Cricket caught in Modi-mire!

Modi and his ally I. S. Bindra.-RAMESH SHARMA

Lalit Modi is firing salvos and the general impression is that even if he sinks, he is not going to sink alone. By Vijay Lokapally.

Lalit Modi, the former Indian Premier League (IPL) boss, has shaken the cricket administration with his tweets and statements. They have rocked the cricket fraternity to the extent that everyone connected with the game seems to fall under suspicion. Except, of course, Modi himself.

He has dragged one player after another, one official after another, into controversy, blaming them, accusing them, vilifying them. It has been a relentless show of defiance from Modi who has shown no sense of remorse at his autocratic functioning as a cricket official in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

When Modi was around in India, the first to be savaged by him were the Rungtas in Rajasthan. He ended their 40-year-old rule in the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) and emerged a hero in the state for giving the unit a new direction. Many veteran cricket officials fell by the wayside as Modi swept all opposition and threats in a very short time.

Once he entered the BCCI, as one of the vice-presidents, and also the Indian Premier League (IPL) Commissioner, Modi set his sights on grabbing power and marginalising some of the key members of the set up. He was in a hurry to give the BCCI a new look, a professional look as he termed it, and also introduce a corporate structure. This did not go down well with the old guard in the BCCI.

Modi’s dreams grew big. With it came trouble for the BCCI. He had the backing of the former BCCI president I. S. Bindra. This was a crucial factor since Bindra was well versed with the politics of the BCCI and as a sound bureaucrat struck a fine rapport with Modi.

The birth of the IPL gave Modi the handle to call the shots as the tournament became a huge success and the revenue it generated made the BCCI an affluent sports body. Even as Bindra gave Modi the sole credit for the success of the IPL, a group of officials resented his growing popularity and worked to restore the balance in the functioning of the BCCI.

N. Srinivasan... Modi's prime target.-PTI

N. Srinivasan, who later became the BCCI president and then fell from grace for his handling of many issues, did not see eye to eye with Modi. Not that Modi had any love for Srinivasan. The two battling groups were now identified and the focus shifted to who would win. The Modi against Srinivasan conflict grew and some veteran officials now realised it was time to tame the young tiger.

Modi had made foes within the BCCI because in his book there was no place for many such officials who contributed little to enhance the administration’s image. In Modi’s opinion, they were “jokers” and he did not hide his contempt for them, especially Congress leader Rajeev Shukla, who was described as a “clown” by Modi.

Over a period of time, Modi dragged many players and administrators into controversy, accusing some of being involved in betting and match-fixing. He staunchly refuted the money laundering charges against him, fled the country, but continued to hound the BCCI officials through a series of tweets, interviews and statements.

Srinivasan was the man Modi targeted the most. He was a “demon.” Their bitter fight ended in Modi being expelled from the BCCI. An enraged Modi wasted little time in ‘exposing’ some misdeeds of the BCCI officials but it did not help his case. He lost his RCA position and won it back recently, making his point strongly, but the matter is now in court. The BCCI just can’t afford to allow Modi a re-entry.

Modi talks of a new order in cricket. His tweets and statements cast aspersions on the functioning of the International Cricket Council (ICC), headed by old foe Srinivasan. Once hailed as the “Moses of cricket” by Ravi Shastri, it is important to note that Modi is now in the bad books of the same people and has few friends in the BCCI.

Even as some players gained from their proximity to Modi — there was a time when they made a beeline to be seen with him — some stand discredited in public. The latest episode, where Modi has accused Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja of being involved in IPL betting, shows the two cricketers in poor light. That the two players represent Chennai Super Kings, a much-beleaguered IPL outfit, is a clear indication of Modi’s ‘love’ for Srinivasan’s involvement with the team and the tournament.

The cricket fraternity is hooked on to Modi and his tweets. It is a daily bulletin that threatens to rip open the dark side of the cricket administration and not just in the BCCI. He has vowed to “expose” the self-promoting officials, namely the top guns in the BCCI. And in the process the reputation of the game and the people who run it will be harmed.

It does not matter now if you are on Modi’s side or not. Cricket is in for a difficult phase. The general impression is if Lalit Modi sinks, he is not going to sink alone. Cricket is likely to face its greatest crisis as Modi threatens to settle issues with those well entrenched in the higher echelons of cricket administration in the BCCI and the ICC.