Delhi’s cricket administrative set up is a perfect example of all that is rotten in Indian sports. It is running like a rudderless ship with control in the hands of those who have over the years displayed a brazen capacity to put self above the game. Today, if it is in serious danger of not getting clearances to host a Test match, the blame lies squarely with it.
No other cricket body in this country is mired in so many serious allegations of fraud and deceit; it is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation as well as the Serious Fraud Investigation Office over charges of corruption. Apart from coming under the scanner for siphoning of funds, its stadium has failed to get clearances for many safety features from the local authorities, a must for hosting any match.
Things have spiralled out of control and today even its parent body — the BCCI — may not be willing to bail it out. The board has withheld for over a year its financial largesse amounting to a whopping Rs 30 crore or so. It is an option the Board rarely exercises and that it has now just goes to suggest how terrible the state of affairs in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) must be.
I came to Delhi in 1994 and in the first few years of my reporting from the nation’s capital was intimately involved with Delhi’s domestic cricket. Even then it was a messy place. The interest of the players was secondary for those who found playing power games more beneficial than the game of cricket.
Its external façade then was a decrepit stadium that was a true reflection of the place where parasites had gnawed at its foundations and left it hollow within.
The money that poured in later, especially in the last few years, led to a lot of changes. Now, instead of that shabby structure, we have a mass of concrete that passes off as a stadium and its ugly design once again reflects the true picture of its inner functioning.
The Kejriwal government, on the request of Delhi’s former players, including its legend, Bishan Singh Bedi, is now seized of the matter. A probe has been initiated and on the basis of its findings, a decision is to be taken.
Though the fate of the India-South Africa Test rests on a technicality, and whether to allow the DDCA to once again default on its entertainment tax liabilities, the issues involved here are much larger and need deeper scrutiny.
Those who think Delhi’s public should not be deprived of a Test believe that the government should give the DDCA temporary reprieve on its tax liabilities. It is an argument which presumes that cricket fans are willing to be blackmailed by a gang of tax evaders so that they can watch their beloved stars live in action. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just like the Lodha Committee is forcing the Indian Board to mend its ways, it is time the Delhi government does the same with the DDCA, even if it comes at the cost of not being able to host a Test.
The DDCA has so far got away through the use of political patronage and if the Kejriwal government too succumbs to this blackmailing tactic, it will disappoint those who voted for it on the anti-corruption plank. And that, I presume, should include the vast majority of cricket fans as well.