Sometimes perceptions matter more than reality. I’m afraid that certainly seems to be true of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Of course, no one would actually say the truth isn’t dire but we simply don’t know if it is as bad as it seems. Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. But what’s undeniable is that it all seems dreadful. The popular impression is that the IPL is a den of crooks.
Dispelling this perception is the real challenge facing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Unfortunately, the steps they’ve so far taken don’t go far enough. In fact, they don’t even appear to acknowledge how grave the situation is.
Let me, therefore, from a layman’s stand point, enumerate what I think are the critical issues that underlie the public perception of the BCCI. If it is to be tackled these have to be addressed first.
To begin with, how is it that a mess of this magnitude was allowed to develop over three years without the BCCI and, more importantly, the governing council of the IPL finding out? Did they really have no idea? Or did they brush aside their doubts? The argument that they were so dazzled by the success of the IPL that they couldn’t see the problems behind it reminds me of the aphorism ‘there are none so blind as those who will not see’.
Next, why has only Lalit Modi been suspended while the rest of the governing council remains in place? If they were genuinely ignorant then it follows they were either myopic or stupid and, in either event, should go. But if they did know or had reason to suspect, their silence suggests collusion. Surely that’s good reason not to retain them? Tiger Pataudi admits that the governing council failed. Isn’t that mea culpa?
Third, can the men who allowed this to happen — or were unable to detect what was developing under their very noses — be expected to clean it up? The task involves more than mopping up the spilt dirt. They need to dig to see how far and how deep the rot has spread. To do so, they need to inquire into their own behaviour and involvement, including the obvious conflicts of interest even though they were ‘legalised’ or permitted. But will they? And if they try, on what basis should we accept that men who were till yesterday blissfully asleep are now, suddenly, alert and awake?
Fourth, doesn’t the BCCI need an independent outside agency to inquire into and, thus, establish the full details of what’s gone wrong? After all, the issues involved are complex, secretive and difficult to disentangle. They include allegations of mysterious and hidden share-holdings, money-laundering, match fixing, betting and corrupt commissions. Is anyone in the BCCI really equipped to unravel such intricate and involved issues?
Fifth, if the IPL is to continue and flourish, as everyone hopes, should that task be left to the same people who brought it to this sorry pass? After the devastating knock it has suffered it needs not just a new face but a new body. The need of the hour is to restore confidence. But can that happen without a clean sweep of the old and the introduction of carefully chosen new men?
These are simple, even elementary, issues. But they are also the grounds on which popular opinion is convinced that both BCCI and IPL stink. If that smell is to be removed they have to be addressed. If not, there’s no alternative to holding our noses.
The views expressed by the author are personal