BCCI President Sourav Ganguly
Indian board president Sourav Ganguly and his counterpart from Bangladesh hand the winners' trophy to skipper Virat Kohli after the Pink Ball Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata last year. Image Credit: ANI file

Dubai: The ticklish issue of conflict of interest came back to bother Indian cricket once again with allegations being raised against Virat Kohli and Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain and president of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), respectively.

Sanjeev Gupta, a member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, has complained to BCCI that Kohli’s various posts are in violation of the BCCI rules that bar an individual from holding multiple positions. According to him, Kohli’s co-directors at Virat Kohli Sports (LLP) and Cornerstone Venture Partners (LLP) were also directors in Cornerstone Sport and Entertainment Private Limited, a leading sports management company that has several current Indian cricketers as their clients to handle their branding and commercial interests.

“I have received a complaint. I will examine it and then see if the case is made out or not,” D.K. Jain, ethics officer of the Indian board was quoted as saying by the Indian media. “If yes, then I have to afford an opportunity to him (Kohli) to respond.”

The leading cricketers whose portfolios are being handled by Cornerstone currently are KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav and the young batsman Shubman Gill. Kohli’s long relationship with Cornerstone, which had signed him up as an youngster around 2008, is quite well documented in the cricketing circles.

MS Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, then in his capacity as Indian captain, had faced charges of conflict of interest for his association with Rhiti Sports. Image Credit: AFP file

Incidentally, this is not the first time that an Indian captain had been at the receiving end of such complaints. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kohli’s predecessor, was reported to be a stakeholder at Rhiti Sports Management Private Limited - a Delhi-based sports management firm which were also handling the commercial interests of a number of prominent players in the national team as well as the marketing rights for IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings. A three-member probe committee, including the then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, was constituted and Rhiti’s defence was they had bought back the shares from Dhoni.

Meanwhile, Ganguly, against whom charges of ‘conflict of interest’ were raised before he took charge of the BCCI, found himself in the centre of another controversy over his role as the brand ambassador of JSW Cement (Jindal Steel Works). He, on Saturday, posted a picture on Instagram where he was seen wearing a JSW t-shirt apart from appearing in a TV commercial of the company alongwith Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri.

JSW Sports, the sports arm of the business conglomerate JSW Group, co-owns the Delhi Capitals franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with the GMR Group. Ganguly had even served as the mentor of the Delhi Capitals side in 2019 season and helped them qualify for the play-offs after seven years. However, he had stepped down from the post before taking over as BCCI president.

Clarifying his position on the subject, Ganguly told the Indian media: “How do I influence? I am not brand ambassador of JSW Sports (which handles Delhi Capitals in IPL). I don’t think the cement company is a sponsor of the (Delhi Capitals) team. I don’t see any conflict in it. I am not associated with their cricket; had I been, it would have been a conflict.”

A vocal critic of the conflict of interest clause, Ganguly had said earlier that he would sort it out on becoming the BCCI supremo as charges were also raised against legends like his teammates Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.