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By Suresh Menon
A decade ago, when the match-fixing scandal
broke, there was a possibility that Indian cricket might be destroyed.
Especially since the national captain was involved. If India survived,
and survived well enough to defeat Australia in a memorable home series
and then climb to the number one spot in Test cricket, it was due to the
unquestioned integrity of their senior players – Sourav Ganguly, Sachin
Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath.
Srinath went on to contest the election for posts to their state
cricket association, which was the tougher option given that media and
coaching contracts are more lucrative and less fraught with tension.
an all-time great, has the public image of a tough team man, willing to
sacrifice his all for a cause, uncompromising in attitude, and the man,
as the advertisement line goes, you would trust enough to buy a second
hand car from. In fact, the endorsements they do are good indicators of
the public image of the individual sportsman. Thus there is something of
a maverick about Harbhajan Singh in his various ads, something about a
voice speaking from Mount Olympus about Tendulkar’s pronouncements about
the products he endorses.
With Kumble, it has always been about integrity, trustworthiness, and a no-nonsense approach. It is a fair assessment.
is why his abrupt descent into the world occupied by Board President
Srinivasan, chief selector Srikkanth, commentators Sunil Gavaskar and
Ravi Shastri – the key phrase being ‘clash of interests’ – has been
No one is making the case that by signing up two players
who have just made it into the national team, Kumble is on the road to
influencing all selections to the state or national squads. After all,
such is his stature that even without official posts in the national
bodies that he heads, his word will be listened to, his advice taken.
You don’t dismiss the Tendulkars and Kumbles of the world so casually
when they have something to say.
Kumble has a passion for
mentoring young players, and has a plan ready for the education and
proper counselling of players, especially youngsters who suddenly find
themselves incredibly rich, insanely sought-after but without the
equipment to handle success or failure. Tenvic, his company at the eye
of the storm, has signed up men like Prakash Padukone who will play the
role of mentor alongside senior players.
But – and this is the nub
of the argument – however good the intentions may be, once commerce
enters the picture, questions about clash of interests will be asked.
stakes in the Kumble case are higher than are immediately apparent.
Here is a man who is a natural choice as the President of the Board of
Control for Cricket in India. And some years hence, an equally obvious
choice to run the International Cricket Council. If in the years to
come, thanks to the politicking of the politicians, the cry, ‘Leave
cricket to the cricketers’ gains ground, then it will be players like
Kumble who will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring the
growth and development of the game they once served with such
If Kumble sees no clash of interests, that is not
difficult to understand. In his book, he is taking players under his
wing for mentoring – and hoping that someday it will be a feature of the
Board’s approach to players.
But in a high profile job, public
perception is important. There is too much at stake for Kumble to
embroil himself in needless controversies. We haven’t heard his side of
the story. But he has been presented with an opportunity to do the right
thing – even if that means a temporary commercial loss.
remember this was the man who recently pulled out of a lucrative
television deal when he discovered he would have to share screen time
with a colleague who was involved in match-fixing. Integrity is