The IPL Mess
There is now a growing consensus among the cricket lovers in not only India but also the rest of the world that the Indian Cricket’s image has taken its worst beating, thanks to the scams involving the Indian Premier League (IPL). Betting and spot-fixing in the just concluded IPL matches have shamed the nation, but the administrators of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) and IPL are clinging to their posts. And this despite widespread outcry that they should quit.
It is not that this is the first time the IPL is in news. In fact, it has been under controversy since it began six seasons ago. But this time the matter is more serious because of the allegations by the Police that the son-in-law of the BCCI Chief N Srinivasan and the boss of Srinivasan-owned Chennai Super Kings team was involved in match-fixing. The gentleman is now in the custody of Mumbai Police. But Srinivasan is defiant and is clinging to his post even as voices from within the BCCI are growing stronger against him. But then Srinivasan’s history is such that he does not care for rules and conventions. In fact, ever since he became active in BCCC politics after the eclipse of the Kolkata strongman Jagmohan Dalmia in 2005, rules and conventions have been changed to suit his personal and business interests. Some examples will illustrate
Earlier BCCI rules that proscribed any conflicts of interests between the Indian Cricket and the business of the office-holders were amended to allow Srinivasan’s cement company to own the Chennai Super Kings outfit. This amendment also suited others in the BCCI, at least the then wonder boy whose brainchild the IPL was, Lalit Modi. That now Modi and Srinivasan are the bitterest enemies is a different matter. But, going by media reports, Modi’s brother-in-law is a part-owner of the Rajasthan Royals team, which has several shell company investors plus Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, the international media tycoon. Modi’s step son-in-law, Gaurav Burman, runs Elephant Capital, a private equity company, along with brother Mohit Burman, who is also an investor in the King’s XI Punjab team. Elephant has a stake in IPL’s on line and broadcast licensee Global Cricket Ventures.
Coming back to Srinivasan, let us see some of his other audacities. K Srikkanth, not long ago the Chief selector of the Indian Cricket, was simultaneously his employee as the brand ambassador/consultant for the Chennai Super Kings. Indian Cricket captain M S Dhoni is also his employee in the sense that he is the captain of the Chennai Super Kings. No wonder why during the last tour to Australia by the Indian Cricket team, when majority of the national selectors wanted Dhoni to be dropped as a Captain for his repeated failures as a leader, Srinivasan overruled not only the decision but also sacked the legendary cricketer Mohinder Amarnath as the selector as he had convinced majority of his colleagues to look for a new captain!
Srinivasan’s arrogance and “I-do-not- care” attitude were also evident when he imposed a very unfair decision over other IPL franchises this year. It may be noted that when in 2009 the Government of India urged the postponement of the IPL itinerary by citing the security factors (because most of the Police and Security personnel were busy in ensuring free and fair general elections that year), the BCCI shifted the IPL matches to South Africa. But this year, when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said, stupidly in my opinion, that she could not ensure safety of Sri Lankan players playing in Chennai, Srinivasan went one step further by declaring that matches would be held in Chennai sans Sri Lankan players!
This was the most unfair decision. Just imagine how Srivasan’s own Chennai Super Kings had the undoubted advantages of playing other teams weakened by the absence of Sri Lankan players. After all, IPL teams of Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad had Sri Lankans as captains, not to speak of other key Sri Lankan players in other teams. And these world famous Sri Lankan cricketers were hired at a very high price by their respective franchises. But none in BCCI, or for that matter in the IPL, had the guts to challenge Srinivasan’s diktat.
Given this background, it is not really surprising why Srinivasan is defiant. But then this is unfortunate as under lesser suspicions of wrongdoing the BCCI had punished Lalit Modi, who, it must be admitted, is the man who made the IPL and the BCCI the richest body in world cricket. Modi as the IPL Commissioner was alleged to have committed some irregularities, but then the fact remains that the charges against him were the fallouts of his taking actions against the Kochi team which was promoted by the then Minister of State for External Affairs Shahshi Tharoor, following which the latter had to quit his ministerial position. Besides, Modi’s professional closeness with BJP leader and former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje also played a role. Be that as it may, following allegations both Modi and Tharoor had to go (Tharoor came back to the Union Cabinet after charges against him were found to be lacking evidence). Nobody wanted them to wait till they were declared guilty by the Court. Why cannot be the same principle applied in case of Srinivasan?
It is said that since Srinivasan has got the required majority with him in the BCCI, nothing can be done. But I find this to be a poor argument. If a man holding a high position is not behaving to maintain the dignity of his position, then the best thing is to stop cooperation with him. One understands that the BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke wants Srinivasan to go. So say also IPL Chief Rajiv Shukla, Chairman of BCCI Disciplinary Committee Arun Jaitley and BCCI’s Finance Committee Chief Jyotiraditya Scindia. If that is the case, then these four luminaries should resign from these posts and say openly that they have nothing to do with Srinivasan anymore. But will they do it? I am sure that if these four resign their posts, then others will follow and a situation will come when Srinivasan will have nobody to turn to. Let him sit on the Presidential Chair but ensure that he is not in a position to do anything effective.
Of course, the Indian Cricket is affected by some bigger but fundamental problems. One is the role of betting and fixing. Unfortunately in India, many view the betting and fixing as the same. That is not the case. In fact, I am one of those who favour the legalisation of betting in sports. After all, if we have speculating on the shares of the companies as a legal activity, why not betting, as is the case in all the mature democracies? Betting is nothing but a speculation and there is always an element of uncertainty. You never predict accurately how much the value of a share will go up or come down. It is a chance. Similarly, putting money on racing is also not illegal. It is equally a speculative activity because there is always that element of uncertainty over which horse is going to win the race on a given day. I think that is the fun in speculation or betting.
In contrast, fixing is dangerous and criminal. Here you regulate the result without letting it go into the realm of uncertainties. You predetermine the result by bribing the players so that they do not play well or play in a particular manner. There is nothing speculative here. There is no chance factor here, because you know beforehand what is going to happen. And in the recent IPL event case if Srinivasan is being doubted, it is because of the fact the CEO of his own franchise Chennai Super Kings, who happens to be his own son-in-law, is under the needle of suspicion of match-fixing. That is the reason why he should quit, at least till the investigations into the matter are over.
There is also the other fundamental question of active and important politicians, including ministers, heading various BCCI bodies. But then, this phenomenon is not limited to cricket alone; it is pervading other sports too. Politicians join the federations under the pretext that they can get things done. But once a politician tastes the spoils of the office of a sports federation, it is very difficult to dislodge him from his perch. And that, perhaps, is the reason why our overall record as a sporting nation is not that encouraging.
By Prakash Nanda