India news March 30, 2014

Shivlal Yadav - Ambitious yet controversial

Shivlal Yadav had achieved his dream of building a world-class stadium in Hyderabad, but at a price. His challenge as the new interim BCCI chief will be to keep further controversies at bay

Shivlal Yadav's term as the BCCI chief for all matters barring the IPL will begin on a depressingly familiar note: a court hearing in Hyderabad on April 5 in a case related to alleged embezzlement of funds during the construction of a cricket stadium. Yadav is one of 20-odd Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) officials facing various allegations, including misappropriation of funds.

But that's not on top of Yadav's mind now. In fact, he says he is "not bothered" with the allegations and the three-year-old court case. "When you want to do something good, there will be a few people who will always want to stop you and create hurdles. You can't stop working because of them," he told ESPNcricinfo.

The statement might sound arrogant but for those who know Yadav it is typical: confident and outspoken. The offspinner played the last of his 35 Tests in 1987 and left the game as one of the few Indians at the time with more than 100 Test wickets. Since then, he's succeeded in entering the club of officials who run the richest cricket body in the world.

He was always going to be an administrator; that much was clear from his statements, as a player, of wanting to build a modern cricket stadium in Hyderabad. The former bank officer at Syndicate Bank started off in 1990 as a managing committee member of the HCA, and two years later became the joint secretary. In 2000, he rose to the most powerful post in the state association - secretary of HCA. He gave it up in 2009 but stayed in the association as its vice-president. In between, he had two stints as a national selector - from 1996 to 1999 that famously sacked Mohammad Azharuddin as captain, replacing him with Sachin Tendulkar and from 2001 to 2002 when the Indian team was recovering after the match-fixing scandal.

"My ambition was to build a modern cricket stadium in Hyderabad, something that was missing despite our great cricketing tradition," Yadav said, when asked about what drove him into administration following a prolonged career on the field. "In fact, once the stadium had been completed, I had resigned in 2009 but my colleagues at HCA asked me to stay on."

He did manage to turn his dream into reality, when the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on the outskirts of Hyderabad emerged as India's newest Test venue. Arshad Ayub, another India offspinner who was Yadav's teammate and colleague at HCA for a long time, gives him credit for the hard work he put in the project. "But it wasn't only him. No doubt he worked really hard, but there were many others in the HCA who worked as hard. It was a team effort," said Ayub, a former HCA president.

That dream project, however, became the focus of corruption charges; it was alleged that, in the decade 2002-2012, around Rs 100 crore was diverted from the BCCI's annual funding to HCA. In 2011, the Anti-Corruption Bureau began investigating the alleged financial irregularities following a complaint in 2011 by two HCA members, Sagar Cricket Club and Roshanara Recreation Club. The allegations were levelled against several personnel, including Yadav, former HCA secretary MV Sridhar and Ayub.

Yadav challenged the order in the Hyderabad High Court. But on the evidence presented by the petitioners the court passed an order later in 2011 that investigations should be carried forward.

A fresh affidavit to expedite the probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau was submitted in the High Court in December 2013. The bureau served a notice on Yadav and 20 others in February, listing out 199 charges including misappropriation. Yadav sought more time to reply in the court. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for April 5.

Regardless of what was happening in court, Yadav's rise in the HCA continued, with the influential people on his side. Sridhar, one of the most prolific domestic cricketers of the '80s and '90s, joined HCA in 1998 and has been around in various capacities. A former Hyderabad captain, Sridhar was appointed the BCCI's General Manager - Cricket Operations during the BCCI's annual general meeting in September 2013.

Yadav's growing clout coincided with the rise of N Srinivasan, the two men now staunch allies. Yadav has stood firmly behind Srinivasan ever since the latter has been cornered following the IPL corruption scandal that saw his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan arrested and chargesheeted. In September 2013, at the BCCI AGM, a few months after Gurunath's arrest, Yadav was named BCCI vice-president (South zone).

His rivals, who prefer to remain anonymous, paint him in colours that most powerful men are painted with. They call him manipulative and say he's used that quality to retain control. They also say he has not always followed the HCA constitution. They point to money spent without any sanction or any authority, which the committee is then asked suddenly to ratify. There's also the charge of buying votes.

What ran alongside Yadav's ascension to power and its attendant controversies, was Hyderabad's dismal on-field record. Ever since the change in the Ranji Trophy's format from zonal league to knockout to two-tier league cricket in 2002 (two years after Yadav became secretary), Hyderabad has failed to graduate from the lower rungs of Indian domestic cricket. At the time of the change of format, Hyderabad always belonged to the top rung of the premier domestic tournament. Since then, the graph has kept dipped consistently and Hyderabad find themselves in the bottom third of the restructured three-tier Ranji Trophy league format.

Hyderabad cricket connoisseurs say the slide has coincided with Shivlal's brother Rajesh being the coach for a considerable period and his son Arjun a permanent fixture in the team for most of the last decade. A talented player like Ambati Rayudu, who was also involved in an on-field spat with Arjun in 2005-06, left Hyderabad for Andhra. A year later, there was an exodus from the Hyderabad team when the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was launched in 2007; along with Rayudu, seven other Hyderabad players crossed over.

Ever since, Hyderabad has lost to minor teams like Kerala, Goa, Jharkhand and Andhra. More than their on-field performances, they have been in the news for other reasons: doling out either under-prepared pitches - as was the case during their home game against Maharashtra that ended in less than five sessions - or flat tracks, experienced during the last season when two of their four home games resulted in drab draws where even the first innings couldn't be completed in four days. It is a tide that has not turned even as Yadav has risen to high office in the BCCI.

Shivlal Yadav has had a controversial and colourful run as an administrator; it is a pattern that cannot be repeated in the seat he occupies now.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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