Indian Premier League 2010 April 25, 2010

Lalit's last hurrah

Modi made the dangerous mistake of trying to become bigger than the system that created him. The system has now ruthlessly cut him to size

It couldn't have got more surreal. After staying away from him most of the evening, the camera panned on Lalit Modi during the concluding minutes of the IPL final. He sat a few feet away from the boundary, dressed, as he always does, in a suit that is so incongruous for the Mumbai summer. He tried to look as if he didn't know the camera was on him, but it was apparent he knew. There was a self-conscious gleam on his face. It hid the storm that raged outside, and must have within too.

It would be only be a matter of minutes before he would be stripped of everything that he had so bloody-mindedly built. He had fancily designated himself the chairman and the commissioner of the Indian Premier League: in reality, he was the impresario, making and breaking his own rules; pulling every string; and running the enterprise as if it belonged to him. So bedazzled was Ravi Shastri, who used to be a fine commentator, that he hailed Modi as Moses. And somewhere along the way, Modi began to believe his own propagandists; nothing about IPL was ever lesser than the greatest, apart from Modi himself.

Of course, the seas didn't part. Modi's fall has been even more swift and spectacular than his rise. For sure, he will not go without a fight. Like a prisoner about to be executed, he got his final words at the presentation ceremony and he made a production of it. Throughout the past few days, when stories about dodgy deals, income tax raids, and political wrangling flooded newspapers and news television, the IPL broadcasters had pretended to be oblivious. But Modi wasn't about to let the opportunity slip. If you were still a believer, he delivered a rousing speech, full of indignation, righteousness, self-congratulation, and playing to the gallery.

It was part farewell speech, part declaration of war, for which he solicited support. He called the IPL the Indian Peoples League, invoked the Gita, and played both saviour and martyr. He then presented the trophy to MS Dhoni - it was impossible to miss the irony of the situation, for Dhoni captains the team owned by N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, and the man in the forefront of the oust-Modi campaign - posed briefly for photographs before disappearing into the night.

The IPL has created a new constituency for itself, but those who have been around wouldn't miss the irony about the circumstances of Modi's fall. Three years ago Jagmohan Dalmiya, who pioneered the commercial rise of Indian cricket, was hounded out from the BCCI over charges of corruption and embezzlement. Among those arrayed against him, Modi was the shrillest, announcing on one occasion that Dalmiya would be sent to jail.

Modi has now been dumped even more unceremoniously, and the charges against him are far more severe. Among other things he has been accused of fixing the auctions; of creating slush funds; manipulating broadcast deals - the payment of a facilitation fee, otherwise known as commission, being the most tangible of them all. All of these are unproven of course, and it is unlikely that Modi would be without his own ammunition, but Modi made the dangerous mistake of trying to become bigger than the system that created him. The system has now ruthlessly cut him to size. Arguably, he has been singled out somewhat perversely, but there is poetic justice in what has happened to him and no tears should be shed for him.

The IPL represents the best and worst of India. It is at once a demonstration of Indian enterprise and confidence, as it is, as borne out the recent events, of sleaze and moral turpitude that has never gone away.

While watching the IPL final it was impossible not to feel this conflict. The cricket was both absorbing and of high quality; the stands were full and without doubt millions more were watching the game on television. Both, the intensity of the players and the engagement of the fans, felt real. But at another level, it was so unreal. As the winners had their merry dance on the podium and fireworks lit the sky, Modi was being served his suspension letter.

It is unlikely that we have seen the worst of the IPL yet. The tragedy is that it didn't have to be this way.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Indika on April 27, 2010, 0:28 GMT

    If Indian politicians don't want Lalit Modi please let him go and make Lalit Modi ICC's president. The way Modi was going about his business I'm very sure that Modi would have made Cricket the most popular sport in the world in very short time. Hurra for the greatest Cricket adminstrator of all time!

  • Anil on April 26, 2010, 22:40 GMT

    Indian government tapped Sharad pawar's phone conversations with Lalit Modi,so Pawar will keep quit on government and on Modi issue for now.If modi has not exposed Shahsi taroor and his girl friend's free sweat equity,then sharad pawar would have leaked the information to the press and got 2 birds in one short i,e indian government and Modi.So Either way Modi down fall was pre-planned.Now the deal pawar has made is to Modi let go to protect BCCI and his interests in IPL.

