First time in BCCI history we’ve 4 cricketers of repute in power: Vinod Rai
CoA chairman Vinod Rai opened up to Boria Majumdar, on his tenure as BCCI CoA, newly-appointed BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, conflict of interest and more.
How do you look back at your tenure as CoA?
Look we were a contrarian committee. Why did we come into existence? It is because the BCCI had not implemented the Lodha (Committee) reforms as asked for by the Supreme Court. That’s why the court needed to appoint us. So from the very beginning we were looked upon as adversaries by a section of the BCCI. Frankly, we were fine with it for our job was to implement the reforms and do so in the best way possible. In one of our earliest meetings we suggested to the BCCI members that we wanted to build consensus and we were willing to take their grievances to the Supreme Court. This was against legal advice given to us. We, as a body, felt that some of the issues raised were genuine and we wanted to address them in front of the court. That we failed to reach a consensus isn’t because of any lack of effort on our part. Today when we handed over to Sourav (Ganguly) and his team, we felt satisfied that the essence of the reforms is in place.
You say the essence of the reforms is in place. Don’t you think the way elections have been conducted in some of the states are against the very grain of the reforms process suggested by Justice Lodha and the committee?
I can understand where you are coming from but let me make one simple point to you. For the first time in history we have a BCCI where four cricketers of repute are in power. Sourav Ganguly, who I think is the best person to lead the BCCI, is at the helm. We have Shantha Rangaswamy in the apex council, we have Anshuman Gaekwad and we also have Brijesh Patel. This I have to say to you pleases me no end. It should be an organisation run by cricketers, for cricketers, working in the interests of cricketers.
It won’t be wrong to say that your tenure was tumultuous. Would you have done things differently at any point? Take the Anil Kumble controversy first.
Till date no one has been able to tell me how or what I could’ve done differently in the Anil Kumble issue. There was dissonance in the dressing room and we needed to solve it. No one may have been at fault but the truth is there was dissonance. Captain and coach weren’t on the best terms. We had to solve it. Also, Anil Kumble’s contract was for one year and there was no way we could have extended it without conducting a fair interview process. And the interviews were conducted by the CAC, which we had inherited and was led by three of the greatest players to have played for India. It wasn’t a body we had created. All we did was empower them to select the next coach.
Your open disagreements with Diana Edulji, other CoA member, became the talking point. Don’t you think it was bad for the CoA’s image?
Disagreements are a part of professional life. Take the Supreme Court for example. There are disagreements between judges officiating in a case. The bench is often split. In our case, if you see our backgrounds, it should come as no surprise that we were seeing things differently. However, these were all professional disagreements and personally, Diana and I remain good friends and will continue to be so. While I’ve respect for her opinions, I too have my own and often the points of view didn’t match and I am perfectly fine with it.
Are you leaving Indian cricket better? When you look back do you think your legacy will be accepted as positive?
Let me tell you three things here. Since 2011, players were never consulted about their salaries. We conducted the whole process by taking them into confidence. And I’ve to say I have the highest regard for Virat (Kohli), Rohit (Sharma) and MS Dhoni for the way they dealt with us on the issue. Each of them said they earn a lot from endorsements and it wasn’t about them. It was about the second rung of cricketers who at best have an eight-year-long career. They were the ones who needed the money and I feel satisfied we were able to solve the issue. Secondly, we’ve now sown the seeds of a women’s IPL. We raised the value of women’s central contracts to ?. 50 lac each and think that was a start. At some point, and it is still some distance away, the BCCI should strive for equal pay like in Australia. The women’s IPL is something Sourav should surely start in earnest in 2020. Third, we’ve ensured our workings were every bit transparent. Whatever we have done is up on the BCCI’s website for all to see. You may disagree with us but you’ll never tell us that you didn’t know what we were doing.
What’s your take on conflict of interest, something that has hogged so much limelight in the recent times?
We’ve already stated this in front of the Supreme Court that the issue needs to be relooked at. We need the best cricketers to come and be part of the Indian cricket structure. To say they can’t commentate if they are part of the system in some form isn’t the best solution. Unless they’ve a contract with the BCCI, they should be allowed to do things they want to. Again, retired Indian cricketers who’ve no contract with the BCCI should be allowed to play in franchise leagues around the world. They aren’t bonded labourer and we can’t deprive them of their livelihood.
Will you be following the Indian cricket once you hand over the reins?
Of course I will follow. However, I don’t think I will come back to administration in any way.