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Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag in DDCA’s New Conflict of Interest Controversy

Newsclick Report |
Some things remain the same at Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) -- the issue of conflict of interest raises its ugly head in the appointment of the Cricket Committee with Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra and Rahul Sanghvi as members, and Gautam Gambhir as a special invitee.
Gautam Gambhir plays for Delhi Ranji team

Gautam Gambhir is still an active cricketer and his inclusion into the Cricket Committee of the DDCA has raised quite a few eyebrows.

The Rajat Sharma-led Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has begun its cricket operations in earnest, and, as foreseen by many experts, on a controversial note.

The DDCA appointed a Cricket Committee on July 25, triggering the old ‘conflict-of-interest’ debate once again. Former cricketers Virender Sehwag, Aakash Chopra and Rahul Sanghvi will be the permanent members of the Council while Gautam Gambhir has been appointed as a ‘special invitee’ into the group which would, in the future, have a say in all cricketing matters of the DDCA, including appointment of coaches and selection committee members across all age groups and tiers.

Gambhir is still an active cricketer and his inclusion into the committee has raised quite a few eyebrows. Imagine Gambhir having a say in appointing a selector who would, in turn, have a clout in selection of the senior state side where Gambhir features.

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It was expected that the former Indian cricket team opener would receive some perks, and some clout, in return for openly supporting newly-elected president Rajat Sharma (owner, chairman and editor-in-chief of Hindi news channel India TV) during the DDCA elections.

The appointments have opened up another avenue for controversies. It’s not that the DDCA is short of avenues for trouble. It is deeply mired in issues, including the ones during the elections that was held last month in which Sharma and Co. recorded a landslide victory.

And now, Gambhir’s inclusion in the Cricket Committee reeks of a blatant disregard of fair governance as prescribed by the Lodha Committee.

The DDCA, however, thinks otherwise.

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“The Cricket Committee is authorised to form various selection committees as per the recommendations made by the Lodha Committee and the BCCI guidelines for the state association and to give valuable guidance to the association for the improvement of cricket in Delhi,” read a statement from Sharma.

DDCA secretary Vinod Tihara, however, acknowledged that conflict of interest is a possibility, but believed Gambhir has enough integrity to not misuse the position.

“It could be an issue but I trust Gambhir not to exploit the position for personal gain. He is too senior a cricketer to misuse his position,” Tihara was quoted by the Indian Express. “Moreover, we wanted the best of Delhi’s cricketers to be part of the Cricket Committee.”

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The question now is not Gambhir’s integrity though. It’s the integrity of the DDCA. And, if the DDCA was keen on getting the best of its cricketers (former or current) into the Committee, then they should have considered former international cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi. The legendary spinner was probably not considered as he was in the opposition camp to the current president during the elections. Now, if cricket and its promotion is what’s on the DDCA’s mind, then election dynamics shouldn’t ideally come into play when it comes to appointing committees that handle the sporting aspects.

Gambhir, meanwhile, has a history of questionable appointments to the DDCA. Last year, he was named as one of the government nominees but DDCA administrator Justice Vikramajit Sen (appointed by the Delhi High Court) raised objection as he was an active player. The latest appointment is no different.

DDCA president Sharma, however, felt that ‘special invitee’ Gambhir would present the Committee with the “issues and problems faced by current players”.

“The committee comprises honest and great players and it will be amongst these members and Gautam to decide which suggestions are acceptable and which are not,” Sharma was quoted by the Indian Express. “He is a special invitee so that the committee not only gets benefit of his immense experience but will also be appraised of the issues and problems faced by players. I have left all cricketing decisions to these credible and renowned players. I am confident they will do what is in the best interest of cricket and no one can influence them.”

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The greatness of the players involved is beyond doubt. But even Sehwag’s inclusion has created a talking point. Sehwag owns a cricket academy and is contracted by the channel owned by the DDCA president where he appears as an expert on various shows.

The other two don’t even live in Delhi and don other caps as well. Sanghvi is associated with IPL franchise Mumbai Indians while Chopra appears as an expert on sports and various news channels.

That settles the case, more or less, for DDCA’s new cricket committee. Some things never change with Delhi cricket.

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