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A file photo of BCCI’s president-in-exile N. Srinivasan. Photo: Mint  (Mint )
A file photo of BCCI’s president-in-exile N. Srinivasan. Photo: Mint
(Mint )

BCCI is the rotten core of Indian cricket

Indian cricket draws powerful and power-hungry men of all ilk to it, like honey does bees

When the two-member committee set up by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to investigate charges of spot-fixing and illegal betting in the Indian Premier League, with special focus on the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals, submitted its report a few days ago, no Indian cricket follower would have been surprised by its contents. The committee, comprising two former high court judges, gave a clean chit to BCCI’s president-in-exile N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan (whose connection with the Chennai team has veered wildly from “team principal" to “enthusiast") and Rajasthan Royals co-promoter Raj Kundra. Srinivasan can now return in all his dubious glory to the duties and responsibilities he had temporarily handed over to Jagmohan Dalmiya while the probe was on. It may be pertinent, however, to note here that the investigation committee was set up while Srinivasan was still president.

But now the Bombay high court has judged that the committee itself was “illegal" and “unconstitutional". And the Delhi Police has filed a 6,000-page chargesheet which carries photos of Dawood Ibrahim and S. Sreesanth on its cover. At the high court hearing, the BCCI counsel pleaded that the court had no jurisdiction over the internal workings of the BCCI. This, the court dismissed, citing “public interest". Facing the press in Kolkata, Jagmohan Dalmiya granted that the court judgement was “an embarrassment for the BCCI".

This is an astonishing admission. The history of the BCCI is replete with incidents that prove that whatever this august institution is capable of, embarrassment is not one of them. Srinivasan has already made it clear that he will attend the 2 August meeting of the board, and quite possibly resume his presidentship (perhaps accompanied by cheers from the other attendees; can a garland or two be absolutely ruled out?). His reaction to the court judgement, as quoted in Mail Today, was: “I don’t know why you people are making a big issue. A writ was filed and the court has given its verdict. The matter finishes there. I have no further comments to make on this issue." In other words, it was business as usual.

Sure, but what about the fact that Srinivasan had said that he would stay away from the board till the spot-fixing mess was cleared up? If a high court declares that the committee he set up was illegal, its report too isn’t worth the price of the paper it’s printed on. And when the police said that Raj Kundra, under interrogation, confessed to having been betting during the IPL, were they lying? Kundra and Meiyappan were still under police investigation, so how can the BCCI committee even submit its report?

But then, the BCCI has always considered itself above the law. The very fact that it seems to be a body that functions outside the Indian constitution (from government oversight to the country’s tax laws) yet sends out a team on the field that represents India is a conundrum that years of wrangling in courts and government corridors has been unable to resolve.

There is just too much money in Indian cricket. And it draws powerful and power-hungry men of all ilk to it, like honey does bees.

Sharad Pawar came to cricket administration rather late in his career as a politician. But he quickly managed to capture BCCI and then went on to become president of the International Cricket Council (his term ended last year). In an interview with Mumbai Mirror, James Astill, British journalist and author of the recently published The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India, recalls his conversation with Pawar. He had asked Pawar, as one of the richest politicians in the country, why he was bothered with cricket. “I think his own words are so preposterous that the reader should be left in no doubt that there’s something very strange going on there," says Astill. “He says he likes power, and cricket has become an extraordinary means for politicians to gain power and recognition in India. The enormous financial revenue this sport brings in is unmatched. And Pawar likes these things. Why exactly he feels the need to get them from cricket, when he has them from his political career, beats me."

Well, it’s not confusing to us Indians, is it?

There have been hundreds of reports over the years in the Indian and British media that illegal betting, spot- and match-fixing in cricket are a barely covertly run industry worth billions of dollars. It is also known that the epicentre of this whole shameful business is India. Does anyone believe that the BCCI cares about this? Taking that argument even further, does anyone believe that if indeed there was spot-fixing going on in IPL games, it was limited to just three players in one team, which was never fancied to win the tournament, and these three players were not even part of the regular eleven?

So let’s face up to the ugly truth and accept it. There is something rotten at the core of how Indian cricket is run, and sometimes how it is played, and that core is unlikely to change. And we can do nothing about it. Nothing at all.

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