By Vijay Darda | 31-03-2014
For the sake of headlines, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has two new interim presidents — both former Test cricketers — Sunil Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav – in place of the terminally powerful N Srinivasan. But then let the irony not be missed by anyone. “Srini” cannot function as BCCI chief, but come July and he can be the ICC chief. It is like saying that a cricketer is disqualified from playing a Ranji Trophy match, but he can represent India in an international game. The man whom the Supreme Court has tried to ‘punish’ must be laughing at his punishment. Clearly, for all intents and purposes, the BCCI has got away again.
Look at it the other way, and you can see the logic of his power. He is the India chief of a body whose state satraps include Sharad Pawar, Lalu Yadav, Farooq Abdullah, Rajiv Shukla, Jyotiraditya Scindia, and if this combine looks politically weak for you, then add Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. Can there be a situation where more political power will congregate in a board room? Then let someone like Nagpur’s Shashank Manohar whose spotlessly clean track record as BCCI chief is admired everyone, say that Srinivasan should have gone long ago for his acts of omission and commission. To the BCCI boss it matters little, he can ignore Manohar. Thus, he cannot function as the BCCI chief, but will attend the ICC meeting within the next few days as India’s representative. Not just that, he will lord over the new international cricketing order that he has ‘worked hard’ to put in place. The reason is simple. The apex court has deemed that this is the BCCI’s internal matter, and so has not passed an order restraining him from doing so.
The working of the BCCI has remained a mystery to the rest of the world. It is admittedly the richest sports body in the country, and by that logic the most powerful one as well. All doors open for it automatically, and none of the rules of accountability apply to it. Neither the parliament, nor the courts seem to be able to enforce their writ. I remember that some years ago, the same Srinivasan and other BCCI honchos appeared before the parliament’s Standing Committee on finance and the strictures passed by it would have been sufficient for any other outfit to be prosecuted, but then nothing happened to him.
There was a serious violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, as the surplus earned from an IPL tournament in South Africa was transferred to a BCCI account in India. There were other violations as well in the grant of the broadcast rights involving a multi-million dollar, and all that the officials did at that hearing was to keep pleading ignorance and shifting the blame to the now out of favour — Lalit Modi. However, the all powerful board dominated by top politicos cutting across party lines did not find anything objectionable in these proceedings. Srini who was the cheque signing treasurer at that time, was soon promoted as the BCCI chief, but also headed to be the ICC chief.
If ever anyone wants to know as to what is the meaning of the term ‘conflict of interest’, then he or she simply has to look at the way in which Srinivasan operates in his multiple roles. That he is the owner of the IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings is just one aspect. His employees at India Cements are also the employees at the BCCI. Even the India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an employee at India Cements as vice-president. Now, Dhoni is also a contracted cricketer at the BCCI as well as with Srini’s IPL team Chennai Super Kings. But why single out this small town lad for what can be termed as a breach of propriety. Even Rahul Dravid, R Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik are proudly paraded by the company to advertise its credentials as a sought after employer.
Cricket influences the nation’s consciousness like nothing else. Millions of Indians remain glued to television screens when a ball is bowled anywhere in the globe. You can see the heavy advertising presence of Indian products, even when no Indian side is in the contest. There are historical and traditional reasons for this cricket culture in our country. It is the only game which gives us a semblance of domination in the world. For the rest, we are a country of non-performers in the international sporting arena. A few wrestling and boxing successes have been achieved in the recent past. But compared to the oceanic impact that cricket has on the collective national psyche, these are like a few drops in a desert.
This makes it imperative that the game should have its fabled purity and integrity. Scandals like the betting-match fixing episode of IPL-6 in which Srini, may not be directly involved, but the fact that his son-in-law Gurunath has been clearly indicted, shows that there is lot that is foul. The fact that he obdurately sticks to his chair by itself emanates the most powerful stink. The people expected that justice from the Supreme Court would mean deliverance of the game from the clutches of someone whose conflict of interest is now beyond doubt. Interestingly, the first day of the hearing in the apex court did raise some hopes as senior counsel Harish Salve backed up by the rich first-hand experience of the BCCI’s working during the days when his father, the legendary NKP Salve was its chief, made all the relevant arguments. But then it does take a lot to disturb a cozy status quo when the conduct of just one season of IPL is at stake. For the uninitiated ones, the stakes in IPL-7 are over ` 20,000 crores, and the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals as considered briefly by the apex court would have reduced the size of the cake by about 40 percent. Besides, the Srini-owned CSK would have been hit hard. Without earning a penny, it would have been forced to shell out crores as players’ fee.
Match-fixing and betting go hand in hand. This activity thrives in the shorter version of the game, where its course can be changed just in the space of a few balls –a six or a wicket and you have a different result. The BCCI got away with milder treatment this time, and none expects either Gavaskar or Yadav to change anything. As cricketers, their achievements speak for themselves, but for too long, they have been part of the same establishment, and frankly speaking the task is simply beyond their ambit. The only hope is the apex court, and the fact that the last word has not been said in this case.