'I have never clamoured for power that is associated with position'

Anil Kumble presents his side of the conflict of interest issue

An open letter from Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble makes a special appearance at the Van Heusen Fashion Week, New Delhi, September 12, 2009

Anil Kumble: "With the exception of my business, all the other positions I have accepted have been the outcome of persuasion by well-meaning individuals"  •  Associated Press

Dear Cricket Enthusiast,
Over the last few days there have been various allegations levelled against me for the responsibilities that come with my various roles. They boil down to two issues - my competence to perform these multiple roles and the potential for conflicts of interest. I didn't want to respond while we were in the midst of the CLT20 campaign. More importantly, the issues raised were of a nature that required discussion and introspection. I think now is the right time to address both the issues.
I have never clamoured for power that is associated with position. However, I have been attracted to the challenge and responsibility for bringing about a change. In fact, with the exception of my business, all the other positions I have accepted have been the outcome of persuasion by well-meaning individuals. In each of my current roles, there is a significant challenge to improve a system.
My role as chairman of the NCA is largely restricted to defining a vision and roadmap for the creation of a future for Indian cricket. My blueprint for the NCA is nearly ready and I am sure the NCA team (which is headed by Sandeep Patil) will deliver the goods. NCA's primary focus is to identify, groom and train support staff such as coaches, physiotherapists, trainers and analysts so that the player talent at competitive cricket is in good hands. My exposure to cricket academies all over the world and my thoughts on how cricketers approach the game served as inputs. Karnataka cricket, as one would expect, is closest to my heart. I found that my views on the need to reshape Karnataka cricket found resonance from the likes of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Vijay Bharadwaj and Rahul Dravid. Not ones for sitting idly by and arm-chair critiquing, we decided to take the bull by its horns and contested elections for the KSCA.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium's infrastructure was in poor shape, the decision making processes were unclear and highly centralized. Information systems were archaic and often unreliable. Sri and I divided responsibilities. As secretary, Sri handles all cricketing matters including selections. As president, I handle all infrastructure improvement projects.
The changes are already apparent. The dressing rooms are today world-class. Basic facilities which were in a state of disuse have now been restored and will improve over the next few months. The TV and radio commentators' boxes have received wide appreciation. Even the press box, which some journalists don't seem to like, is a vast improvement over the previous one. The first order for 2000 ergonomic seats that will enhance spectator experience has been placed. Over the next six months we will be working on improving the ground condition and putting in a state-of-the-art drainage system that will ensure minimum cricket time lost in the event of rain and significantly improve health & condition of the outfield. We have just commenced work on the clubhouse.
With the singular objective of spreading the game across Karnataka, KSCA has signed long-term agreements to introduce, upgrade and maintain infrastructure at 18 locations.
We have persuaded experts on infrastructure and technical issues to be on committees advising us on such matters of selection of material, vendor and specifications. In almost every case these experts are successful professionals who are not financially dependent on their role in KSCA and are providing this service in an honorary capacity. In order to bring in financial transparency, professional accountability and systemic approach, we are putting an ERP system in place. Visible changes may be expected by the time of the next international fixture in Bangalore. It is pertinent that I provide details for contributions made in each role that I have. When I became president of KSCA, I was an IPL player for the RCB. I was the captain of the team and at that time I had the legs to continue for another couple of seasons. However, I realized that the time and effort required to revamp the KSCA will seriously impinge on my training needed to remain on top of my game as a professional cricketer. Every member of my team at KSCA has made similar adjustments in their lives as we believe in the cause of Karnataka cricket. After discussions with the management of RCB, I decided to withdraw from the auction pool and accept the position of Chief Mentor. I am responsible for strategising with the team owners during the auction process, being a part of the thinktank alongside Ray Jennings and Daniel Vettori, addressing team and player related issues with a medium to long term outlook.
My sports company was incorporated in 1999. I have been in the sporting business for more than 15 years now. I also had to select a vocation which I knew enough about. Vasanth Bharadwaj (Former Table Tennis International & corporate professional), Diinesh Kumble (a Creative genius & sports analytics professional) and I started working on this shortly after I retired from international cricket. We decided to brand it 'Tenvic'. We have a grand idea and a shared passion for the transformation of all sports (not just cricket). We look to leverage the benefits and application of Sport.
Tenvic is not a talent management company.
The sportsperson mentoring program of Tenvic addresses a long felt need to make a professional out of a promising talent. We run a Pyschometric Assessment Test designed and customised for sportspersons. The findings are then translated into clearly defined interventions that include formal education through tie-ups with reputed universities that offer e-learning content, personality development with the assignment of a life coach, financial management and image management among others. The importance of these initiatives cannot be overstated considering that sport is no more the privilege of the urban Indian. The primary focus of the sportsperson mentoring program is to prepare an individual to face the rigours and demands of international sport. I am more than happy to invite any other talent-management company to handle the commercial interests of the concerned players. In fact, Tenvic has incurred expenses in creation and execution of the mentoring program and not realised any pecuniary gratification from this engagement. Necessary measures to address misplaced perceptions are being taken.
"I categorically deny that I ever have or will ever influence selection of players at any level to derive personal interest. However, if I do spot a talent that I feel should represent India, irrespective of who is managing that player, I will not shy away from bringing it to the attention of those vested with the responsibility of selection."
It has been reported that my company, Tenvic, representing players has supposedly resulted in their being selected to play for the Indian cricket team. This is both insulting and preposterous. First of all, it casts aspersions on the workings of the national selection committee, then it questions the performance of the players in question who earned their spot in the team and it doubts my integrity. I will comment only on the last. I categorically deny that I ever have or will ever influence selection of players at any level to derive personal interest. At the KSCA, by the constitution it is the Hon. Secretary who convenes all selection meetings. However, if I do spot a talent that I feel should represent India, irrespective of who is managing that player, I will not shy away from bringing it to the attention of those vested with the responsibility of selection. And I will do this without fear or favour keeping the best interest of cricket and cricketers in mind.
My role at KSCA and NCA are honorary. I am aware that change comes with its share of detractors but my conviction is that such change is required. Throughout my playing career I have placed national interest above personal interest. In my mind I am clear that I am continuing to do that even after my retirement. I am a firm believer in meritocracy and it remains an integral part of my individual value system.
The day I feel that I am unable to discharge justifiably my responsibility in one of these roles, I will step down like I did when I was captain of the Indian team with a certain M S Dhoni ready to take over.
Now to address the larger issue of conflict of interest that arises from my company representing cricketers.
Over the past few days I have had a chance to discuss conflict of interest with colleagues, journalists, players and business professionals. I have learned a lot about it. It seems to me that a conflict of interest exists in most professions and it is important how it is addressed. When a conflict of interest exists, it should be declared in the public domain and systems put in place to ensure that nobody can exploit this. Disclosures of my interest in Tenvic and its businesses have been formally communicated to the bodies concerned.
In meetings where matters that I believe hold a potential conflict of interest were discussed, I have recused myself. Organisations where I hold honorary positions will confirm this.
I have lived my life by setting high moral and professional standards. Now that I am in a few positions that put me in the public domain I must subject myself to a standard that satisfies not just me but others also who hold me in high regard.
Finally, I have been quoted wrongly with reference to Mahatma Gandhi. What I said was that I am incapable of living the simple life of Mahatma Gandhi.
Anil Kumble
(An edited version of this letter first appeared in the Delhi edition of Hindustan Times)