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A close look at the IPL

Are you finding it difficult to keep track of all the twists and turns in the IPL saga? Kadambari Murali Wade gives you the lowdown on the personalities, the issues and the politics behind the controversy.

cricket Updated: Apr 22, 2010 12:49 IST
Kadambari Murali Wade

1. What is the BCCI?

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, set up in 1928, is exactly what its name suggests. It’s a body that controls cricket in India, something like a consortium of member clubs that derives its powers from three things:

* It has been around so long and has such a deeply ingrained grassroots network that it has a de facto monopoly control over cricket without actually having an officially sanctioned monopoly;

* It has the tacit approval of the government of India; and

* The people of cricket-crazy India recognise it as the ultimate authority on all things cricket because it selects the “Indian” cricket team.

2. What is the IPL?

The Indian Premier League, announced in 2007 and commencing its first season in April 2008, is two things:

* It is a league of eight privately-owned franchise teams (this number will rise to 10 from next year, ie. IPL season IV) that play Twenty20 games among themselves to crown an eventual champion; and

* It is the body that runs that league. The IPL is an autonomous body under BCCI and has a separate budget. The 14-member IPL governing council reports to the BCCI Working Committee and all governing council decisions have to be ratified by the working committee.

3. Who is Lalit Modi and what is his role in the BCCI/IPL?

Lalit Modi is the son of K.K. Modi, chairman of the Modi Enterprises and a cricket administrator. A former Rajasthan Cricket Association president, he is a vice-president of the BCCI and chairman of IPL, which he conceptualised (he had mooted an IPL style tournament in the late 1990s too) and created with an International Management Group (UK) team headed by Andrew Wildblood in 2007. He is also called IPL Commissioner (along the lines of the commissioner in franchise-based sports like the American National Football League and Major League Baseball), though the term commissioner does not appear in any BCCI or IPL document. No one is quite sure who coined the term.

4. What is the current controversy? When did it all start?

The current crisis began on April 11, when Modi tweeted the names of stakeholders of the newly-bought Kochi franchise. This, the franchisees claimed, was a breach of the confidentiality clause in the agreement. Among the names, Modi said, was that of one Sunanda Pushkar. The then Union minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor, he added, had asked him to keep her name secret.

This spiraled into more allegations – of team ownership records being fudged, of Modi’s relatives and those of other BCCI officials having undisclosed stakes in teams and in commercial deals entered into by IPL.

5. How does Shashi Tharoor fit in?

Tharoor, a writer and a former UN diplomat, is reportedly a close friend of Pushkar, a Dubai-based businesswoman. Media reports alleged that the 4.75 per cent sweat equity given to Pushkar by the Kochi franchisee, had been negotiated as a proxy payment to Tharoor.

Tharoor denied this outright, accusing Modi of lying, and so did Pushkar, but the controversy that erupted claimed both: Tharoor was forced to resign his ministership while Pushkar gave up her stake in the team. Tharoor’s role is currently being investigated by the government.

6. What is Sharad Pawar’s role in all of this?

Union Agriculture Minister Pawar was BCCI president (he is president-elect of the International Cricket Council) when IPL was set up. Till Tuesday’s closed doors meeting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Pawar was viewed as Modi’s only backer within BCCI. BCCI insiders say their proximity is based on financial dealings, but both have denied this.

7. Why are the bids of two business groups under the scanner?

The Adani Group (it operates India’s largest private port, Mundra, in Gujarat) and Videocon, run by Venugopal Dhoot, were the front-runners for the two new IPL teams that were auctioned this year. Initially, they were the only bidders at an auction scheduled for March 8 that was subsequently cancelled because the BCCI brass reportedly felt the criteria, especially one that made it mandatory for bidders to have a $1-billion (Rs 4,600 crore) net worth, were designed to favour particular industrial houses, which reportedly enjoyed the backing of Pawar and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.

It was rumoured that one of the bidders had offered Pawar’s son-in-law Sadanand Sule a 30 per cent stake as sweat equity, but Pawar’s daughter Supriya has denied this. The only original bid papers are with Lalit Modi and the companies.

The subsequent auction saw Sahara India and, unexpectedly, a consortium from Kochi, win the bids.

8. Why are I-T and ED authorities looking at team ownerships?

They think some team owners have not been upfront about ownership details. The identities of many owners are hidden below layers upon layers of front companies incorporated in known tax havens such as Mauritius, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. They are also investigating whether Modi/his relatives and relatives of other BCCI officials and politicians figure below this multi-layered corporate structure.

9. These questions weren’t asked earlier?

We don’t know. The few occasional voices that asked these questions were silenced by the euphoria of a glamorous sports-meets-entertainment event and the confluence of big business and politics. The government now says it has had Lalit Modi under the scanner for months, because of assets disproportionate to known income.

10. What happens now?

We’ll have to wait and see. At this point, following Tharoor’s exit, Modi will probably also have to go. The IPL’s governing council is meeting on April 26, a day after the final. If Modi doesn’t quit before that, he will be asked to do so at the start of the meeting.

Meanwhile, the BCCI is reportedly conducting an internal inquiry parallel to the ones by various government agencies. We’ll have to see whether this will lead to BCCI appointing a regulator and reviewing all commercial contracts signed earlier.

11. How does this affect the rest of the cricketing world?

BCCI is the world’s richest cricket body. At one time, unofficial estimates indicated that 80 per cent of all money in cricket came from Indian or India-related companies. Currently, at least 80 foreign players play in the IPL. The league, its franchisees and agents employ innumerable foreign support staff and match officials in various capacities. This is only expected to grow. A huge number of players depend on the IPL for a major chunk of their income. BCCI-IPL is also the founding member of cricket’s richest event, the Champions League T20.

12. Why is Modi being probed?

Because it is alleged that he has misused his position as IPL chairman for personal gains. He is believed to hold stakes, directly and indirectly in at least three IPL teams. His brother-in-law is a major shareholder in the Rajasthan Royals. His son-in-law Gaurav Burman’s company is involved in many of the commercial deals that the IPL has got into for various internet, mobile and other rights. And his son-in-law’s brother Mohit is a co-owner of the King’s XI Punjab.

13. Why is Modi being singled out and not the others in the governing council?

Because he ran IPL like a personal fiefdom and will end up being the fall guy for this one. He made the rules, he made the deals and he brought in the money and the glory. Along the way, he made powerful enemies both in the political and cricket establishment. Now that chinks are visible on his armour, the empire is striking back.

14.Will it be difficult to fire Modi?

The BCCI amended its constitution in 2007 to allow the formation of IPL. According to that amendment, only a Special General Body Meeting of BCCI (which all its affiliated bodies attend) can fire the IPL chairman and that too, with a two-thirds majority.

So, the IPL governing council can recommend he be sacked, the working committee can endorse that but it needs an SGM to see it through.

BCCI President Shashank Manohar will have to convene an SGM, which will have to pass a resolution removing Modi from his position as IPL chairman. Given the current composition of the SGM, this does not seem difficult.

It may, however, take time as the heads of all the affiliated units will have to be reconciled.

15. Why is the entire political fraternity up in arms?

Easy. IPL is at the confluence of cricket, politics and big business. In India, politicians and big businessmen control cricket. The Congress, which eased Tharoor out of the Union council of ministers, wants to avoid suggestions of wrongdoing by any of its members. Then, some senior ministers are believed to want to cut Modi – and his mentor Pawar – to size, and the Kochigate controversy provides them with the perfect opportunity to do so. The opposition parties are up in arms as they see in this a chance to put the government on the mat.