It doesn’t get more ironic than this — the Indian Premier League starts the same day when the main hearing on the previous year’s scandals commences at the Supreme Court. But stranger things have happened in the past. Not even the arrest of three Rajasthan Royal players or betting allegations against Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of BCCI president N Srinivasan, could prevent the IPL from completing its course last year.
On the eve of the final, Srinivasan flew to Kolkata to gauge the mood of the board members. Next day, he branded Meiyappan “an enthusiast” and shot down calls to step down on moral grounds before commiserating MS Dhoni on the hiding Chennai Super Kings received at the hands of Mumbai Indians in the final.
Such has been the all-circumventing power of the IPL. Neither the biggest scandals nor the worst criticism could derail it. Yet for the first time in its brief seven-year history would the IPL start under a lot of scrutiny, partly because of the pending nature of the investigations that were initiated last year.
Some of it though is beyond the BCCI’s control. Like the time taken by the legal system to punish Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila despite the BCCI and Rajasthan Royals taking next to no time in suspending them. Sreesanth and Chavan have been subsequently banned for life by the BCCI but Chandila still awaits a decision after Srinivasan was asked by the Supreme Court to step aside as BCCI president.
Also ongoing is the Supreme Court hearing that snowballed from the PIL filed by Cricket Association of Bihar secretary Aditya Verma in June. It all started with Verma accusing a two-member BCCI internal panel probing the IPL scandals as unconstitutional. It led to the formation of the Mudgal Committee which interviewed several people before submitting a report to the Supreme Court.
Separate investigations by the Mumbai Police and Delhi Police had first led to the arrest of Meiyappan and interrogation of Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra. The case against them became stronger after the Mudgal Committee found them to have indulged in betting and passing on information. But a final decision against them is still some time away.
The IPL starts under the shadow of all this but the BCCI’s logic is simple --- they are not averse to any investigation but it shouldn’t be at the cost of the IPL. “Right now the situation is that the judiciary would decide whether Srinivasan is clean or not. This is entirely a separate matter which I don’t think would have any effect on this edition’s IPL,” said an IPL governing council member.
“Moreover by appointing Sunil Gavaskar as interim BCCI chief for the IPL, the right decision has been made. It’s now up to Gavaskar to ensure that this edition doesn’t get disrepute in any way. He has already taken steps like inviting an outsider to be advisor for the IPL which shows he means business,” he said.
But the latest twist of events --- that saw Srinivasan stepping aside with Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav taking up different leading roles --- came only after the intervention of the Supreme Court. In the first few months after the IPL scandal, the BCCI did little to control the damage. Somehow, power struggle gained an upper hand over honest fact-finding and authoritative actions.
While Jagmohan Dalmiya was made interim president after Srinivasan was assured he wouldn’t lose power in any way, it didn’t lead to any decisive actions. Dalmiya went ahead to recommend several clean-up measures but apart from the less important ones like banning cheerleaders, the rest like accreditation of players’ agents and asking cricketers to submit their financial details were swept under the carpet just as soon.
“As far as I know, none of the measures announced in the aftermath of the IPL scandal have been taken forward. Neither has the accreditation process of agents taken place nor do I know of any player declaring his financial details to the board,” said the IPL governing council member.
All about money
The mess had led to former BCCI president Shasank Manohar calling for the suspension of this IPL edition till all matches of last year are investigated. But as of now the BCCI has successfully managed to negotiate what has been a bumpy 11 months since the fixing scandal came to light.
Almost all that time was devoted by the BCCI to singularly ensure that the IPL isn’t stopped. One of the biggest reasons behind it is the sheer amount of money the IPL generates for the BCCI.
Earlier this year when the BCCI finance committee met, it was learnt that profits from last year’s IPL alone was more than double that what was accrued in 2012. A PTI report put the figures at R385.36 crore, compared to profits to the tune of R 174.73 crore in 2012. It meant that the IPL alone accounted for the R210 crore of profit BCCI made last year.
In the run up to the IPL this year, the member associations were told that each of them could expect a substantial hike in their annual grant if the tournament took place. “The biggest associations could get around R50 crore per year, which was a big jump from last year. No one would want to lose out on that amount of money,” a member association representative told HT last month.
It was also one of the reasons the BCCI pushed boundaries to find an alternate venue in the wake of the general elections. South Africa and Sri Lanka were frontrunners to host it but sponsorship problems meant the former was no longer an option while the island nation at that time was not considered favourable due to its opposition to the ICC revamp plan initiated by India, Australia and England.
While at first it was learnt that the option of playing at the UAE didn’t cut much ice with top BCCI officials, including Srinivasan, but lack of alternate venues and the fact that the board was hell bent on hosting the IPL at any cost led to its approval.
It starts in less than a week. By ensuring the IPL’s growing sustenance, the BCCI has guaranteed it stands to gain yet another year. The law would take its course but for all the cricketers, sponsors and BCCI itself --- the show must go on.