Corruption in IPL May 25, 2013

The mess in the message

As the game unravels outside, India's cricket bosses play defiant and dumb

It is the day before the IPL final; two-time champions Chennai Super Kings will play Mumbai Indians at Eden Gardens and the operations team is trying its best to ensure that Indian cricket's alternative universe will be in smooth functioning order.

Outside, it is anything but. Three cricketers belonging to Rajasthan Royals, who lost the second qualifier, will remain in a Delhi Police lock-up as the final is played. Hundreds of miles south, an official/owner/team principal of Super Kings will spend the night of the final with the crime branch of the Mumbai Police. The day before the game, rather than strut around Kolkata with the team, Gurunath Meiyappan was brought to court and formally charged with 12 violations of three separate laws.

The most emphatic, definitive piece of news on this day before the final was BCCI president N Srinivasan telling a scrum of reporters wherever he went that he would not resign. "There is no need. I have done nothing wrong." Oh, and the final is actually going to go ahead - that information was passed on to a waiting pack of cameramen through a car window by IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla.

Right there, on this day, we saw the BCCI holding up a mirror up to itself. Not as governors of the world's wealthiest domestic T20 league, the head honchos of the world game in resources and audience. The mirror showed up an organisation, across the highest ranks of its leadership, out of touch with the requirements of reality.

Dealing with the dizzy speed at which events have moved over the past few days, damaging the credibility of the IPL itself, required sagacity and action.

What it got from Srinivasan was disdain over questions about his situation and his three-pronged existential dilemma, a conflict of interests come to horrifying life. Something has gone terribly wrong with his board's biggest tournament, the IPL team he owns and his son-in-law, whom he put in charge of that very team.

Yet the single refrain heard from Srinivasan on the eve of the IPL final was a hectoring, focused around himself and his position: "I have done nothing wrong. I am sorry. I cannot be bulldozed and I will not allow the press or the others to railroad me." This from a "man of cricket," when the cricket under his watch unravels at high speed.

At a time when police across cities in India are reeling in bookies who are then singing about cricketing criminality in full chorus, what the IPL and Indian cricket needed through Shukla and the BCCI was an acknowledgement of a state of emergency in Indian cricket and transparency about its future course of action, both before and after the IPL final. What we needed was a statement, a signal, anything to indicate that the BCCI was seized of Gurunath's arrest and its implications. What we got was silence and opacity.

The IPL now runs on such an operational auto-pilot that it found no cause to add to its "four million and counting" tweets, by assuring the outer world - the audience it feeds into and lives off - that Gurunath's arrest would have no impact on either the IPL final or Super Kings for the next two days. Until Shukla formally tossed a few crumbs of comments to television.

All the IPL has done in the 24 hours since Gurunath's arrest is, issue a code of conduct warning to Dwayne Smith, and remove the "Fair Play Award" category from its webpage. The latter with good reason: Three players and an official from the two teams at the top of that Fair Play table are at the moment in police custody, having their sense of fair play questioned.

The IPL's governing council and the BCCI's powerbrokers are, give or take a few, the same people. Those who amended the BCCI's constitution to allow board members - starting with Srinivasan himself - to have a "commercial interest" in events related to the board. No wonder, then, that on Saturday the BCCI's priorities immediately turned to tackling its power crisis and letting IPL 2013 run itself out. There was little attention given to rescuing the image of the league, to stop it from running aground, and setting it back on even keel.

Under the Srinivasan regime, the urge to control the message around Indian cricket has become so reflexive that in a time of a crisis the immediate response was to hold back giving out any message. This method may have worked in the 1970s but in a 24/7 information age it showed the board as out of touch with its audience and its time. It proved that in the board, whether controlled by Srinivasan or Shukla or any of their kind, governance and a sense of responsibility remain truly shipwrecked.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jay on May 28, 2013, 18:05 GMT

    Sharda - You missed another strong "message": Dhoni & his CSK team did win the IPL 6 Fair Play award! For "good reason": on-field conduct as adjudged by the umpires! Simply put, the CSK official in question is not a player. Which goes to show in Indian cricket, there's a big distinction between players & officials. The great players - Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble, Laxman & Co - have demonstrated integrity & loyalty, notwithstanding BCCI. Remember they did the heavy lifting to get Team India out of the abyss of the 2000 match-fixing scam. Now we face this spot-fixing scam. As the cleaning-up process continues, the retired players' participation in shaping the future of Indian cricket, administration included, should be solicited. Better still, they should volunteer their services. They're too good a resource to waste or throw out with the proverbial bathwater. The media would do well to help push this positive message: Facilitate solutions rather than ask more questions, Sharda!

