By Baidurjo Bhose
Taking over the reins of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) former Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai had famously said that all cricketing matters would be supervised by co-member and former international cricketer Diana Edulji. But things started to change once Edulji started to stop ex-CEO Rahul Johri from throwing his weight around.
With Johri’s resignation being accepted and the BCCI asking him to leave via email on Thursday, Edulji was of the view point that the CoA should have handled the matter better and Johri’s conduct ultimately hurt Indian cricket and the image of the board.
Speaking to IANS, Edulji threw light on not only the shocker when Johri was allowed to continue despite complaints of sexual harassment against him, but also said that the recent leak of financial information isn’t something new as she had once famously wanted hiring of plumbers to stop leak of confidential information.
Edulji has always been known to follow the rule book and speak for the truth and she says that there was no way that Johri should have been allowed to continue once allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against him from people within the organisation.
“When this matter broke out in October 2018, it was not shocking for me as there was a previous history which we were made aware of. If it was not for me, the poor complainant would have not received her apology letter from Rahul Johri. Even then a lot of pressure was made on the complainant to close the matter. The way things moved, it looked like to me he was going to be covered up. The chairman and I had our differences and I made it clear that as a woman CoA member, I wouldn’t like this person sitting in the same room.
“When the independent committee was formed but that also wasn’t proper and I had objected, but I was overruled on every step I took towards getting justice. In fact, I remember the conversation where it was decided that Johri would be asked to resign. I highlighted to Rai, Johri’s contract clauses that brought disrepute to the BCCI, however, after a day Rai turned down to the mutually agreed stand. And that was that. I disagreed to the forming of the independent committee as one person was conflicted, it is minuted,” she said.
Was Edulji surprised at how Johri got a clean chit and at the same time was asked to undergo gender sensitisation? The former India cricketer says she wasn’t.
“Looking at the way the independent committee worked, it was very clear that he would get away. The women who deposed wanted cross examination to be done, that didn’t happen, the reports weren’t given to them. Without their statements being handed over to them, could they even have gone to the court to address their grievances?
It was shocking as I had made it very clear that they should know what is wrong. Everything I said was overlooked and he was given a clean-chit. Shocking bit was that Johri and wife were already at the BCCI HQ when the clean chit was announced, he wouldn’t have been at the office already unless he knew before hand that he was getting a clean chit, the CFO welcomed him back with a bouquet and a cake cutting ceremony followed. An email was sent to the CEO that he should resume duties, but I had objected.
“Then he was made to undergo gender sensitisation and nothing came out of it. No report was sent to us as to what followed. No answers were given,” she rued.
What hurts Edulji more is the way that Johri tried to create differences between the office-bearers and the CoA. “He always tried to keep the office-bearers away from the CoA and his ploy fell flat with me at the start itself because I could see through his style of functioning. He believed that if he could create differences, he would thrive. He would play one against the other. When Limaye and Guha were there, he couldn’t get away so easily. But after they went, he was supported, shielded and molly coddled. CoA was incorrect in letting Johri continue after the sexual harassment episode. The findings of one of the member was quite damning and he should have been asked to go even if the other two members had given him a clean chit,” she pointed.
“If he got the clean chit then why was he asked to undergo the gender sensitisation, which clearly indicates that things were hushed up to give him a clean chit and cover up the matter.”
Coming to Johri’s involvement in the recruitment process, Edulji said that it was strange how Johri played his tricks not just in the selection of the men’s team coach, but also the women’s team coach and certain BCCI staff.
“His male ego seemed to be hurt that I as a woman was telling Johri what is right and what isn’t. His arrogance hurt Indian cricket. I kept saying that BCCI’s image suffered due to him. Take the pink-ball Test issue. Johri misguided Rai because they were discussing the matter and once the elections were done the office bearers conducted the pink ball Test in India within a month. Even the Anil Kumble matter was handled badly as Johri went around showing messages against Kumble. Why would you want to do that?
“In the appointment of women’s coaches. I am very happy with the way they are playing, but the rules of appointment weren’t followed. It is all about processes and not about whims. That’s what the reforms were about. Even in the Ramesh Powar episode, the two captains were spoken to in my absence. Why would this happen? Harmanpreet came out of the meeting and gave a statement that was opposite to what was discussed in the meeting,” she pointed.
Commenting on Johri’s increment, she said: “Not to forget the increment that was given to Johri. This matter was there for a long time and many meetings took place on this subject with legal and the previous amicus. I even went to a retired Supreme Court judge for an outsider opinion . After his opinion and amicus’ opinion and legal opinion the matter was put on the back burner. However things changed when the third member joined CoA.
“Johri wrote an email and reopened the issue. I maintained my stand as I went by clauses in his contract and audited accounts of BCCI. However I was overruled and the CFO was ordered to pay him the entire amount immediately. The current BCCI office bearers should look into this and I still stand by my decision and maintain he was wrongly given the incentive . If possible a recovery should be made because it is public money.
“The way Johri has got away with a lot of things is shocking to say the least. His behaviour and attitude was shambolic. He would treat some of those working under him as doormats. He was pure rude. He didn’t know how to speak to colleagues. The way CoA also covered him up is very sad. You cannot sideline office-bearers the way they were. They were operating under the directions of the Supreme Court and were instruments of the Court as much as the CoA was. He appeared to be a very insecure person. Whoever was better and more competent than him, he would try to cut, and that seemed to be most of the senior officials,” the former India skipper said.
Finally, commenting on the current dispensation, Edulji said that they are doing a good job despite the coronavirus pandemic and the Supreme Court would decide if they can continue or not.
“I think they started off really well before the pandemic. It isn’t easy when the world comes to a standstill for 3-4 months and despite that they have kept the interest of Indian cricket in their heart. I would suggest that rather than speculating on their tenure, we should let the SC take a call,” she signed off.