A Supreme Court-appointed panel suspended IPL franchises Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) for two years on Tuesday after their officials were found guilty of illegally betting on games, in what is being seen as a bid to clean up the big-ticket tournament hit by a barrage of corruption controversies.
The three-member committee headed by former chief justice of India RM Lodha also slapped a life ban from all cricket matches on former CSK official Gurunath Meiyappan, who’s the son-in-law of International Cricket Council (ICC) president N Srinivasan, and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra.
The league has been mired in controversy since May 2013 when fast bowler S Sreesanth and two of his teammates from the Rajasthan franchise were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing, or influencing the outcomes of parts of a match in exchange for money.
“The fact that Gurunath was an integral part of CSK and most people saw him as the face of the team, he ought not to have indulged in betting practices," the committee said. “That the allegation of match-fixing against Kundra was not finally established does not matter because his status as owner has brought disrepute.”
The decision is seen as a big blow to Indian cricket’s showpiece event that brought glamour and big bucks to Indian cricket. It also puts a question mark on the future of dozens of cricketers playing in the two teams and is expected to dent the tournaments massive sponsorship and TV rights revenues.
After the committee’s order, top BCCI and IPL officials met to discuss the road ahead and assess the financial implications on the multi-crore tournament.
Sources said three primary points emerged from the discussions: whether new companies will be allowed to bid for the two vacant slots, whether all players or only the CSK and RR players will be going into auctions next year and also the probability of the de-merger of CSK from parent company India Cements.
BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya welcomed the panel’s order, saying the board was committed to ensuring transparency, accountability and cleansing the sport in order to restore the faith of millions of cricket-loving people.
“BCCI is committed to honour and respect judicial decisions and it would give its observations after the entire report is read and a collective decision is taken,” a BCCI media release quoted him as saying.
TV reports said both teams as well as Meiyappan and Kundra were likely to appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.
Srinivasan, who headed the BCCI when the scandal hit the sixth edition of the IPL in 2013, told news channels he won’t step down as ICC chief despite the verdict.
“I am not answerable to anyone. I am not involved in all of these,” he told NDTV.
Srinivasan was earlier restricted by the court from running for another term as BCCI president owing to a conflict of interest. His company India Cements held a stake in the Chennai franchise.
The hugely popular Chennai Super Kings, led by India’s one-day captain MS Dhoni, are the most successful team in the IPL, having won the tournament in 2010 and 2011, and finishing runners-up in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
“MSD (Dhoni) is only 34 years old and in a few years will be bidding goodbye to international cricket,” former India captain Sunil Gavaskar told NDTV. “In any case, it will be tough to imagine an IPL without Dhoni.”
Rajasthan Royals won the inaugural event in 2008 under the captaincy of Australian spin legend Shane Warne, but have failed to make the final since then.
The three-member panel was also expected to deliver its verdict on IPL’s chief operating officer, Sundar Raman, but justice Lodha said that with a new investigator coming on board following the retirement of BB Mishra, it will take some more time to complete the investigation.
The committee said its observations with respect to the much-talked about conflict of interest in the BCCI would be given after completing interactions with various stakeholders of the game.
“Conflict of interest questions have been raised, once we complete the process of interacting with all the stakeholders, we will take a view on that. That exercise is not complete. This order is confined to determining the quantum of punishment to the two individuals and the franchises,” Lodha said.
The panel, however, refused to comment on the criminal cases pending against the suspended officials, saying, “No aspect touching criminal liability has been decided by us.”
On whether the two franchisees would be allowed to participate in case there is a change in ownership, Justice Lodha said that aspect was for the BCCI to decide.
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(With inputs from Agencies)