  • Jay on May 28, 2013, 4:11 GMT

    Sharda - The "message" was delivered loud & clear on Sunday in Kolkata! This is Kolkata - home of KKR - a neutral venue hosting a MI-CSK finals. Yes, Kolkata where people voice their opinions openly & fearlessly. In fact, there were several messages. A sellout crowd of 70,000 responded - to the on-field action at the historic Eden - with a resounding "the show must go on"! Dravid was right in proclaiming: "No point cancelling the tournament". The game is larger than any individual, good or bad. Earlier, N Srinivasan reiterated his "message" at a press conference - amid a barrage of hostile questions - that he would not resign as he had done nothing wrong. Yes, they booed the embattled BCCI chief at the presentation ceremony. Yes, they cheered Tendulkar as his triumphant teammates paraded him on their shoulders. It's an extreme anomaly: Sachin's retiring from IPL, as is Rahul! Srinivasan will stay on, maybe till the September AGM! Yes, it's a big mess & a media circus to boot, Sharda!

  • Dion on May 26, 2013, 15:29 GMT

    The IPL is cartoon cricket and all the corruption only reinforces its irrelevance. Have not bothered to even check a "result".

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2013, 13:58 GMT

    Ms Ugra I am not fully agree with your comment. If there is a rotten potato in the bag we dont throw the bag but we just throw the rotten potato in garbage. What Mr. Srinivasan is saying is right there is no evidence that he is involved so why should he resign? Ya u can say that he can influence the proceeding as the person involved is family member but then too it doesnt means he resign secondly regarding CSK what player and support staff have done to dissolve CSK team. No player is involved till date investigation and thirdly Fixing and betting are two different thing betting involves any body even household person you also bet for some thing with your friend but fixing hurts as it is cheating to self, country, team and all the loved ones( fans and family members, friends) for few extra bucks trying to change the situation of game and just reacting as you are innocent and making others to believe in this many sports have fixing allegation and history but we didnt stopped that game.

  • vivek on May 26, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    There used to be a time, not so long ago, when the mere scent of the scandal, would cause the voluntary resignation of the leader of an organization. Not any more. When there are so many problems under the hood, even if Srini is not directly involved, he has failed as leader. He may not be directly involved or legally held responsible. And, surely we all know how people can exploit loopholes to avoid legal responsibility (like for example saying that his son-in-law was only a honorary member, yeah right). But, he is disgusting to say the least. Deeply sickening.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    Agree. With Ms. Ugra, sad nothing will be done,we can all shout ourselves hoarse about conflict of interest and corruption but hey in this bcci no one gives a damn about the true lovers of the game. People like you and me, fans are just to be rubbished and treated with disdain. I have loved cricket all my life to the extent that my family and friends laugh that it is the most important thing in my life, and it is on par with all, but today I am hurt and sad, not so much with the players like sree, but the officials who are supposed to be the custodians of the game. Please treat my beloved game and us fans with respect. Why are the great Indian players of the past quiet, or are they so used to free bread and butter with a bit of cement thrown in.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2013, 13:23 GMT

    I think the so called intelectuals are out of touch with the public. As we have seen recently in Karnataka, the public has already discounted corruption as a national phenomenon and moved forward.The full stadiums after the spot fixing news breakout show that people take IPL for what it is , an entertainment and do not care whether it is fixed or unfixed.Just like WWE. People who talk of the spirit of cricket , please go watch test cricket, which also is not free of these problems.We go to a thriller movie knowing that the end result is already fixed and still enjoy it for the way it is presented.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    I think that the IPL is the best thing that has ever happened to cricket. I do not think it should be banned. The concept is superb. It engenders international and regional harmony. I would not like a return to the days when cricket was almost synonymous with xenophobia and fake nationalism. If there is a spate of bank robberies, do we ban and close down the banks. Some people are very negative and defeatist. Certainly, a full investigation is in order. Some players, bookies and some of the administrators are guilty. Investigate and punish them, not the game itself, for God's sake!

  • Bindiboo on May 26, 2013, 12:30 GMT

    @Nicks7am - I am a bit confused. Are you implying that the game of cricket was good 20 years back? If anything it was even more corrupt I think. I just finished watching the tehelka tapes. Oh and btw Sharda's articles are as usual, great.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    Well said Ma'm. Already the IPL had alienated the average and genuine cricket lover by making the tickets astronomically priced. With this spot fixing saga and the response of the powers that be, even the ardent IPL lover would be forced to reject it in disgust and disbelief.