    I still belive modi when he says he has done nothing wronge and i am sure Modi will raise again to take of the IPL sooner than later in some capacity.Atleast i hope so.What a great leader and!!

  • kishore on April 26, 2010, 19:14 GMT

    Let us not praise lalit Modi. Let's bury him. Long live IPL.

  • sitaram on April 26, 2010, 18:33 GMT

    People before going JAI JAI about this fool...Check out his real background...posted clearly in Wikipedia. A goon like him doesnt deserve to hold such public positions. He is a disgrace to India and the common man. He is just paying for the sins he has done all his life.

  • Indika on April 26, 2010, 18:23 GMT

    Last century there was Don Bradman, Garfield Sobers, Viv Richards Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Muralitharan, and so on. This century Lalith Modi made ordinary players into good players...Lalith Modi is the best thing ever that happen to game of Cricket, period. If Cricket is a Cake then Modi is the Icing. How can anyone try to keep this great man away from great old game. As a fellow who loves Crciket I belive Modi should be given the ICC presidency if the Hon. Indian Politicians don't want him. This great man's awsome thinking should not be allowed get away from Cricket.

  • Indika on April 26, 2010, 18:16 GMT

    Lalith Modi is the best thing ever that happen to game of Cricket, period. If Cricket is a Cake then Modi is the Icing. How can anyone try to keep this great man away from great old game. As a fellow who loves Crciket I belive Modi should be given the ICC presidency if the Hon. Indian Politicians don't want him. This great man's awsome thinking should not be allowed get away from Cricket.

  • Binod on April 26, 2010, 18:15 GMT

    Batting for Modi At a time when the world is abuzz with news and opinions that are demonizing Lalit Modi, I would like to bravely, and perhaps foolishly too, spare a few good thoughts for him and perhaps on his behalf. The rise of Lalit Modi through the ranks of Indian Cricket administration without having any connection with his past until very recently is truly meteoric by any standards! Until his arrival in the thick of matters of Indian Cricket administration cricket was truly and sincerely being true to one of the words in it's organization's title - Board for Control of Cricket in India. True, they had finally come to terms with the fact that revenue must be paramount to any internal ego clashes between it's members. Prior to the commercialization of Indian cricket decisions taken by this esteemed body rarely succeeded to put the best product (team) in the market. When citizens have been craving for role models and the industry have been craving for exploiting this worship into

  • Tami on April 26, 2010, 18:11 GMT

    Modi made one mistake as clearly mentioned in this article. He tried to go beyond the people who actually feed him at the start. He should have played the game wisely until he was higher than the system itself. I think his career is pretty much over, he tried to rake bit too fast instead of waiting for a while. He was touching millions already there was no need to get in trouble. BCCI/politicians will not let anyone rake millions while they are not making anything as significant. IPL is an ATM politicians/BCCI knows it better than anyone else. When you try to cut their slice then you are bound to go down.

  • Dummy4 on April 26, 2010, 17:34 GMT

    Lalit Mody is instrumental to stage highly successful 3 IPLs, 2 in India and one in African continent. IPL is his brain child and it immensely benefitted to Indian criceters as well as all competant international cricketers. It also feched huge amount of money to the coffers of BCCI and also to the individual cricketers. Apart from that all cricket loving public of all over the world had well enjoyed the capabilites of players who participated in all games. If Lalit had committed any misdeed whilst serving as Commissioner of IPL he should be punished but opportunity should be given to him to answer all allegations leveled at him.

  • Krishna on April 26, 2010, 15:47 GMT

    Agree with what itisme says. Really could not understand the whole strategy adopted by Sachin or for that matter why Pollard had to come down the line to bat when they were in need of runs. Could not understand why Bhajji slapped Sreesanth :-)). If you go to the next level of thinking, these days it is all above media hype and creating sensation. Never could understand how kids land in borewells if you have following the news lately. One kid inspires others to follow his path..:0). Though the idea of IPL is very new and creative more like a hand held video game compared to the conventional video game that we all play, I think when you bring in the money factor the sports no longer maintains its value. Name any sport and the problem is the same when money gets involved. Don't want to spend time commenting on this and the yada yada stuff. To me it brings back memories of the Bombay Stock Exchange Scam, where one got victimized and others who made profits went un-noticed.

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