The day the Board of Control for Cricket in India approved the constitutional amendment that allowed its members to own an IPL team, it sold itself to the commercial interests of the world. Never a transparent, democratic body even in the best of times, it is an organisation whose sole concern has always been self-preservation. Now, in one stroke it exposed itself to market interests without putting in place safeguards or regulations, a necessary measure so that greed and profit do not become the overwhelming core of their existence.
The real problem, once the IPL started becoming the centre-piece of Indian cricket, was that an amateur bunch of self-serving officials had entered a world dominated by the worst form of crony capitalism. It had no clue how the Lalit Modis and N Srinivasans of this world would suck the “property” called cricket to its last drop to make it a brand and sell it to the highest bidder.
Free for all
Cricket’s popularity was never in doubt and with India increasingly becoming a consumer society, given the plastic money flowing into the middle-classes, the mixing of T20 with the glam world was boom time for profiteers. This cacophonic mixture of cheerleaders, sixes and fours, late-night parties, massive injection of money and the thousands pouring into the stadiums was for most people producing a harmonious sound; and for a brief while India and the world were so dazzled that they were left gasping for breath.
There was little doubt India had created a magnificent league, using the stupendous potential for instant drama inherent in the twists and turns of the shortest version of the game.
The Board’s coffers started bulging, the players from across the world started looking forward to the auction day with trepidation and anticipation, hoping this would be the day when riches and fortune smiles at them.
Even fringe players, always dreaming of a fantasy world, all of a sudden found their wishes being fulfilled and no one was complaining even if the traditional form of the game was being torn asunder.
What is liked by the masses should not be questioned is the modern day motto, and anyone who did try to raise a voice of dissent or advise caution was termed a spoilsport, someone who was not in tune with modern times and the values it espoused.
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All for one
In this fantasy world, the lines dividing self-interest and the interests of the institution got blurred. Who was to decide what was good for N Srinivasan, the Board president, was also good for his team Chennai Super Kings? Or what was good for Lalit Modi, the man who created this labyrinthine structure in the first place, was also good for all those franchises related to him?
Board members, who included shrewd and powerful politicians were co-conspirators in this game, happy to mix pleasure with business.
As Srinivasan and his India Cements started controlling the Board, all these politicians belonging to various parties including the Congress and the BJP were either being checkmated or became willing partners in a game of deception that has today embarrassed Indian cricket.
What must be shocking, and in many ways sad, is that some of those politicians are now giving the Indian electorate sermons on how to remove corruption, having chosen silence when it comes to matters cricket.
Can we trust these men to clean India of corruption when they seem as complicit as any other in the cricket scandal shaming all of us?
It can’t get more shocking when all that these men seem to be doing, apart from remaining silent, is to allow one man become the Board, apparent in the manner its lawyers are fighting this case in court. It is obvious from their arguments that they are not defending the Board, but only its president.
One had heard of the slogan ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’ during the dark days of emergency. Today, the Board members seem to be chanting ‘Srinivasan is Indian cricket and Indian cricket is Srinivasan’.
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No good men
So deep does this conflict of interest run now that we seem to be left with no one connected with the game that can be trusted. The long list of distinguished former players have lost their voices fearing a backlash from the board, which doles out huge sums of money to them in the shape of pensions, lucrative commentary contracts and many other sundry jobs connected with the game.
It can’t get worse when the name of the Indian captain too gets involved in this game of deception and lies.
In this operation to save one man, the entire apparatus of the Board was either helpless, or a willing tool to serve the master.
It just goes to prove that what is required is not surgery but reinvention of a new structure with all the right regulations, dos and don’ts, swift punishments incorporated within its constitution so that what has happened does not repeat itself.
Despite the hope that the Supreme Court will do its best to cleanse the system, it is the Board members who ultimately have to show spunk and the will to tackle the crisis they are confronted with. Unfortunately, they are all compromised men, either incapable or unwilling to change the system, and themselves. That is the real tragedy of Indian cricket.