April 14, 2010

Enough with the secrecy

The Kochi franchise ruckus may finally force the BCCI into being transparent. About time too
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Finally, it has happened - perhaps by accident than by design, but happened nonetheless. The world's fastest-growing sports league, recently valued at $4.1 billion, has revealed the shareholding pattern of one of its two new franchises. Lalit Modi has done the right thing in the wrong way - on his Twitter feed instead of in front of the media - and for reasons unknown, and there are at least three other franchises whose ownership pattern we would love to know.

But it's a start.

One of the main issues with the IPL has always been its transparency; not its threat to the rest of cricket, not its arrogance, nor even the obscene and slightly unreal regularity with which it announced multi-million-dollar deals, but its penchant for grey areas. So far the rest of the cricket world has played ball - and those who can't join 'em beat themselves in frustration. Now, though, the time has come for a change.

In its only official reaction to the Kochi case - the charges levelled by Shashi Tharoor against Lalit Modi, the letter from BCCI president Shashank Manohar to Modi and the latter's response - the BCCI has said it will meet within 10 days and discuss all pending issues. This is not good enough - and not just because one can predict the fate of such "discussions". There is, simply put, too much at stake - the reputation of some of the most powerful men in world cricket, to begin with - and too much muck flying around.

The charges against Tharoor are best handled by the political system; they are not really germane to cricket, except where they show up the inadequacies of the BCCI's/IPL's basic auditing and safeguarding process. Far more threatening to it are the charges levelled against Modi, a man who has, almost single-handedly, created a billion-dollar industry and changed the nature of cricket, a man whose genius - there is no other word - has transformed the lives of hundreds of people directly connected with the game, and thousands, millions, at several removes.

Yet such is the gravity of Tharoor's charges that, should they stick, all of that could be in danger - all those million-dollar deals, the billion-dollar valuations, the TV ratings, the de facto primacy of Twenty20 over other forms of cricket. Everything is at risk.

What does Tharoor - no ordinary member of the public but a minister in the federal government and formerly the No. 2 at the United Nations - accuse Modi of? These are extracts from his statement issued overnight: "Attempts were made by Mr Modi and others to pressure the consortium members to abandon their bid in favour of another city in a different state…" "His extraordinary breach of all propriety in publicly raising issues relating to the composition of the consortium and myself personally is clearly an attempt to discredit the team and create reasons to disqualify it so that the franchise can be awarded elsewhere." "The unethical efforts that have been made by Mr Modi and others to thwart the Kerala franchise which had been won fair and square in a transparent bidding process are disgraceful."

What Modi is being accused of is, effectively, subverting the rules of his own game, undermining the very system he had set up. It's one thing if he was the sole player - quite another when the stakes are as high as a $333.3 million franchise. It is for this reason that the BCCI - the custodian of the IPL and all Indian cricket - needs to act fast. This is a stone cast not just at Modi but at every individual on the IPL governing council, every member of the BCCI's working committee - and, by extension, every single person who has any stake in the IPL. And, indeed, the media.

For too long Indian cricket has been living in an unreal world. Unreal at various levels - the entire notion of the Indian board being a trust (and so saving millions of dollars in taxes), instead of a corporate entity sitting on a billion-dollar empire, or the notion of the IPL being a "domestic league"

This is not about one deal - the implications are far more serious. That is why it is important to get the truth out in the open, and get it out fast. This cannot - more importantly, should not - be brazened out, as is the BCCI's standard operating procedure in the face of any threat. This time the threat comes not from a clearly identified foreign board; it is from much closer home.

There are far too many questions surrounding the auction of the two franchises. Why was the auction deferred on the day it was supposed to have been held? The explanation for the deferment given at the time was that the financial clauses were too stringent. Was that not an issue in the days and weeks before that? The new bids were opened on March 21; the agreement with the Kochi consortium was signed on the night of April 10 - 20 days later. Why the delay? Correspondence between Shashank Manohar and Modi suggests the issue of ownership had been discussed - and questions raised - long before the shareholding pattern was revealed on Sunday afternoon. If there were doubts over the credibility of the successful bidders, could that not have been sorted out before the bids were opened? Could due diligence on the bidders not have been done? I am no legal or financial wiz, but it does strike me as common sense to do a basic fact-check before allowing someone to sit at your table and share in a very lucrative pie.

For too long Indian cricket has been living in an unreal world. Unreal at various levels - the entire notion of the Indian board being a trust (and so saving millions of dollars in taxes), instead of a corporate entity sitting on a billion-dollar empire, or the notion of the IPL being a "domestic league". It is time to get real, to play the part of one of the world's leading sports tournaments, among the most innovative and certainly among the richest. Forget the money, there are too many livelihoods riding on the IPL.

What should the BCCI do now? That's the tricky question. The Indian board doesn't have the credibility to ensure a thorough investigation of the Kochi case from within - that job could, given the money involved, be handed over to criminal investigators, as the opposition party, the BJP has suggested - but it could set the ball rolling by ensuring the nine other franchises declare their ownership structure. And making public its own accounts.

