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Kirti Azad believes MS Dhoni’s (above) involvement with Rhiti Sports leads to a conflict of interest © PTI

New Delhi: Jun 3, 2013

Rhiti Sports issued a statement on Monday in which it stated that Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not a shareholder of the company. The statement came after a report was carried by the Economic Times stating that Dhoni owned a 15 per cent stake in the sports marketing firm.

Rhiti Sports said Dhoni had no shares as on April 26. According to reports on CNN-IBN, the company said that it transferred its shares on March 22, but that was only to secure an outstanding amount it owned to the cricketer.

However, according to the reports, the shares were transferred to Dhoni on May 22.

The firm, called Rhiti Sports Management, is set up by Arun Pandey, a close friend and business associate of Dhoni. According to the report, along with Dhoni, the firm also manages four players who play under the 31-year-old Indian skipper — Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh — who has since dissociated himself from the company.

The issue of conflict of interest against Dhoni arises since he is the Indian captain and has a say in team selection involving the said players. Two of the players — Raina and Jadeja — are also part of the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

“There is definitely a conflict of interest in this case,” says former cricketer Kirti Azad, who was also a selector in 2002-03. “The players managed by Dhoni’s company will have an unfair advantage,” said another former India cricketer Maninder Singh, in agreement with Azad.

Dhoni did not respond to an email questionnaire sent to him by the Economic Times on May 31, while Pandey declined to comment. Anurag Thakur, joint secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said, “I have heard it for the first time. “If there is a concern, we may look into the matter.”

“Dhoni is part of the corridors of power,” says Rahul Mehra, a lawyer who has been railing against sports management in India. “Which selector will oppose Dhoni when he is a part of the think-tank in CSK, which is owned by a company of the BCCI president, and he himself is a vice-president in that company?”