Time to salvage honour

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Published: July 26, 2015 12:11:26 AM

The Lodha committee has given BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya a glorious opportunity to show intent, clean up the mess and put things in order in the IPL

This is great news for Indian cricket. Somebody had to crack the whip and the Lodha committee did it. Now, it’s time for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to act in earnest.

After taking office in March, the Indian cricket board’s new president Jagmohan Dalmiya said his top priority would be to clean up the mess. The judges have presented him with a fantastic opportunity to do the job. Time to walk the talk.

For so long, the BCCI had been in denial mode. It revelled in sweeping the dirt under the rug. When Gurunath Meiyappan, former BCCI president N Srinivasan’s son-in-law, was caught for betting, he was described as an ‘enthusiast’ who travelled with Chennai Super Kings. Rubbish! Meiyappan effectively ran the franchise.

Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra’s excuse was his ignorance about Indian laws. Laughable. He’s lucky not to face any punitive action yet.

And the BCCI’s handling of the whole affair reeked of double standards. Two years ago, the IPL betting and spot-fixing controversy had broken out after three Rajasthan Royals players—Sreesanth, Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila—were nabbed by the Delhi Police. The BCCI was prompt to suspend the players, eventually banning them for life. But when trouble came home, Srinivasan was evasive. Very few in the cricket board had the courage to raise a voice. The erstwhile boss held sway. Without the intervention from the judiciary, he would have retained his vice-like grip.

The Supreme Court owes a million thanks. At the same time, it was unfortunate that the whole thing had to come to this. By banning Meiyappan and Kundra for life and suspending the CSK and RR owners for two years, the judges simply applied the law. The BCCI should have done this long ago. They sat silent, allowing their credibility to slip away.

Even now they’re dilly-dallying. A working group has been formed to study the Lodha committee report. Scrapping CSK and RR would have sent the right message across. BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur and former treasurer Ajay Shirke were said to be in favour of that. But they were outnumbered in the last IPL governing council meeting. Somehow, the cricket board is still giving an impression that it wants to safeguard CSK’s interest.

Some board members said they decided not act in haste because the decision to terminate Kochi Tuskers in 2011 has backfired. “All the senior BCCI members distinctly remember how (Shashank) Manohar (former BCCI president), who was advising the BCCI on the Kochi issue, one Saturday decided on termination. Some of the senior members were of the opinion that we should wait till Monday. But Manohar was insistent that we should go ahead and encash the bank guarantee. They moved court and now BCCI has to pay a compensation of Rs 550 crore,” a cricket board official was quoted as saying. He’s either too naïve or very clever. The decision to suspend the CSK and RR owners has been taken by a Supreme Court-appointed panel after conducting the probe for over six months. Before that, both Meiyappan and Kundra had been implicated in Justice Mudgal’s report for their involvement in IPL betting and the apex court found them guilty.

There’s concern that the players might suffer financial loss if the two franchises are banned. In a recent interview with The Indian Express, Justice Mukul Mudgal, who inquired into the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, put things in perspective. “I didn’t find any such player concern expressed by anyone when Kochi Tuskers and Pune Warriors teams were expelled from the IPL. So what’s so special about the players of Rajasthan Royals and CSK that suddenly this concern for the players? Where was the public concern when these two teams’ larger number of players were affected? Maybe they were not star players but they too have a heart, they’ve sentiments, they also had incomes,” he said.

It is indeed ridiculous to drift away from the main issue at the moment. The Lodha committee’s punishment is exemplary and the BCCI must carry the orders forward. Who cares about protecting IPL’s brand? The tournament might be a huge hit among the fans, but it’s certainly not bigger than the game. Clean-up will help the event restore purity.

Time has come to right the wrongs. Why is Sundar Raman still continuing as IPL COO when he has been under investigation? Raman allegedly had known a bookmaker whom he contacted on eight different occasions. “We are not inclined to let the allegations made against Sundar Raman go un-probed, even if it means a further investigation by the investigating team provided to the probe committee or by any other means,” the Supreme Court had said in its January 22 verdict. He’s not above suspicion and must be removed. “Raman should have gone immediately after the Mudgal Committee report found him prima facie guilty of wrongdoings. He ought to have stepped down immediately at that time. Now, to restore the faith of people in IPL and the game, Raman needs to go,” Manohar contended.

The BCCI must show some accountability. The cosy club and its inaction has done enough damage to Indian cricket.

It must salvage some honour. This is a glorious opportunity to show intent and put things in order. CSK have had a terrific IPL record. RR have contributed immensely in nurturing young talents. Both teams have big stars and huge fan bases. But operation clean-up should spare none. It doesn’t matter if the high and mighty fall by the wayside.

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