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As 2017 IPL season begins, BCCI anti-corruption glare on micro-leagues

BCCI’s three-member Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) is on high alert ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) but the BCCI is facing a different challenge -- monitoring leagues such as Tamil Nadu Premier League, Karnataka Premier League, Haryana Premier League and Rajasthan’s Rajwada Cricket League (RCL), organised at the state and district levels

ipl 2017 Updated: Apr 03, 2017 20:37 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Indian Premier League,IPL,BCCI
While monitoring the Indian Premier League is a big task for BCCI’s three-member Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), keeping tabs of the matches in the small state and district level T20 leagues that are mushrooming is a big challenge, says ACU head Neeraj Kumar.(HT Photo)

While BCCI’s three-member Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) is keeping a vigil on the Indian Premier League matches and Board’s other games following the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, a different challenge has emerged --- monitoring leagues organised at the state and district levels.

Neeraj Kumar, head of BCCI’s ACU, told HT: “These small leagues are a concern. While we have managed to keep an eye on issues at top-level cricket, there is little we can do about the smaller, state-level leagues.”

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Of late, Tamil Nadu Premier League, Karnataka Premier League, Haryana Premier League and Rajasthan’s Rajwada Cricket League (RCL) have all taken off.

Interestingly, most of these leagues run despite struggling to break even.

RCL, which was hosted by the Kota District Cricket Association a couple of months ago, was telecast live by the Neo channel. But some results raised eyebrows.

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The final, won by Jodhpur Jodhana beating Udaipur Mewar Royals, ended in a bizarre way. Jodhpur needed 17 off the last two balls but managed to reach the target following a series of wides and no balls.

Questions have been raised about RCL’s legitimacy too. Somendra Tiwari, Rajasthan state unit (RCA) secretary, says, “We did not give any permission to RCL. Still they invited state-level players and some from outside.”

IPL chairman, Rajeev Shukla says, “For organising a state-level or district-level league, you need the permission of the state association. We do keep an eye on those which come under the ambit of the state unit and thereby the board.”

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But BCCI’s ACU panel has just three members.

RCA vice-president Ameen Pathan, who heads the Kota unit and initiated the league, says, “The tournament was a success. As an RCA vice-president, I am authorised to hold it.”

He denied any wrongdoing in the league and blamed criticism by Tiwari and former RCA secretary RS Nandu on rivalry.

Interestingly, the Rajasthan unit is run by the BCCI as the state body remains suspended.

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The league needs to take the state unit’s permission if state-level players are involved. Ranji-level cricketers played a couple of matches at the start of the RCL before leaving to attend the state camp. “Last year, there was permission, but not this year,” said Tiwari.

Intriguingly, none of the RCL players interviewed by HT even knew their team owners. Pathan too had only sketchy details. “We gave teams to people who were interested. Players too were picked by choice and not by auction,” he said.

The league gained prominence as ex-international stars like Sanath Jayasuriya, Justin Kemp, Kyle Mills, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rusty Theron and Farvez Maharoof were invited to mentor franchises. Bollywood stars like Suniel Shetty and Ameesha Patel too checked in.

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Pathan says, “Kota has plenty of institutes and they invited these ex-star players and Bollywood stars to speak to the kids. They (institutes) gave them fees. That’s how we managed.”

The Karnataka Premier League (KPL) is far more organised and conducted by the state unit through auctions. But doubts linger.

To start with, in its five years, it has been making losses despite the major aim of a T20 league being the raising of revenues. Worse, the state association is heavily subsidising the TV production cost of Sony. “The production has been costing us Rs 2 crore each season,” says KSCA spokesman Vinay Mritunjaya.

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Needless to say, the KSCA is using the Board’s money to meet the shortfall. Mritunjaya says he is not aware of any wrongdoing and they keep a strict vigil on the league. “We make losses but the idea is to give exposure to cricketers. After all, there are other cricket events too that don’t give revenue.”

However, the recent introduction of a team of film stars in KPL has raised questions whether the league is really meant to promote cricket. “The film stars bring eyeballs,” Mritunjaya says.

Neeraj Kumar says he has received complaints. He recently told the media, “In premier leagues, including KPL, a lot of hanky-panky goes on.”

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He told HT: “The ACU has received complaints about irregularities during RCL matches and also some other leagues. But there is not much we can do as they fall outside BCCI’s (direct) ambit. Unless local police and authorities act, there won’t be much headway.

“All we can do is keep track of players who graduate from such tournaments and ensure they don’t get involved in corruption once they move up.”

First Published: Apr 03, 2017 20:31 IST