The seeds of discord that could have far reaching and even debilitating consequences for India’s cricket administration were sown the day it opened itself out to the corporate world. When business tycoons and film stars, playing the role of oligarchic czars, bought players at the sound of a hammer, cricket had thrown itself open to new challenges which could redefine the rules of the game.
The same administrators, whose eyes popped out at the sight of millions being bid to buy and sell talent and were clenching their fists in glee at their bulging bank balance, may soon find themselves marginalized.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India was so far an odd assortment of petty clerks, bureaucrats, an odd businessman and politicians. They fought with each other to gain control over a body in order to use the popularity of the game to stay in public eye and further their personal prospects, but closed ranks at any threat of being usurped by outsiders.
The winds of change — for good or bad — sweeping the world, with India too not lagging far behind, had left this archaic body untouched till the lure of multiplying their profits became too difficult to resist.
Whatever one may accuse Lalit Modi of, and what ever your opinion of the IPL concept may be, you can’t deny him credit for transforming a laidback, and status quo set-up into a dynamic, functional body by executing successfully what many thought would be impossible.
The sweep and impact of IPL is already threatening the old traditional cricket world. India is the country, which for the first time, is not following others but forcing them to respond to the new difficult challenges thrown up by this systematic change in the structure of the game.
This creation of a new order has also created turmoil of sorts in the Board. It is suddenly finding itself being confronted with a new reality where those who are spending money are now demanding their pound of flesh.
For the first time, corporate houses have publicly forced the Board to have a rethink on their decision of terminating its contract with an event management company. Many allege Modi’s hand in rallying franchisees behind IMG as the annulling of this contract would be seen as a defeat and marginalizing of Modi and the coronation of N Srinivasan as the ruler of the Board.
Modi has already lost the first round by being voted out in his home turf of Rajasthan. His rivals, unhappy not only at his ‘brash, autocratic’ functioning but also his ‘self promotional’ exercise in building himself as the face of this revolutionary change, are out to clip his wings.
Srinivasan himself has not been above board, being an IPL team owner (Chennai Super Kings is owned by India Cements, of which he is a Managing Director), which is in direct conflict with his role as the Board secretary. There have been reports in the media alleging that even Modi is a surrogate owner of at least a couple of IPL teams, a charge which he denies.
This subtext of an intriguing plot which was bound to go awry for the traditionalists in the Board once they decided to play the game of the corporate world, does not augur well for the future.
What good can one expect from a bitter fight when at the heart of the matter is greed and lust for power and the rules of the game can be twisted to suit the needs of the ‘stake holders’?