Everyone acknowledges that cricket’s reputation has suffered a permanent scar because of the latest spot-fixing scandal. The fact that will worry most people is that as soon as a scandal breaks out those at the top, whether in politics or cricket, seem to dither about whether enquiries are required until they will take responsibility. When there is a needle of suspicion, the best thing to do is for those who are in positions of power to clarify the situation or step down till the air has cleared. Given this, the resignation of T20 league chairman Rajeev Shukla on Saturday evening will do little to wash away the taint of corruption that has hit cricket, though it will add more pressure on Srinivasan.
As in politics, the stubborn resistance by N Srinivasan too seems to have finally been broken. An emergency meeting of senior office-bearers in Chennai this afternoon is expected to allow the powerful cricket board president to step aside, at least temporarily. That is seen as a must, to lessen the body blow the governing body has taken. Even then it would be a case of too little, too late.
That sooner or later things would go wrong in the T20 tournament was clear. But that an India pace bowler like S Sreesanth would stoop to this level may have surprised many but not the involvement the other two players in his Rajasthan Royals team, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan. That is because of the feeling that domestic cricketers, paid far less than their international counterparts, are easier prey to lurking bookies. All those who were left muttering that cricket will never be the same after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report in 2000 named many stalwarts and pointed to the danger of the underworld getting more and more involved wonder whether the game will recover from the latest scandal.
However, the issue of corruption in a game regarded as a religion in India has been peculiarly overshadowed this time once details began emerging from Chennai, the seat of power of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), that Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, who headed the Chennai Super Kings, had been betting heavily through an intermediary, Vindoo Dara Singh.
The Mumbai crime branch are still investigating the duo’s possible involvement with bookies and spot-fixing. So far the operation coordinated by Gurunath and Vindoo gives the impression of a maze. The shocking revelations led to increasingly louder calls for Srinivasan to step down as BCCI chief, at least till the investigations are completed.
But Srinivasan, vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, having established himself as the most powerful cricket administrator in global cricket thanks to the clout India enjoys in the game, had hoped he could weather the storm. The resignations of top officials has only heightened the chance of politics in the board consuming Srinivasan. The police revelation that an International Cricket Council official tipped off Meiyappan, unsuccessfully as it seems, that he was under surveillance, could be the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
His argument that there is no inquiry against him falls flat. Firstly, he has been mired in conflict of interest since the Indian Twenty20 league began in 2008 because as a BCCI functionary he was ineligible to own a franchise. But Srinivasan subsequently tweaked the Board constitution to clear that hurdle. There have also been whispers that the canary yellow team has benefitted due to its powerful owner. While Srinivasan and the CSK owners, India Cements was happy to let his film producer son-in-law carry out the functions of a team principal, he has in one fell swoop tried to distance Gurunath from the team, and himself from the shenanigans of his son-in-law.
Srinivasan has argued that being an elected representative of the board, he can only be removed at the BCCI’s forum. The man knows that it will effectively take 24 members in a 30-member grouping to vote him out. Even if he steps down, there are other questions that remain to be answered. Was Srinivasan not aware of Meiyappan’s behind-the-scenes activities? Was there more to it than meets the eye?
Srinivasan’s refusal to step down only reflects the way our politicians have behaved, refusing to resign even after continuing in their posts had become untenable. The cases of Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ashwani Kumar are still fresh. It took ceaseless uproar before they were finally asked to leave.
The BCCI environment is no different; it has for long been blamed for its lack of accountability. Only last year, five domestic players were caught in a TV sting operation that was focused on the T20 league. It punished them but the big issue it threw up was ignored. Perhaps Srinivasan should have quit in the first place for his inability to tackle corruption.