A very senior former India player has advised his fellow ex-cricketers to be cautious of money power playing a role in the future working of the newly formed Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA), even as excited retired players are set to choose the maiden ICA Board in the elections to be held from October 11 to 13 through e-voting.
The former player, who is an ordinary member of the ICA and may play a significant role in the working of the association, has also cautioned of big corporate houses possibly ‘funding’ candidates for future ICA elections. He, however, clarified that presently the candidates vying for the five-member ICA Board and the three posts of the ICA representatives that will go to the BCCI are “clean”.
His apprehension possibly emanates from stories emerging from the past BCCI elections. It is often talked about that some past BCCI office-bearers won after offering huge inducements in the form of large sums of money and positions in lieu of votes. He may also have the ‘Cash For Questions Scandal’ that rocked the Indian Parliament in December 2005, following a sting operation done by a TV channel. Eleven Members of Parliament were caught accepting money on camera from persons representing a fictitious body to ask questions in Parliament.
The former player probably foresees that in a few years from now, when the ICA starts generating funds from sponsorships etc. and the extent of its representatives’ say in the BCCI decision-making becomes known, some interested people/corporates might try to influence those who are part of the decision-making in the world’s richest cricket body. According to the ICA constitution, its scope is very vast – something the former cricketers may not realise immediately. It is free “to accept grants, donations, assistance from public bodies, corporations, companies or persons or trusts and foundations…”. Also, “Also, the ICA can “accept gifts and awards from the government, semi-government bodies or give gifts, in appreciation of the services rendered by the Company or to the Company by other persons.”
As per the BCCI’s 2017-18 balance sheet, its net worth is Rs.11,916.76 crore – and it is only going to grow further in the years to come. While the money is essential to develop cricket infrastructure and pay current and retired cricketers well, but too much of money in the game has also resulted in corruption, most notably the 2013 IPL betting scandal. With Indian cricket expanding rapidly, the contracts for vendors, for example, are also getting lucrative and prestigious. So, in the nine-member BCCI Apex Council, which will be formed after the October 23 elections and which will most probably decide the contracts, two representatives of the ICA will play a role, if they put across their viewpoint articulately and forcefully and play their cards well. “It all depends on the stature of the ICA representatives that sit in the BCCI Apex Council and the IPL Governing Council,” said the former India cricketer.
When big money is involved, it is only natural that it will attract some undesirable element as well – on and off the field – as has been seen in the numerous betting cases and attempts to induce gullible players to part with confidential information. Some players have reported approaches, but no one knows how many such instances go unnoticed and unreported.
The BCCI on July 16 approved the ICA as a non-profit company limited by guarantee, incorporated on July 5, 2019, under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, bearing Corporate Identity No.U92419MH2019NPL327653, as the official association for former Indian cricketers.
Around 8,000 former players – comprising men, women, and the disabled -- are expected to be part of the ICA. “We have anticipated that there will be around 8,000 people at the ICA AGM. From all available information, there will be roughly 4,000 to 5,000 men cricketers, about 3,000 will be women, and 100-odd – or, maybe a few hundreds -- will be the disabled cricketers,” retired top bureaucrat G.K. Pillai, who headed the Steering Committee that formed the ICA, told Outlook recently.
But, in this month’s elections, much less than 8,000-odd players will vote from October 11 to 13 when the five-member ICA Board will be chosen. Besides, elections are being held to pick three ICA representatives, two of whom (one male and one female) will be part of the BCCI Apex Council and the third one will be part of the IPL Governing Council.
“Whether or not players will benefit from the ICA depends on the kind of people who get elected. There is no restriction; anybody can contest – and anybody who has the (backing of) money power can contest future elections and win. Not necessarily that cricketers will have the money power because they will not have that kind of money,” said the retired cricketer who wished not to be named.
“It is not necessary that, for example, a player who has played 100 Test matches may win while someone who has, for instance, played 10 first-class matches and has the money backing may win because he will get the members. It is going to be like the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections,” he feared.
Strictly talking about the future of the ICA, the former player said he has a strong feeling that money could influence the elections in times to come, not the present one. Asked if he seriously believed such a thing could happen. He said: “100 per cent, 100 per cent. I am saying this couldn’t happen because everybody would aspire to become something in the players’ association and go to the BCCI.”
He also didn’t ruled out big corporate houses with interest in cricket coming into play. “Suppose, if I have Mukesh Ambani backing me, I will stand for whatever post I want, and it will also not be difficult to get 3,000-4,000 ICA members on my side through their respective associations. So, anything can happen. I think they have opened it up too much. It’s not correct and they will realise it later. I feel it’s going to be a little dangerous,” he said, looking into the future. But he again clarified that the nominations that have come in for the 2019 ICA elections are “clean”.
Meanwhile, former India Test opener Anshuman Gaekwad and former India all-rounder Kirti Azad have announced their agenda, listing a spate of steps that they would take if elected. Interestingly, they are among the candidates fighting for the two posts of ICA male representatives who will go to the BCCI Apex Council. The other two candidates who have filed nominations are former Test speedster Dodda Ganesh and former Gujarat player Rakesh Dhruve.
Candidates can withdraw nominations till October 9, the day the final list of candidates will be announced at 5 pm.
Former Test batsman Ashok Malhotra is the lone candidate for the ICA president’s post while ex-India ODI player Surender Khanna is the sole candidate for the election of the ICA Representative Nominee to IPL Governing Council. For other posts, there are more than one candidate.
Each office-bearer shall be eligible to hold office for a maximum of two terms of three years each or a maximum of six years, with or without break.