Make Gavaskar BCCI chief in place of Srinivasan: Supreme Court6 min read . Updated: 27 Mar 2014, 10:48 PM IST
Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals should be barred from IPL in light of spot-fixing, betting scandal, says the apex court
New Delhi/Mumbai: The Supreme Court on Thursday proposed former India captain Sunil Gavaskar as a temporary president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), setting the stage for N. Srinivasan’s departure from India’s richest and most powerful sporting body.
A two-judge bench of the apex court also suggested the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals teams from this year’s edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which starts on 16 April.
“In the place of Srinivasan, we propose to appoint an experienced cricket player like Sunil Gavaskar to replace him and function as BCCI president," said justice A.K. Patnaik, who heads the bench.
Gavaskar, 64, the first player to score 10,000 runs in Test match cricket and who is now a television commentator, said he was willing to take the helm of BCCI.
“The fact that I am contracted to BCCI to do TV commentary has to be put on record," he told the NDTV network. “After that if the honourable Supreme Court tells you to do something, then of course...if they ask me to do something, I will do it."
Chennai Super Kings is owned by India Cements Ltd, of which Srinivasan is vice-chairman and managing director, besides being president of BCCI.
The apex court also said that anyone associated with India Cements should not be allowed to continue in BCCI and IPL. It is likely to deliver an interim order on Friday.
On Tuesday, the court said Srinivasan should step down in order to ensure a fair probe of allegations that his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was involved in spot-fixing and betting in last year’s edition of IPL.
Allegations against Meiyappan arose after Delhi police arrested three Rajasthan Royals players for conspiring to fix specific outcomes in a match, such as the number of runs in a particular over. Rajasthan Royals is owned by Jaipur IPL Pvt. Ltd, one of whose stakeholders is businessman Raj Kundra.
Meiyappan and Kundra were questioned by the police in connection with the scandal. A Supreme Court-appointed committee headed by former judge Mukul Mudgal found Meiyappan guilty of betting and passing on information.
The apex court is hearing cross appeals filed by BCCI and the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) on a verdict by the Bombay high court declaring a probe panel appointed by BCCI into the spot-fixing scandal as “illegal and unconstitutional".
The Supreme Court has asked BCCI to come up with its response on Friday when it will pass an interim order. It said it will pass a final order on 16 April, the day IPL is due to start. The first leg of the tournament has been shifted to the United Arab Emirates to avoid a clash of dates with India’s general election.
Arguing on behalf of CAB on Thursday, lawyer Harish Salve alleged that Srinivasan was engaged in a “cover-up and by extension an act of corruption" to protect his son-in-law.
Meiyappan’s role in the Chennai Super Kings franchise was the subject of a detailed argument by Salve, who cited evidence to establish his credentials as a key team official.
Salve also argued that India and Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was guilty of code of conduct violations because, in his deposition before the Mudgal committee, he allegedly reaffirmed Srinivasan’s position that Meiyappan “had nothing to do with the Chennai Super Kings and that he was not the team owner/principal but merely a cricket enthusiast".
“It was a false statement to get him off the hook, which amounted to a cover-up...," Salve said in court.
Asked for his response to the court’s proposals and BCCI’s next move, Ravi Savant, vice- president (west zone) at the board, said: “We have no choice but to follow what the honorable Supreme Court says. After all, it is the highest court in the country."
However, he added that the court’s suggestion on hiring a former player to head BCCI may not be easy to implement. “While we respect the proposal of the Supreme Court, it is not practical. A former cricketer may not qualify to take over the post. BCCI has certain eligibility criteria, and it is done in accordance with our constitution," said Savant.
On the conflict of interest between being a part of India Cements and BCCI, he said: “It is a matter of coincidence that Dhoni is captaining Chennai Super Kings, the Indian cricket team and is an employee of India Cements, and while there may not be any conflict of interest, the lines may get thinner. But there is a difference between being an employee of a company and playing cricket."
Aditya Verma, secretary of CAB, said he was happy with the proposal of the Supreme Court.
“We have been fighting to clean up BCCI, and to clean up the sport. The Supreme Court itself has said that it is time to restore its (cricket’s) status as a gentleman’s game," Verma said.
In the court on Thursday, C. Aryama Sundaram, a lawyer representing BCCI, argued that preparations for IPL were underway, and if the Chennai and Jaipur franchises were not allowed to participate, it would affect the tournament’s schedule.
BCCI’s Savant said the body would respond to the Supreme Court proposal on keeping two teams out of IPL on Friday.
“It is not possible to take decisions without the consent of our 30 member associations. But the court must first accept the Mudgal committee report. It has to be accepted, argued in court, and a chance must be given to the affected parties in this case," said Savant.
To be sure, sports marketers and media buyers are worried about the impact the Supreme Court proposals could have on the Twenty20 tournament.
If the court does not allow Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals to play, “it is likely to have a cascading effect on everything from broadcaster revenues and television ratings to central and local sponsorships," said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
He said the larger question was if there can be a league with just six teams. “It will significantly erode the hype and value of IPL. It’s like having the English Premier League without Manchester United. Having said that, in 2009, when BCCI was forced to move the tournament to South Africa at short notice, it did manage to pull off a good season," he said.
An official of one of the largest media-buying agencies in the India said that IPL would have generated ₹ 800 crore in advertising revenue.
“There is no doubt that the exit of two teams is likely to have an impact on advertising revenues. They may even drop by up to 50% considering that a drop in the number of teams immediately means lesser number of matches and therefore lesser outlay (advertising inventory to sell on air)," he said, requesting anonymity.
Worse, advertisers still sitting on the fence about investing in this expensive property may decide not to invest at all owing to the uncertainty, resulting in wider losses, he said.
IPL title sponsor PepsiCo and official broadcaster Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd are adopting a wait-and-watch strategy on the proposal to keep the Chennai and Rajasthan teams out of IPL.
“The matter is sub judice. We would not like to offer any comment," a PepsiCo India spokesperson said.
AFP and PTI contributed to this story.