India holds Rahul Dravid to a higher standard than most other cricketers. They expect him to say the right things, set the right examples and perhaps, more importantly... do the right thing. So when his name cropped up in the conflict of interest debate, the overlying feeling was one of disappointment. After all, this wasn’t the Dravid we knew.
There were some who had written about Dravid’s dual role as India U-19/India ‘A’ coach and Delhi Daredevils’ mentor back in 2016. Then, the issue didn’t garner much interest because the BCCI itself had no problems with his contract – after all, they had drafted it.
But this year, when CoA member Ramachandra Guha, called him out in his resignation letter – it brought the issue into sharp focus.
“For instance, the BCCI has accorded preferential treatment to some national coaches, by giving them ten month contracts for national duty, thus allowing them to work as IPL coaches/mentors for the remaining two months. This was done in an adhoc and arbitrary manner; the more famous the former player-turned-coach, the more likely was the BCCI to allow him to draft his own contract that left loopholes that he exploited to dodge the conflict of interest issue,” Guha wrote in his letter.
It was a scathing indictment of the superstar culture that is prevalent in Indian cricket but in a sense, it was also a call to arms. A clean-up was in order and it needed to begins with the superstars themselves. Dravid’s initial response to Guha’s letter was a cautious one. In an interview to ESPNCricinfo, he said:
“Yes, I have written to the CoA explaining my position and explaining the background against which this perceived conflict of interest has happened. By the BCCI’s conflict of interest rules, I was absolutely not under a conflict of interest. If the rules have changed midway through the contract, then I think it is unfair to criticise me for breaking the rules or twisting the rules to suit my convenience.”
Dravid went on to add that there were five to six other cricketers who were in a similar position and said that there needed to be clarity on the issue.
“If there is clarity, we will be in a position to take an informed decision,” he had then said.
Dravid made the statement on June 9 and by the end of the month, the BCCI made an announcement that he will continue as India U-19 and ‘A’ team coach for another two years. Shortly after the BCCI press release, another announcement was made: Dravid had stepped down as Delhi Daredevils’ mentor.
It was a welcome move which once again reiterated why the former skipper is one of the most respected cricketers around. This isn’t about him deciding to choose India over the IPL or even over the commentary box. The country vs club debate is for another day. This isn’t even about the money – he has got a 100 percent hike and will make Rs 5 crore per annum. Rather, this is about showing the courage to do the right thing.
If Dravid had continued to do both jobs, he would have been lumped with the rest. The players who look up to him would have put it down in the ‘things superstars do’ list. The BCCI would have shrugged their shoulders and called for another committee (perhaps they might have even found one for Dravid). The public would have debated it and then finally moved on but they would remember... just as they remember Sachin Tendulkar and the red Ferrari.
Dravid, it is to be noted, is the only one to have been spurred into action so far. The others have simply refused to acknowledge the conflict of interest brought to the fore by Guha’s letter and in that, they have adopted the way of former BCCI president N Srinivasan. Their silence is sad and telling in more than one way.
But given that he is moulding India’s young cricketers, it was perhaps even more important for Dravid to stand out by doing the right thing. If anything, perhaps the new generation will take their cue from him. Perhaps they will learn how to listen to their conscience and in that, he may be imparting a lesson that serves a far greater purpose than just cricket itself... exactly what India would have expected from Dravid, for that’s the kind of guy he is.