The IPL mess

There were widespread protests against the Indian Premier League when the ‘fixing' scandals surfaced.-SHSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The unseemly sequence of events last May has raised several questions on the ways adopted by a small group of cricketers to make a quick buck, with the IPL becoming an easy avenue for vicious and evil forces, writes G. Viswanath.

By all accounts Indian cricket’s integrity nose-dived following the sensational disclosure of alleged links between a handful of cricketers plus a senior IPL team official and underworld and betting syndicates leading to nefarious, corrupt practices. Authorities in Delhi and Mumbai have claimed they have spot-fixing and betting evidences against seamer S. Sreesanth, left-arm spinner Ankeet Chavan and off-spinner Ajit Chandila, all of Rajasthan Royals, and a Chennai Super Kings (CSK) team official Gurunath Meiyappan. After due procedure the Delhi Police and Mumbai Police have initiated court proceedings, filing charge-sheets against them for different offences under the Indian Penal Code. The cricketers were also charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

The unseemly sequence of events last May has raised several questions on the ways adopted by a small group of cricketers to make a quick buck, with the IPL becoming an easy avenue for vicious and evil forces. In fact, in the inaugural year of the IPL itself, the former ICC anti-corruption unit head Paul Condon had sounded a warning that the tournament could become a hub for rigging matches. In spite of a proper security system put in place by the BCCI and the IPL (at the venues) to ward off the dangers lurking around the multi-million dollar event, Condon was proved right.

The sensational events unfolded with the Delhi Police swinging into action after the Mumbai Indians-Rajasthan Royals IPL-6 league match at the Wankhede Stadium on May 15, 2013 and nabbing the maverick Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila for alleged manipulation of match/matches in the tournament. Subsequently jailed and disgraced, currently all the three are free men; Sreesanth and Chavan though have been banned for life from taking part in activities of the BCCI.

The third accused in the spot-fixing case, Chandila, has been suspended by the BCCI which will soon initiate the last stage of disciplinary proceedings against him. The BCCI’s ACU chief Ravi Sawani has already presented his report following which the BCCI has served a showcause notice and is awaiting a reply from Chandila.

While a BCCI special general meeting banned Sreesanth and Chavan for life, it also imposed a five-year ban and a one-year ban on Gujarat seamers Amit Singh and Siddharth Trivedi respectively for their reprehensible role in the alleged corrupt practices. Young Mumbai left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh was let off because of lack of clinching evidence.

If the first revelation of the link between the small group of cricketers and the betting syndicates considerably undermined the high-profile tournament, which was 10 days away from its conclusion, the imprisonment of Gurunath Meiyappan following allegations that he networked and placed bets on matches dealt a body-blow to a number of people and the institution’s probity in public matters. The BCCI Secretary, Sanjay Jagdale, and Treasurer Ajay Shirke resigned and after compelling pressure mounted by the media and public N. Srinivasan (the BCCI President and father-in-law of Gurunath Meiyappan) stepped aside until the time the two-member panel, comprising Justice T. Jayarama Chouta and Justice R. Balasubramanian, former judges of the Madras High Court, submitted its reports.

As it transpired, the fact-finding report freed Raj Kundra, owner, Rajasthan Royals, and Gurunath Meiyappan, from spot-fixing charges. But the Bombay High Court, following a PIL, ruled that the BCCI- appointed probe panel was illegal because it did not nominate one of its members in the panel which is mandatory according to the Board’s bylaws. The matter is now being investigated by the Supreme Court-appointed three-member committee, consisting of the former Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal, Additional Solicitor General L. Nageshwar Rao and Senior Advocate Nilay Dutta.

The public outrage was quite understandable and the immediate reaction of former India captain and an icon, Rahul Dravid, summed up the general mood. “I am shocked, disappointed and distressed by the events that have resulted in the arrests. Rajasthan Royals is a special team where we have always operated like a family; so this is particularly devastating,’’ Dravid said.

The BCCI prevented India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni from responding to questions on the vexing issue before leaving for England for the ICC Champions Trophy. He did say though that “some players are slightly mentally weak compared to others.’’

India’s victory in the Champions Trophy resulted in a mood swing from concern to much happiness. The rise of young cricketers has enhanced the feel-good environment.

IPL-6 concluded with Mumbai Indians winning the tournament for the first time, but celebrations were quite muted. The BCCI and IPL have taken the spot-fixing and betting blows on the chin and are in the process of initiating steps to educate the players at the domestic level. The IPL may have lost its initial appeal and probably the sour events of the sixth edition are still fermenting in the public’s mind.