To the superstitious Chennai Super Kings (CSK) supporter, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s “Mohawk" haircut may be more than just a style statement to start the new season with; it could well have been to ward off the “evil" eye which threatened to make the most successful team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) being disenfranchised and unable to participate in the ongoing Champions League Twenty20.

The Mumbai police submitting a voluminous 11,609-page chargesheet in the IPL spot-fixing case just before the tournament began was as significant for its timing as well as its contents in which Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) president N. Srinivasan who owns CSK, stands indicted for betting.

The BCCI’s inquiry panel, comprising two retired judges looking into allegations against IPL franchises, had given a clean chit to CSK owners. This was later struck down by the Bombay high court on the breach of procedure and protocol as spelt out by the BCCI’s constitution and seen as a setback to Srinivasan.

Gurunath Meiyappan. Photo: Hindustan Times
Gurunath Meiyappan. Photo: Hindustan Times

When the chargesheet was finally filed by the police last week, it triggered off a fresh bout of uproar not just in the media but also in a faction of the BCCI headed by I.S. Bindra of the Punjab Cricket Association, which demanded that CSK be banned from the tournament, citing Rule 11.3 clause C of the BCCI-IPL constitution.

To reiterate, Rule 11.3 clause C says a franchisee can be terminated with immediate effect by written notice if “the Franchisee, any Franchisee Group Company and/or any Owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchisee, the Team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket".

The argument forwarded by Srinivasan and CSK officials was that Meiyappan was never a team principal or in any way associated with the ownership of the franchise. “India Cements (owner of CSK) follows a zero-tolerance policy and if anyone is proved guilty, strict action will be taken immediately. India Cements assures full cooperation with the BCCI and the law enforcement authorities," was the official response of the franchise when the scandal broke.

This is what Srinivasan maintains even now. “I have nothing to do with his (Meiyappan’s) case. The law will take its own course," he said when the Mumbai police chargesheet was released. His rivals claim that Meiyappan’s proximity to the team over the past six seasons clearly marked him out as CSK “owner/management". Public perception concurs with this.

However, the chargesheet did not mention that Meiyappan was involved in spot-fixing, which perhaps prevented the matter from snowballing into CSK being debarred from participating in the Champions League Twenty20. But it had enough fodder for Srinivasan’s adversaries to regroup in a fresh bid to prevent his continuation as BCCI president.

All told, this is a hectic week with far-reaching ramifications in India’s cricket politics culminating in the much anticipated annual general meeting of the BCCI in Chennai on Sunday, which Srinivasan intends to chair and seek extension of another year in office.

The past four months have been replete with controversies involving the president who was forced to sidestep his position when the spot-fixing scam broke last IPL season. Ever since, Srinivasan has used legal and BCCI’s procedural remedies to get himself back at the helm, but it has been like trying to cross a minefield.

Salvoes have been fired from several quarters. Bindra has been a stout and old foe. Lalit Modi, the former IPL commissioner, has been unrelenting in his opposition, losing no opportunity to take potshots at his one-time friend. The Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) has moved the Supreme Court to disallow Srinivasan from seeking extension.

Even if oblique, former BCCI president Sharad Pawar’s recent statement that cricket in India needs to be cleansed, including its administrators, is not without significance. Pawar has made it known that he is willing to return to administration. Read between the lines, that is a direct threat to Srinivasan’s ambitions.

As this is being written, Srinivasan is still walking the tightrope even though he seems to have the support of state associations. After the Delhi high court on Tuesday allowed the BCCI to hold a special general body meeting in Chennai on Wednesday, the BCCI promptly banned Modi for life from the Board.

The Supreme Court hears the Cricket Association of Bihar’s plea against Srinivasan on Friday, and any adverse decision could stymie his attempts. But even if he does get past this, he still needs enough votes in the annual general meeting to get a one-year extension.

Every indication is that he has the numbers to back him. But will they remain with him as the hectic parleys and horse-trading continues is the moot question. As the cliché goes, a week can be a long time in politics.

Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.

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