Thrashing out a working arrangement

N. Srinivasan ... springing a surprise.-K.R. DEEPAK

A decent performance by India in Tests and one-day internationals in the forthcoming season could bring solace to a battered set of officials and players. The credibility of both is at stake and it is time a thorough innate cleansing happens before the fans lose all hope in the game, writes Vijay Lokapally.

Former Board President Inderjit Singh Bindra had an interesting question. Do we cleanse the game or the administration? As a veteran cricket official, he was obviously agitated at the degeneration that marks the conduct of the game on the field and off it.

Cricket in India has faced many a crisis in the past, but nothing to beat the current state of affairs where the Board President, N. Srinivasan, refuses to accept moral responsibility for the loss of Indian cricket’s image.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India emerged a ‘united’ bunch when threatened by external forces. Some describe it is a private club of 31 member units and some consider its functioning autocratic. The shambolic state of Indian cricket, following the spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League, was a culmination of a series of administrative lapses, beginning with the IPL since its inception in 2008.

The drama enacted in Chennai was a well-rehearsed farce by a bunch of officials who are treating the Board as their personal domain. Those who roared in Delhi on the eve of the meeting did not even squeak when the occasion arrived. An aspirant to the post of the President and another for the Secretary, sadly took a step back in time and chose to back a once-tainted veteran.

The spokesman of the Board, otherwise ever keen to offer bytes, fell stunningly silent. Things fell in place as plotted by these three men with vision. They had seen a prosperous future for themselves in cricket administration by supporting Srinivasan to stay in control. They batted superbly on a dodgy pitch and steered out of troubled waters.

The Board’s emergent Working Committee meeting was but a sham. “A complete waste of time,” as Bindra opined. “They did what suited them and with complete disregard for the feelings of the cricket fans.”

In the process, the Board lost a silent worker in Sanjay Jagdale, who quit as Secretary. “The developments hurt my feelings. This was not cricket,” he said in reference to the IPL and the damage the tainted tournament has caused to the image of the game.

Cricket and its supporters have hardly been a priority for the Board. The decline in attendance at domestic matches made no impact on the cricket officials who basked in the riches that the IPL brought. The popularity of the IPL became a platform for the Board to exploit. “Amazing money” in the IPL attracted players, past and current, and the officials to lend their name to a format that was ideal for corrupting the minds of young cricketers.

The officials, in private, confess the IPL has grown into a mean monster, hurting the game at the grass-root level and spoiling the players at the higher level. Basically, the tournament has changed the character of the game. “I don’t even watch IPL,” Jagdale confesses.

The ills that plagued the IPL surfaced in a demonic manner in the shape of spot-fixing. Can the Board control the IPL in a better manner? Hardly. “It generates employment, brings money to the Board and involves some of the biggest names from the world of commerce and cinema. It is hugely entertaining,” said a senior Board official.

Why does the Board promote a tournament like IPL which is fraught with malpractices and controversies?

Jagmohan Dalmiya.-PTI

“It fills the coffers of the Board. The officials are happy, the players are happy. Who is bothered about the game?” asked former Board Secretary Jaywant Lele.

There is a distinct lack of interest among senior Board officials when it comes to putting things in perspective.

The machinations of the cricket officials were on display during the Board’s emergent meeting. Those who had drawn daggers against each other privately came together to make a public demonstration of their hypocrisy. “I knew nothing would change because that’s the way the Board functions. They don’t want to lose their control on a system that makes them so important. It was the biggest farce that could be imagined. It is time the Board comes out with concrete steps to convince people it is a democratic body with transparency. I am not talking about the credibility of the officials who bring a bad name to a great game. There is no accountability in this Board,” said Kirti Azad, a Member of Parliament.

The enthusiasm that marks the Board’s approach to IPL matches only confirms the importance it attaches to this corrupted league. The time, energy and resources — that are wasted in organising the IPL — can work wonders if the same set of officials devotes its attention to the state of the game in the country.

How can one hope that the Board would function with conviction when a man is picked as the interim BCCI chief in place of Srinivasan?

“Only a fresh bunch of officials can make a difference. The decision-makers in the Board are mostly men who have stuck to their position for three decades or more. I wish I could taste the honey that attracts these bees,” Azad said in jest.

Spot-fixing and the alleged involvement of Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan in betting was lost in the attention that the emergent working committee meeting commanded. The three-member committee investigating the Meiyappan-scandal lost the services of Jagdale following the latter’s resignation. The time-frame for the committee to give its findings remains vague, from one month to two months, or even more. The Board’s annual elections are due in September and the pressure would be on Srinivasan, who claims he is clean in this entire scam.

The Mumbai police is working to unravel the betting scam involving Srinivasan’s son-in-law. The Board’s functioning will remain in flux until the final report on Meiyappan’s involvement and as to how it will affect the future of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.

Srinivasan has bought time to recoup for the battles ahead. Indian cricket is in no different state. A decent performance in Tests and one-day internationals in the forthcoming season could bring solace to a battered set of officials and players. The credibility of both is at stake and it is time a thorough innate cleansing happens before the fans lose all hope in the game.