The regime of Manohar and Srinivasan, which has ruled over the Indian board for the past two years, has been likened to the Kremlin for the secrecy with which it operates. Well, now is the time for some perestroika and some glasnost.

Jayaditya Gupta is executive editor of Cricinfo in India

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2010, 4:28 GMT

    In less than 2 or 3 months, this whole issue would be forgotten. What investigation?? I dont remember any investigation where the "big" culprits have been nabbed and punished ! Need not worry, in few weeks, The Govt. of India, BCCI, IPL and Kochi franchise, would all "join hands" to become friends and "cover up" this issue. Nothing new about this (avoidable) Indian culture and nothing new with Indian cricket.

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2010, 4:16 GMT

    IPL is a disappointment to us cricket lovers. Yes, it is providing us with some exciting cricket, but there are many things that are wrong. It seems that "colonials" are holding nearly all positions. Coaching, commentators, interviewers, etc. Oh not to mention "so called dancers" What happen, Indian girls do not know how to dance? And where are girls of African descent. Is the IPL still under the shackles of a"colonial mentality". Have we forgotten the persecution India suffered AT THE HANDS OF IT COLONIAL MASTERS PRIOR TO 1947? Re our own people who are now in power becoming the "new colonial mastars"? With respect to Lalit Modi. Inasmuch as he has done such a good jo with the IPL, he still has the responsibility to answer to us, the cricket fans. No wheeling and dealing. I hope that this scandal will soon pass and we can all cocentrate on cricket alone

  • dummy4fb on April 17, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    Well, well, well. I know it was only amatter of time that "the fish would smell". It appears that mainstream India has not yet gotten rid of the class ans "caste" system. It is a country where the rich and powerful is unwilling to allow oters supposedly lower that them in status to rise to their level. So we use any means necessary to keep them down. The rich and powerful are using their power and position to thwart the proper procedure to procure a franchise.

    Modi has acted in a way that is unbecoming one holding a position like he is holding. Millions of cricket lovers are watching theIPL. So he has betrayed those millions.

  • dhchdh on April 16, 2010, 14:36 GMT

    hmmm judging by the entire charade...Just how much is IPL worth??? I guess its a lot more than $4 billion. BBCI & Modi must be privately extremely happy.

  • NewYorkCricket on April 16, 2010, 13:46 GMT

    This is a glimpse of everyday political games that are played among the rich and famous in India. There was a clear interest to promote Ahmedabad from Modi & Modi Co. They found a chink in Kochi's bidding and are taking full advantage of it. The question rignt now is, did the named lady recieve a free stake in the franchise. If she did then the motive has to made public. It is very vital for the sake of a successful IPL in the long run to remove corruption today, doesn't matter which side it is coming from

  • ww113 on April 16, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    Mr.Gupta has called for Perestorika and Glasnost.Well,these ideas played a big part in the demise of the Soviet Union.The Indian board doesn't need them. And hey,greed is good ! Mr.Modi has underlined this.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on April 16, 2010, 4:43 GMT

    Twitter is a good medium for releasing info to people and far better than calling a "press conference". As it is most journalists follow twitter posts of celebs as do the normal folk. Twitter posts lends itself to clarity and not open to journalistic misinterpretation and agenda laden spin which we otherwise generally see in "news" on the channels and newspapers. Besides, Twitter posts are matter of fact in contrast to the buch of unregulated and seemingly uneducated journalists posing questions that are either irrelevant, dumb or loaded. The larger issue is not the IPL's functioning but the unknown faces orchestrating the bidding and powerplay behind the big bucks IPL franchises. As usual, the media and the "intelligentsia" are running behind the wrong issue!

  • philipss on April 16, 2010, 3:20 GMT

    Accountability should be there. Democracy applies everywhere. Democracy is like a sunflower which seeks sunshine. Therefore all institutions should work accordingly, said Gill.

    But TOI discovered it wasn't a drug charge against Modi -- it was something else. Here are two reports of March and April 1985 in a local paper, Times-News, Hendersonville, North Carolina, that gives the real story.

    The first report appeared on March 1, 1985, headlined 'Drug buyers robbed at gunpoint'.

    See the conspirator's ability . No wonder he can manipulates things in shrewd way .

    TheOnlyEmperor any comments on this criminal back grounds

  • philipss on April 16, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    Accountability should be there. Democracy applies everywhere. Democracy is like a sunflower which seeks sunshine. Therefore all institutions should work accordingly, said Gill.

  • philipss on April 16, 2010, 2:59 GMT

    See the message from the Minister Gill on this Mod iepisode

    Accountability should be there. Democracy applies everywhere. Democracy is like a sunflower which seeks sunshine. Therefore all institutions should work accordingly..

    Any way modi has rubbed the wrong shoulder and opened the Pandora's box and he has to face the music now. TOI reported the details of his crimes in US when he was a student and shown the extent of his conspirancy . No wnder he can establish a set up like IPL in short time. His relatives can get lot of contracts . "only emporor any comments on "this TOI news

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