Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul face suspensions © Getty
Barely 24 hours to go before India line-up their playing eleven for the first of the three One-day Internationals against Australia in Sydney, captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri are clueless if they can pick all-rounder Hardik Pandya and batsman KL Rahul in the team.
Reason: BCCI has been forced to seek legal advice on the matter because CoA member Diana Edulji, who first advocated a two-match ban for the cricketers before sending them a showcause notice, has now asked for one.
The matter pertains to Pandya and Rahul’s comments on filmmaker Karan Johar’s show ‘Koffee With Karan’ that was streamed four days ago. The comments have largely been deemed – in the mainstream and social media – as “cringeworthy” and “disgusting”. Insiders say “this is not a legal issue at all. This is about BCCI’s own Code of Conduct for cricketers. This is simply waste of time.” Clause 17 & 18 of the BCCI’s constitution, although, call for either the Apex Council or an ombudsman to intervene in such matters.
Kohli and Shastri, are meanwhile kept waiting. Until a reply comes in writing from BCCI’s legal team, the CoA is in no position to take any action. The board’s inability to take the call stems from a series of e-mails that have been exchanged between members of the CoA and Edulji’s refusal to agree with CoA chairman Vinod Rai on all matters concerning BCCI. Below is a trail of e-mails – in possession of TOI – that present a detailed scenario of what transpired.
On Wednesday, January 9, at 10.38am, hours after Twitter had feasted on Pandya and Rahul’s talk show with Johar, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri wrote an e-mail to Rai and Edulji, stating: “It is been brought to our notice that (Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul) made a few statements which have not been well received in the media. We would suggest that a notice be sent seeking explanation within 24 hours. Please advise.”
To this, Rai replied at 11.26 am and said: “Only within 24 hours.”
At 11.29 am, Edulji replied to both stating (verbatim): “Strict action should be taken against both as they can’t speak about women in such a manner. They should be banned for a match or two to show we respect women and won’t allow players to be disrespectful.”
To this, Rai replied an hour later, insisting notices should be sent, and said: “Send the notice. We can decide the action today.”
Pandya then went on to tweet an apology before drafting his reply to the showcause notice. Rahul sent a separate e-mail.
‘Apology doesn’t appear sincere’
Soon after receiving the replies, Rai wrote to Edulji and Johri, saying: “The apology has obviously been drafted by the agency. Doesn’t appear sincere. I am inclined to suggest a penalty. But since I have not seen the clip, maybe Diana would like to suggest some penalty. There should be a penalty? What do you feel? Could be different for both players depending upon what they have said in the show.”
Sources say his views were based on the logic that Rahul remained relatively guarded while Pandya did most of the talking.
Rai then went through the excerpts of what was spoken on Johar’s show and replied again: “I have seen the remarks made by these two players on the show in print today. Very crass. No apology can cover it. I had asked Diana to suggest a penalty because I had not seen the clip. I think we need to give both of them a two-match suspension. If Diana agrees, Rahul please draft an appropriate instruction and issue today as their explanations have come in. Separately please prepare an advisory to all BCCI contracted players and support staff.”
However, Edulji, who had earlier advised the two-match ban, retracted from her earlier statement and instead wrote back to Rai and Johri, saying: “The (BCCI) secretary and legal (Amarchand Mangaldas) may kindly opine”. Sources say BCCI’s legal team Amarchand Mangaldas is clear that this is not a legal matter but one that involves the BCCI’s own Code of Conduct.
Board secretary Amitabh Choudhary said: “Suspension must happen immediately.” BCCI’s acting president CK Khanna wrote: “Comments are crass and highly irresponsible. I suggest strict action.” Board treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry too wrote a lengthy email, recalling how Cricket Australia acted with a sense of urgency in the case of Steven Smith and David Warner. He added that agents of players need to be regulated and as far as the punishment is concerned, “a two-match suspension seems to be only a stop-gap arrangement.”
“The comments such as the ones that have been made would definitely have painted a large, red target on the back of the players for potential recruiters for the organized syndicates who attempt to indulge in match-fixing across the globe,” stated Chaudhry in his email and suggested a sensitisation process. “The entire team and support staff must go through a sensitisation process. The (BCCI) CEO (Rahul Johri) may join them in the sensitisation as well as recommended by Ms. Veena Gowda, advocate.”