The latest Delhi Police revelation that Rajasthan Royals co-owners, Raj Kundra and actor-wife Shilpa Shetty, too placed illegal bets on matches, including those involving their team, only reinforces the suspicion that it has been a free-for-all as far as making a quick buck is concerned, in the dim-lit corridors of the domestic Twenty20 league.
Police questioning has revealed that Kundra, a British businessman of Indian origin, has been betting over three seasons and has been in touch with several bookies. His friend and business partner, Umesh Goenka, has been functioning as a bookie, according to Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
The police have indicated they may not be in a hurry to arrest Kundra as their focus is spot- fixing and its underworld links rather than betting activities. Still, the latest inquiry into the case has further battered cricket’s image. The details show the prime actors in the ‘game’ have been quite open in their sleazy dealings.
While this only pushes the Rajasthan Royals, a team projected as a great underdog in the multi-million dollar league, into a corner, its owners are not alone.
The Mumbai crime branch arrested the Chennai Super Kings’ now disowned team principal, Gurunath Meiyappan, for illegal betting and links with small time Bollywood actor Vindoo Dara Singh, a bookie intermediary who was granted free access to the team much like Goenka was.
Although both parties may get off lightly if they have to face only betting charges, such activities bring disrepute to the franchise, the league, and the BCCI, and can lead to the team’s termination.
The Board has called for an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss this development. While N Srinivasan has tried to distance son-in-law Gurunath from the CSK by claiming the team is owned by India Cements, no such technical jugglery is possible for Royals as Kundra and Shilpa own around 11% stake.
There have been concerns for years that the underworld has infiltrated cricket to cash in on the chances of making easy money. But what is shocking is the callous approach of cricket administrators when it comes to effective monitoring.
The big question the BCCI needs to now ask is: If people at the helm of two teams can exploit their own players and performances, can the other teams be free of such manipulations?
It would also do well to publish the full list of franchise owners to demonstrate a willingness to be transparent. The Board can no longer hide behind legal fine print and say it does not come under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, the board’s interim head, had suggested before he took charge that it would not be a bad idea to even temporarily halt the league. Such a move will at least assure all stakeholders that the BCCI is finally shaking off its business-as-usual attitude. Otherwise, cricket will continue to limp from one scandal to another and turn into a game of hidden certainties.