Sunil Gavaskar just can’t stay away from the talking points of Indian cricket
There is something about Sunil Gavaskar. Time and again, he takes defiant positions, takes on the establishment, and yet continues to thrive. His battles with the cricket administration in his playing days are well-documented. And there has been no end to hostilities even after his retirement. Nevertheless, Gavaskar continues to be a part of important committees, chairing some of them, and remains a much-sought-after commentator.
That last bit puts him in a conflict of interest with most of his other responsibilities, a matter that came to a head two years ago and resulted in Gavaskar resigning as ICC’s cricket committee chairman in May 2008. Two months before that, Gavaskar had described England and Australia as “dinosaurs, still trying to voice their prejudiced opinions in the media, and may not open their eyes and see the reality” in a syndicated column. And a little before that, he claimed white ICC match referee Mike Procter was biased against Indian players because of their skin colour, after the South African found Harbhajan Singh guilty of racially abusing Andrew Symonds in the 2008 Sydney Test.
Take the case of Gavaskar’s involvement with the Indian Premier League. He has been a member of BCCI’s IPL governing council as well as a commentator at the matches (Ravi Shastri, too, but that is another story). A commentator is supposed to be neutral. If at all, he must take the viewers’ side, guiding them through the proceedings and enhancing their perspective. Can a commentator be expected to do all that if he has a direct interest in what he is commentating on? Could, for instance, Gavaskar (or Shastri) criticise IPL, Lalit Modi, or talk about the impact of the shortest format on young players without taking sides?
Then there is the question of his proximity to the Kochi IPL franchise. A similar charge cost Shashi Tharoor his job as a central minister. The franchise seems to suggest that Gavaskar has been guiding them. Gavaskar admits to being approached, but says he has been waiting for the franchise to resolve its internal issues and denies being involved with them in any way so far. With Kochi getting another four weeks to come clean, Gavaskar’s involvement, or the lack of it, will hopefully become clear soon.
Interestingly, Gavaskar’s case is intriguingly different from Kapil Dev’s. The two were the strongest pillars of Indian cricket until the advent of Sachin Tendulkar. They played together, broke world records, bickered and fought for captaincy until Gavaskar renounced it in a grand fashion after winning a formidable, multi-nation tournament in 1985.
Since retirement, Kapil has had a brief — disastrous — stint as commentator. And either because of or in spite of that, his presence in the administration has been patchy. His last big gambit was to run Subhash Chandra’s Indian Cricket League, which everyone began to call “rebel” just because BCCI said so.