Trust the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to take a noble gesture and turn it into a tool to settle scores with.
The announcement last week that India’s richest sporting body was donating R70 crore from the Indian Premier League (IPL) playoffs to nearly 170 ex-cricketers was warmly welcomed.
But in the last few days rumours are swirling over those who are being excluded for one petty reason or the other from this windfall. These rumours have been fuelled by the partial list of beneficiaries released, all part of the lack of transparency that the BCCI is infamous for.
News is that BJP MP Kirti Azad — a member of the victorious 1983 Prudential World Cup team — is being denied his due following his token fast at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground on Sunday where he protested against the IPL and the board’s high-handedness. So it is clear now that once again the BCCI is using money power to silence its critics.
One of cricket’s living legends and the captain of that iconic 1983 team, Kapil Dev has also fallen victim to this bullying.
It was Dev who was one of the architects of the short-lived breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL) that was launched in 2007 but faded out after barely two seasons.
The IPL was launched in 2008 partly in a bid to crush the ICL and succeeded soon enough. With the lone T-20 league now woefully short of Indian players, an ‘amnesty’ scheme was announced in 2009 to bring those associated with the ICL back into the ‘official’ fold. Dev, to his eternal credit, stuck to his guns and refused to kowtow to the board.
The Rs. 1.5 crore he is eligible for may not count for much for this cricketer-turned-tycoon. But in this case it is the BCCI that has emerged as the villain and Dev as a man of principles.
Ironically, in 2008, on the 25th anniversary of the 1983 World Cup victory, Dev and his team were honoured by the BCCI with each player awarded R25 lakh.
Is it too much to expect from some of our icons, including those who played under Kapil Dev’s captaincy, to come out publicly in support of their colleagues? Or has the BCCI succeeded in buying their silence too?
Azad is not the only ex-cricketer to voice his concern over the excesses of the IPL and its mega-money power that has shaken the foundations of international cricket and threatens to flatten all those who dare to stand in its path. Are some of the other vocal critics also going to be hounded down and blacklisted for expressing their views?
The payments are supposed to honour those who graced the game of cricket in India according to the BCCI’s own announcement. Many of those who will benefit played in the days when cricket had few monetary benefits. But it now appears that it’s being used as a payoff to seal the lips of the cricket fraternity and buy their loyalty.
It’s certainly been a bad month for the IPL. Many skeletons are tumbling out of the closet and those on its payrolls are closing ranks in support of the gravy train.
The five young players trapped in the TV sting who claimed that they received under-the-table payments from their franchises blew the lid off the IPL’s worst kept secret. But instead of questioning the big-shot owners, it is these hapless cricketers who are being victimised.
Packed with powerful netas from across the political spectrum, the BCCI considers itself above the law. Its refusal to come under the Right to Information clearly shows that it has something to hide. Already the income-tax authorities are sniffing around for black money.
Vested interests, cronyism, corruption, opaqueness and pettiness characterise this behemoth of a board. But it should keep in mind the phrase, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Remember Lalit Modi?
Gulu Ezekiel is an author and sports journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal