The Indian Premier League cricketing carnival faced serious questions on Monday after a panel probing malpractices in the tournament indicted top administrator N Srinivasan for inaction and said officials from two top teams were involved in illegal betting.
In its final report submitted to the Supreme Court, the panel headed by retired judge Mukul Mudgal blamed Srinivasan for not acting against a cricketer violating the code of conduct during an IPL tournament. But it said he himself was never involved in match-fixing nor did he try to scuttle the probe into the scandal.
It also said that the IPL's chief operating officer, Sundar Raman, had admitted knowing that Gurunath Meiyappan of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Raj Kundra of Rajasthan Royals (RR) were involved in betting but did nothing about it, which means he could lose his job if he cannot furnish a proper explanation.
CSK, a franchise led by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni that has won the tournament twice in its seven-year history, and RR, which won the first edition in 2008, face the risk of termination if violations by Meiyappan and Kundra are proven.
The report also mentioned two unnamed individuals, 2 and 3. Individual 2 frequently met Meiyappan in his hotel room, it said, and individual 3 is the person in the code of conduct violation to which Srinivasan is alleged to have turned a blind eye.
The panel's findings add to the credibility problem of the IPL, which has been mired in controversy since May last year when India fast bowler S Sreesanth and two of his RR teammates were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing, or influencing the outcomes of parts of a match in exchange for money.
Srinivasan, who was asked to temporarily step aside by the Supreme Court in March pending the inquiry, said: "It's up to people to interpret the findings, I would much rather wait for the Supreme Court verdict to commit to a comment." The Court is to take up the report on November 24 when the response filed by the four indicted persons will also be considered.
Srinivasan's adversaries, however, were quick to claim that the report proved their charges against him. Aditya Verma of Cricket Association for Bihar (CAB), who has petitioned the SC against BCCI boss, said the committee's conclusions made it untenable for Srinivasan to contest the upcoming board elections. "Cover up is also a crime," Verma told HT.
"Any decision will be taken after the SC verdict. However there is hardly any opposition for Srinivasan," a senior BCCI official and working committee member said on the eve of the board's emergent working committee meeting in Chennai.
The Mudgal panel said that Meiyappan, who is Srinivasan's son-in-law, and Kundra were in regular touch with bookies and involved in betting. The panel found it "intriguing" that Rajasthan Police abruptly stopped their investigation against Kundra without any reason after receiving the case papers from the Delhi Police.
On Sundar Raman, the report also said, "(He) knew a contact of a bookie and had contacted him eight times in one season."
When questioned Raman "admitted" he "knew" the contact of the bookies, but claimed he wasn't aware of his connection with betting activities.
Raman also accepted that he had received information about Meiyappan and Kundra taking part in betting activities but was informed by the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption chief that this was not actionable information.
"It is only natural that Raman has to defend himself in the court through his submission," said Srinivasan.
The panel said that Meiyappan was a CSK team official and not just a mere "cricket enthusiast" as Srinivasan had claimed. Investigations also proved Meiyappan was in constant touch with a middleman for betting.
On Meiyappan, the report said: "Investigations have confirmed that this individual was a team official of a franchise. He was frequently meeting individual 2 (name withheld) in his hotel room. …the finding about his betting activities and the finding that he was a team official stood confirmed."
Kundra was in regular touch with a punter who admitted having placed bets on his behalf. "Materials on record indicate that individual 11 was placing bets or was at the minimum standing guarantee for his punter friend," it said.