What lies beyond judgement day?

N. Srinivasan... time to look back or forward?-K. PICHUMANI ?

As the Board battles to regain its reputation and improve its image in the eyes of cricket lovers, Srinivasan and company face a bigger test. Would he be allowed to contest is the million-dollar question. It is for his legal team to show him the way, writes Vijay Lokapally.

He is never one to give up without a fight and this determination is what has characterised N. Srinivasan’s term in the Board. As one veteran official observed, it has also left the image of the Board in tatters.

“Where is democracy in this set up?” people are prone to ask. Some of the affiliated units would love to see a change at the top, but then so well-entrenched is Srinivasan. His detractors have grown, but have not succeeded for lack of required support.

The Board has not suffered such a loss of image in its history. True, there were occasions when some of its acts were questioned. Like the case involving six cricketers in 1989 when they approached the Supreme Court for relief from the Board’s high-handed decision to punish them for having played a charity match in the United States on the way back from a tour of the West Indies.

Causing a flutter. Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra (below).-K. PICHUMANI

In 1989, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Mohammad Azharuddin, Kiran More and Arun Lal were banned for one year before they won the case. But nothing can match the ongoing tussle between Srinivasan and the rest. Yes, there is opposition to his functioning in the Board but the protests are not vociferous, such is the power equation.

It needed the Supreme Court to put things in order. The conflict of interest issue was known to everyone and it was also affecting the functioning of the Board in a democratic manner. It was a joke among the cricketers that the way to the Indian team was through Chennai Super Kings (CSK). The combination of Srinivasan, owner of the team, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of the team, was quite formidable.

But the setback has come in the form of Gurunath Meiyappan, who has dragged the CSK and his father-in-law Srinivasan to such a dicey situation. Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra, the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, have been found guilty of placing bets during the IPL and that casts a cloud over the future of these teams in the tournament. The maximum punishment can be disqualification from the IPL which would obviously impact the tournament itself.

PTI

Even as the Board sought refuge under the claim that it was a private body, the Supreme Court ruled that it conducted a public function and was under the jurisdiction of the law.

The recent Supreme Court judgement has only shown the Board in poor light and left Srinivasan embarrassed, if one may say so. Asked to choose between the Board and his position at CSK, Srinivasan is said to be planning his future. Ready to shed his equity in CSK, he wants to continue as the Board President for one more term. He might succeed too if the apex court allows him to contest the Board elections. The numbers are in favour of Srinivasan since Sharad Pawar is reportedly unpopular with politicians across party lines.

The Board stands to lose on many fronts. Its credibility has been questioned as far as transparency is concerned and the biggest loss to the Board would be the possibility of it being placed under public scrutiny. If the Board comes under Right To Information (RTI) Act, it would have a lot to answer for, since one can expect a flood of PILs against its functioning. Former Test cricketer Kirti Azad has already gone on record that he would have many PILs to file and give the Board officials sleepless nights.

These are difficult times for the Board and Srinivasan. Some Board officials want to deviate from the move to re-elect Srinivasan, but that would be a huge task, given the overwhelming support he enjoys even outside his zone. To his credit, Srinivasan has proved to be a players’ president. “I am a cricketer and I want to him to continue because he promises a lot to the players,” said a former international.

Srinivasan’s rise was linked to his ability to whip up support from those in power. Former Board Presidents Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar may have fallen out with him now, but only in the last few years. It is another matter that Pawar and Manohar have become bitter critics of Srinivasan and his style of functioning.

Former Board Secretary, the late J. Y. Lele, was appalled at the disregard shown by Srinivasan and company for established norms. Lele often pointed out how Srinivasan doled out favours and cultivated support. But then it would apply to every Board President. Everyone has his likes and dislikes and in Srinivasan’s case the loyalty factor does matter.

For long, the Board had functioned like a closed unit, well-knit and self-reliant. Srinivasan’s tenure, preceded by rosy times under the stewardship of Pawar and Manohar, was marked by an awesome rise in revenue, linked primarily to enhanced television earnings and of course, the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL). The man who brought money to the Board was Lalit Modi after the initial hard work by Jagmohan Dalmiya and I. S. Bindra. But Modi was eased out by Srinivasan who saw a growing threat from the flamboyant ways of the former.

As internal quarrels surfaced in the Board, with Modi slamming Srinivasan through the media, the image of the cricket administrators plunged to new lows. Srinivasan’s autocratic functioning was seen as the reason for the Board inviting criticism on all fronts. Remember how the Board President showed the popular Mohinder Amarnath the exit for questioning Dhoni’s captaincy! His critics accuse Srinivasan of being vindictive, but his supporters differ vehemently.

As the Board battles to regain its reputation and improve its image in the eyes of cricket lovers, Srinivasan and company face a bigger test. Would he be allowed to contest is the million-dollar question. It is for his legal team to show him the way.