When the entire Opposition castigated Manmohan Singh for not putting his foot down and stopping the 2G and coal scams, few questioned the basic honesty of the UPA prime minister. Will cricket fans treat Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the sidelined president of the Indian cricket board, in a similar manner, ignoring his failure to prevent the squalid happenings in the 2013 Indian Premier League? A clearer picture will emerge only after the Supreme Court pronounces its final views on Nov 24.
The board, at its emergency working committee meeting Tuesday in Srinivasan’s hometown Chennai, hailed the leader dismissing all speculation about his future and reposed faith in the Supreme Court.
Contrary to general expectation that the board might sacrifice IPL chief Sundar Raman as a sacrificial goat after the Justic Mukul Mudgal committee pointedly remarked about his knowing a contact of a bookie, the board decided to back him fully and help him present his case before the court.
The working committee informally must have assured Srinivasan, who attended the meeting, that he is indispensable and may have decided to seek explanation of both Gurunath Meiyappan, whose contacts with bookies and his betting have been well documented in the report, and Raj Kundra for hobnobbing with people close to bookies. The board is caught in a cleft stick, it can’t punish only Kundra and if both he and Meiyappan are punished it will have to straightaway take action against IPL franchises Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings.
Yes, the Mudgal Committee report found Srinivasan not guilty of betting or fixing matches or, for that matter, even trying to prevent a probe into the whole murky affair. Is that all needed to exonerate the board chief?
Why was, in the first place, the Mudgal committee set up when it was a simple police case or at best the subject matter for a CBI inquiry? Only because the highest court in the land thought that it is just not a petty criminal case, the betting and spot-fixing in cricket goes way beyond FIRs, a matter of moral turpitude.
Can Srinivasan wish away the fact that Meiyappan is Chennai Super Kings team principal and Sundar Raman COO of the IPL. The former is his son-in-law and the latter right-hand man.
In Meiyappan’s case, the committee found that he is not a mere enthusiast but a key official of the CSK. Sundar Raman, though spotted by Lalit Modi, the man who conceptualised the IPL, gained enormous clout under Srinivasan’s dispensation. So much so, he now represents the Indian board at important meetings internationally.
In his alibi, Sundar Raman has stated, according to the report, that he had brought to the notice of the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council the betting activities of Meiyappan and Kundra but the unit chief told him that this was not actionable information.
Interestingly, Sundar Raman is part of Integrity Working Party, which coordinates the work of ICC member boards in tackling corruption.
The Supreme Court has given the country’s cricket authorities a long rope over the years by just rapping on their knuckles from time to time, hoping things, in still the best administered sports organisation, will improve.
The day is not far off when the courts and the policy-makers will realise the nexus between the politicians/dynastic succession of their children and the careerist cricket administrators must be snapped. It is not to suggest that all administrators are of questionable integrity — some are genuinely interested in sport.
Gone are the days of cricket administrators working for the game on just fresh air and pride. Today, the jet-set cricket officials are seen by the dozen on the Indian team’s every overseas tour. A list of board officials who were in England during Indian team’s long tour explains why so many associations are backing Srinivasan for an extended presidential term, amending its constitution. Now anyone can continue to head the board provided he could muster two men to propose and second him from the zone whose turn it is to nominate the presidential candidate.
Srinivasan wants to stay as president for another term and his cronies in East Zone are more than willing to accommodate the czar from the south. This is their way of thanksgiving to the man who has doled out the board’s money to these associations on various heads. Most of these officials are flush with easy money accruing from the television rights.
Everything in cricket is sponsored, from in-stadia ads, and team to the players’ on-field apparel attracting huge money. Simply put, anything and everything in cricket has a hefty price tag. The players have learnt how to endorse products from head to toe. For the board, it is a seller’s market, no questions asked.