When Kings and Royals turned paupers

Top guns... Suresh Raina (132 matches) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (129 matches) have been loyal to Chennai Super Kings.-K. R. DEEPAK Top guns... Suresh Raina (132 matches) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (129 matches) have been loyal to Chennai Super Kings.

The Lodha Committee’s decision to suspend Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two IPL seasons has left the players high and dry. By G. Viswanath.

The fate of the players of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) is not known yet. However, it would be absurd to imagine that some of their top-notch players, or nearly the whole lot, will not be seen in action in the next two editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The possibility of Mahendra Singh Dhoni — the face of the team in golden yellow for eight years — staying away from the League, though, cannot be ruled out in the event of the two-time champion being thrown out of the IPL forever. The first owner of CSK, India Cements Limited (ICL) stopped the bidding for Dhoni in the first player auction at $1.5 million and ever since, the relationship between the team and the player has been steadfast and solid. Moreover, Dhoni is also a vice-president of ICL for two and a half years now.

Similarly, it would be difficult to think of someone like Shane Watson chucking the royal blue colours for another; it was leg-spin legend Shane Warne’s masterstroke to bid for the Australian all-rounder, who won the ‘player of the tournament’ award in the inaugural year, as RR won the IPL title. This revived Watson’s fortunes with the Australian national team. He had admitted that RR and the IPL played a big role in his comeback to Australian cricket in 2008. However, Watson was dropped from the Australian team for the Lord’s Test in the ongoing Ashes series.

The players of CSK and RR are in such a plight because their teams have been ejected from the IPL for the 2016 and 2017 seasons by a three-member committee, nominated by the Supreme Court, for transgression of IPL Operational Rules, Anti-Corruption Code and Code of Conduct by team officials, Gurunath Meiyappan (CSK) and Raj Kundra (RR). Justices Rajendra Mal Lodha, Ashok Bhan and R. V. Raveendran were the members of the Committee.

In January last year, the apex court had delegated the committee to determine the quantum of punishment after the Supreme Court-appointed Mukul Mudgal Committee found evidence that the two team officials indulged in betting.

The Supreme Court order said: ‘The quantum of punishment to be imposed on Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra as also their respective franchisees/teams/owners of the teams shall be determined by a committee comprising the following: 1) Hon’ble Mr. Justice R. M. Lodha, former Chief Justice of India — Chairman, 2) Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ashok Bhan, former Judge, Supreme Court of India — Member and 3) Hon’ble Mr. Justice R. V. Raveendran, former Judge, Supreme Court of India — Member.’

The order further said that the Committee shall, before taking a final view on the quantum of punishment to be awarded, issue notice to all those likely to be affected and provide them a hearing in the matter. The order passed by the Committee shall be final and binding upon the BCCI and the parties concerned subject to the right of the aggrieved party seeking redress in appropriate judicial proceedings in accordance with law.

The Court made it explicit that sanctions were not limited to Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan and Mr. Raj Kundra alone, but may extend to suspension of the team or the franchisee from the League itself.

While the life ban on Meiyappan and Kundra is not likely to affect their personal life in any way (they are not associated with the cricket activities of their respective associations), the players have been left high and dry. Suresh Raina (132 matches), Dhoni (129) and Ravichandran Ashwin (97) have been loyal to CSK. No one will berate or grudge the three should they, in whatever manner, appear for another team during Season 9 in 2016.

Sachin Tendulkar was completely aligned with Mumbai Indians, and it is possible that Dhoni — who has given up Test cricket — may take a position that may not irk Chennai and millions of its fans. Murali Vijay, S. Badrinath, Muttiah Muralitharan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Michael Hussey, Brendon McCullum have all played for franchises other than CSK, but the likes of Dhoni, Raina and Ashwin have been chiefly responsible for building a strong team that CSK is.

Rajasthan Royals' Shane Watson (right) and Ajinkya Rahane. Both batsmen prospered in the royal blue colours.-K. PICHUMANI

Watson settled down for a few months in Jaipur although RR’s home base has shifted to Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The original royal blues like Ravindra Jadeja (now with CSK) and Munaf Patel (he had earlier played for Mumbai Indians) moved on. As of now, only Watson Ajinkya Rahane, who also prospered with the Jaipur franchise before making it big in the Indian team, and Stuart Binny have played more than 50 matches for the RR. After a stint with RCB, Rahul Dravid took charge of the team from Warne. These four individuals may be disappointed following their team’s suspension from the IPL.

It is a crisis the stakeholders of the IPL are facing; the players, many of whom became millionaires, the teams, support staff, broadcasters, the BCCI and its member units, and a legion of followers have had a great time for the last eight years. All of a sudden, everything has collapsed for the two teams and the BCCI’s ego has been pricked by the Lodha Committee’s decision.

The meeting of the IPL Governing Council in Mumbai on July 19 turned out to be a damp squib; it demonstrated that it is not worthy of being a competent sub-committee of the BCCI. To meet its own vested interest, the GC delegated authority to a working group to understand the whole gamut of the Lodha Committee order and suggest the way forward for the running of the IPL-9 next year. The Working Group’s report will be made public sometime in late August or early September.

It will be interesting to see what action the BCCI will take in order to keep the sanctity of the sport in India. There is no doubt that the Lodha Committee has caused an upheaval and IPL as a brand has been bruised and battered.