Flaws in the fencing
It was late June 2009, a month after the second IPL was won by the former Hyderabad franchise, Deccan Chargers on May 24. Invited by the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat to address the heads of the all the member boards at the annual general meeting in Dubai, Sir Paul Condon, the then head of the anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), issued a clear warning on the IPL and other such domestic Twenty20 leagues. "The IPL brings with it the biggest threat in terms of corruption in the game since the days of cricket in Sharjah," Condon is reported to have told the members.
Condon's words were a challenge to the BCCI, the strongest member of the ICC, to get its act together - it didn't have its own anti-corruption unit - and bring in anti-corruption measures. What worried Condon, as he told ESPNcricinfo , was "that familiarly heady cocktail of party atmosphere, entertainment, cricket and celebrity. And amid all that we found that some of the bad old faces, who were involved in match-fixing a decade ago, started to reappear at grounds and hotels and wanted to get involved again."
The story of the IPL and anti-corruption measures is a long-running, and often controversial, saga stemming from the very first season. During the inaugural IPL, ACSU officers were present in India but only in an advisory role. Lalit Modi, the then IPL chairman, decided to hire a private security firm from South Africa - Nicholls Steyn - to mainly look after the security of the players.
A set of 10 security officials, with varying military and police backgrounds, were trained by the ACSU officers. However, it was never going to be a smooth affair with the millionaire owners unimpressed by the meddling of the ACSU officers, who they felt were being too intrusive. On one occasion, Kolkata Knight Riders' owner Shah Rukh Khan was asked, at the behest of the ACSU, to leave the dugout during one of the matches because he was not properly accredited.
The second season held in South Africa, began without the ACSU; though their personnel still travelled to South Africa, they were not officially in charge. Explaining their absence, Modi said, "We are using the same system as we did last year."
Interestingly, Bob Nicholls, co-owner of Nicholls Steyn, who were on board, said anti-corruption measures were not part of their remit. "The ICC anti-corruption and security unit has various functions that they conduct and those include, obviously, anti-corruption investigations as well as security," Nicholls told this website at the time. "So the part we do is security. As far the corruption part goes, we are only involved only as far as it relates to security because there is a crossover."
One reason the BCCI did not want the ACSU cover in South Africa was because the board felt the ICC watchdog's fee of US$1.2m was too high. However, following pressure from the ICC, the BCCI belatedly decided to once again allow the ACSU officers to offer cover to the teams. The last-minute decision, however, prevented Condon's men from carrying out the usual reconnaissance and other security measures that they put in place months before any event. What irked Condon was the uninterrupted access certain individuals were getting into restricted spaces, like the dressing room and the team hotels.
The experience of the first two IPLs was evident in Condon's review to the ICC executive board members in Dubai. "I can't give it a clean bill of health because I just don't know," Condon said of the first two IPL editions, in a media conference before he stepped down from the ACSU in 2010. "We were worried [about the first two IPLs], not because we thought there were fixes but because there was no real infrastructure to prevent them. If players do anything daft there, sadly they will take that back into the international game because you cannot be a part-time fixer once the bad guys are into you. A lot are organised criminals and you're on the hook."
The third IPL, where the ACSU was officially providing cover, was, according to Condon, an event-free tournament apart from the "generic rumour" about corruption; but no one had come forward with any evidence.
However, Condon remained skeptical and said that if the administrators did not remain vigilant and were "complacent", things could turn for the worse once again. "I'm certainly not leaving in a complacent frame of mind that everything is hunky dory. But I believe it is a different game with different attitudes and a different awareness these days, so I'm pretty confident about the future, even though there's far more cricket now and it's more commercial," Cordon said. "But my advice now is the same as it was back then. Cricket would only have to get complacent for a few months or a couple of tournaments for those bad days to come back very quickly."
In 2012, the BCCI appointed former ACSU officer Ravi Sawani to lead its own domestic anti-corruption and security wing. Sawani's first investigation dealt with investigating allegations arising out of a sting operation carried out by India TV, which alluded to the five Indian domestic players being involved in match-fixing and negotiating for extra - and illegal - pay. Sawani's report confirmed the allegations and the BCCI imposed varying bans on the five culprits.
The sting involved at least three of those players seeking more lucrative IPL deals - including extra money that would have violated their IPL contracts - with other league franchises through an undercover reporter posing as a sports agent. Interestingly the BCCI, which announced the bans through a release, did not state any increased or illegal IPL pay.
One year later, with Sawani's team complementing the ACSU in covering the IPL, comes the ousting of three players from Rajasthan Royals on charges of being involved in corrupt practices. The cycle is complete.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo