Why is BCCI General Manager, Saba Karim in trouble?

BCCI General Manager Karim’s position is under the scanner as there are too many issues that have remained unattended

Cricket boards across the world battling financial storms in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. BCCI reportedly is reviewing the position of its General Manager Cricket Operations Saba Karim who could be literally axed. Karim’s contribution is being questioned and in addition, what may also work against him are the several “unattended issues” and the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are unprecedented times and we are all aware that you really have to think out of the box and you have to be clinical about it”. IANS quoted an unnamed BCCI official as saying. “We need to ensure that we come out of this pandemic with the least amount of damage to the game. We have been holding a lot of discussions amongst the executives and the office bearers have been having their own discussions. In our discussions on the areas that need attention, sadly his contribution has not been up to the mark.”

Karim has apparently also not offered anything constructive regarding the domestic calendar and his behavior is also an issue. “This isn’t the only issue. When it comes to the domestic calendar, we don’t have anything constructive as yet. We might later see our office team having to put in extra hours to make up for the lost time. Moreover, the issues that his team members have raised in the past with K.V.P. Rao going to the extent of refusing an appraisal, does not inspire too much confidence in him. A few state cricket associations have also raised issues about his brusque manner,” the official claimed.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had decided that assistant General Manager Cricket Operations KVP Rao would be promoted to the position of Deputy General Manager, Cricket Operations. But Rao has torn into current GM Cricket Operations Saba Karim and refused to accept the promotion.

In the letter, Rao has told CEO Rahul Johri that while he is delighted that his hard work has been recognized finally. He would wish to continue in his current position. The board didn’t deem it fit to promote him to the rank of GM Cricket Operations when there was a vacancy after MV Sridhar resigned from his post.

Karim’s role may have also been diluted after the recent appointments.

“The National Cricket Academy has Rahul Dravid and KVP, who has been given the responsibility that Saba earlier had. The umpire’s academy, which Saba had been responsible for, is as good as dead. People are doubling up and taking on multiple responsibilities, those who aren’t will face the brunt. One cannot afford dead weight anymore. Ultimately it is about what you bring to the organization and not how much you take from it.

“Finally, the current regime is very clear when it comes to professionalism. You obviously expect that when you have the former India captain at the helm. Things are only getting tougher as you have seen across the world. Cricket Australia and ECB among others have already made some tough calls. As professionals, the onus is on us to perform. We’d rather have a situation where people are talking about our work and not our salaries,” the official pointed.

“The women’s team, support staff, and the outgoing members of the women’s selection committee have time and again complained about Karim’s behavior and interference. We understand that he was a former selector. He needs to understand that he presently is not a selector and he cannot be weighing in on selection matters anymore.

“In fact, a complaint was made against him for violating the BCCI constitution in appointments with regards to the women’s team. There was also at least one written complaint about his appointment. The said employee claimed that his candidature was not eligible for the General Manager’s post. As per the selection criteria which had asked for a postgraduate degree, which he allegedly did not possess.

“There have also been serious questions with regards to the appointment of the NCA staff overseen by him. Some believe that there have been tweaks made in eligibility to accommodate certain candidates. There is a clamor for a proper investigation into the matter. The scope of the investigation must include their scope of work and their decisions as per the scope in the NCA roles,” the functionary said.

Recently, Kevin Roberts resigned from his position as the Cricket Australia CEO. Questions were raised over his handling of the financial crisis arising due to the coronavirus situation. CA also parted ways with head of female engagement Sarah Styles as part of cost-cutting measures.

In England, board officials and cricketers have taken voluntary pay cuts.

According to the BCCI, Karim was responsible for providing “strategic direction to the cricket department.” His other major tasks included implementing “operational plans, budgeting, determining and monitoring the compliance of match playing regulations, standards of venues, administration of domestic programs.”

While this is Karim’s first tryst with the operational side of the game, he is no stranger to the workings of India’s cricketing system. In addition to representing India in one Test and 34 ODIs, Karim had an 18-year long domestic career. He turned out for Bihar first and then Bengal in 120 first-class games, and scored 7310 runs at an average of 56.66. His playing career met with a premature end in 2000-01 not long after he injured his right eye while keeping to Anil Kumble in the Asia Cup.

Following his retirement, Karim enjoyed a fairly long stint as a television commentator on either side of his tenure as a national selector from 2012 to 2016. He also has experience of serving in the corporate sector, having worked in the corporate communications division of Tata Iron and Steel Company.

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