Franchises unimpressed with new anti-corruption measures
A series of anti-corruption measures introduced in the IPL this season has drawn mixed reactions, with players said to be more forthcoming in reporting information but some IPL franchises calling the steps "confused" and "humbug".
A number of franchise officials spoken to by ESPNcricinfo said that the problem was within the IPL, which lacked a culture of complying with the rules and regulations. One official said that the efficacy of the new measures would depend upon whether the BCCI was going to be decisive when anything wrong was revealed. To many franchises, the IPL works on double standards.
The new anti-corruption procedures put in place included the appointment of integrity officers assigned to every franchise, random checks on the telephones of players, coaches and support staff, and franchises being required to submit their list of invitees to parties during the IPL.
The BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit had the right to check emails and phones of players under suspicion, a BCCI official said, since bookies were trying to approach players through internet messaging applications like Blackberry messenger and WhatsApp.
These, the BCCI and franchises believe, had led to players being more forthcoming in reporting information. South African fast bowler Morne Morkel, who plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders, is known to have reported an alleged approach after being accosted by a stranger in UAE, where the first phase of the IPL was held in April.
A BCCI official said that having an integrity officer stay and travel with the team served as constant reminders to the teams about the seriousness of anti-corruption measures. In the past, the BCCI official pointed out, the player would judge the content of a conversation he had with a stranger and then decide whether it was worth reporting or not. The big change now, the official believed, was that the player had left that judgement of the implication carried by the conversation to the ACU.
The ACU have tried to "cocoon players" from outside influences, by imposing stringent conditions on outsiders trying to enter after-match parties, an easy avenue in the past for bookies to try to strike conversations with cricketers. The franchise needed to inform the ACU in advance along with the names and personal details of any guests they wanted to invite.
The franchises, however, are not entirely satisfied with these new measures. A CEO at one of the franchises thought the ACU was "confused" in its planning. The CEO revealed an example of this confusion. Normally the entire squad attends the pre-match team meeting, but only 15 players travel to the ground, with the rest staying back at the hotel. This year, though, the ACU has made it mandatory that all the players in the meeting have to go to the ground because they could leak information.
The CEO felt such an assumption - that inside information would be leaked - was "ridiculous." A player/official heading to a ground can easily share information because they hand over their phones to the team manager only after entering the dressing room. Also to force a player to not attend a team meeting just because of the new rule was proving to be difficult, the CEO pointed out. According to him, a safer and better option would be to take charge of the phones from the time the players/officials entered the team meeting.
A franchise team director called the new ACU measures "all humbug". According to him the biggest step had to be taken by the player. It was the player who had to take more precautions. The official pointed out that if the player remained "stubborn and disciplined", the bookies would find it impossible to breach any safety mechanism.
A senior official at a third franchise said having an integrity officer around was just a "feel-good feeling." But he agreed the one big positive change evident this year that the ACU has managed to "communicate." Its result was that the "boys are themselves are much more careful, much more aware." The players now understood that if anything wrong happened it would affect his livelihood. "If I allow this to happen it is finally my bread money," the official said.
Franchises also had questions over the professional skillsets of the integrity officers, most of whom they said were retired officials from various wings of the Indian army. "The backgrounds of most of these integrity officers does not really make me assured whether how good they are at their detective skills," the franchise official pointed out. The CEO said there was a danger that the integrity officers could be drawn to glamour element found in the IPL.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo