognise "player managers as an integral part of a player's well-being off the field".
"The starting point could be for them (BCCI) to ask for company structure, area of expertise of its founders, that of the team of the agency, balance sheet of the company, statement of accounts of the founders, other businesses the founders are into," Srivastava said. "This would mean they will know with whom the players are working and interacting on a daily basis. And it's not just about the owners. It has to filter down to the employees. They are the ones who accompany players virtually everywhere they go."
Srivastava also hoped the BCCI would initiate periodical reviews with player managers to ensure registered agents are maintaining the prescribed standards. "There has to be an annual or a half-yearly review since I would be answerable or accountable to the Indian cricket establishment. Even the Anti-Corruption Unit officials can attend it and share their feedback with us. The tournament committee can perhaps let us know the schedule of the team in advance so that we can plan commercial announcements professionally once we know the likely dates of players being free from cricket."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo