May 18, 2012

Why do the franchises get away free?

There are two sides to the corruption coin and only one is being addressed at the moment

The India TV "sting" this week, where players were caught on camera allegedly attempting to negotiate more lucrative IPL deals for themselves, was, I'm afraid, tame and misleading. There were some issues there that deserved airing, but they were concealed by the theatrical, incessant self-promotion of the TV channel in question. Cricket needs to be careful of those who write film-style dialogues and those who over-dramatise.

And so, in a typically Pavlovian response, far too many people are screaming match-fixing. Or its cousin, spot-fixing. The greater issue in this sting - if you were patient enough to get to it - was the realisation that many players get paid more than they are entitled to. And that's because there is a ceiling on how much uncapped domestic players can earn, there are some naughty money transfers going on.

It is a practice that has been whispered about, occasionally loudly talked about, for a long time now; especially in the days before IPL 4. With a limited number of capped Indian players in the auction, there was a rush to find the best of the rest, and strictly speaking, if one franchise couldn't pay more than another, very few players had strong enough reasons to move. But then, there are many things that are whispered about on the circuit, and just because something is whispered about, it need not necessarily be true. More important, it cannot be proved to be true.

And so the issue of players being paid more than the contracted amount remained a whisper. Now players are saying it happens. The BCCI can look at it two ways. It can disbelieve the players or it can accept what they are saying and launch a serious investigation (which has been done but I do not know what its scope is) though it is very unlikely the board would not have known about it in the first place.

It will be unfortunate if only the players are investigated because you cannot accept money unless someone offers it. If the players are saying they were offered extra money, then it means the franchises were violating IPL rules too. If players are to be punished for accepting money they shouldn't have from franchises, then the franchises should be punished too. In his recommendation in 2010, on the Ravindra Jadeja case, Arun Jaitley suggested as much, and I think his legal acumen and stature can be used to strengthen procedures in the IPL.

Eventually this league belongs as much to the BCCI as to the franchise holders, and if it has to become one of the great sports leagues in the world (and it should not consider a smaller objective), they need to work together to strengthen it. And so, this cannot be buried, it has to be taken as seriously as a corporation would a whistle-blower.

To be fair, the basic principle behind the founding of the IPL was sound: that each franchise has equal resources available to it and so has an equal chance of winning the title. If the transfer of uncapped players favours richer franchises, then the principle on which the IPL was conceived is threatened. And so to take it to the next stage it needs stronger processes, but it needs more openness, for the more transparent an organisation is, the less it can hide wrongdoing. It is also something the fans are entitled to, because without them there is no revenue.

Now to the other danger, which too was known, but which the sting has highlighted. Indian cricket, like the Mumbai film industry, lures many towards it. Some come with the dream of making it big and playing for India for ten or 15 years; some others quickly fall away and seek every opportunity to make a buck in the time they have. It is not wrong but it exposes them to all manner of people. As there are fine and respectable people, there are maggots, too, who prey on the insecurity of young cricketers and lure them onto the path that can only lead to fixing and other crimes. And match-fixing, or spot-fixing, remains the single greatest threat to the continued success of the IPL. This sting, if the videos were ethically edited, confirms that day might already be upon us.

The people who carried out the sting exploited this vulnerability among young cricketers. The only way to protect them from more such vultures is to educate them and provide harsh deterrents. Ironically, though, such stings seem to have become the only way of exposing loopholes. Maybe a law passed by the government making match-fixing a criminal offence will help.

In many industries, corporations are free to run their business as they want but are answerable to a higher entity. For its own good, the IPL needs to have a higher entity, one that seeks no political or monetary gain, to question its functioning. This entity could be self-appointed, and there are many champions of corporate governance with a track record of integrity who will be happy to serve on it. The IPL will thus become a stronger, more rigorous organisation, and in becoming so, will benefit Indian cricket enormously.

Harsha Bhogle is contracted to the IPL. He also commentates on other cricket, and is a television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    Harsha - In this case your not speaking like a cricket analyzer, just acting like an politician who doesn't give any appropriate answer to the media nor the public... can anyone predict or say how much Mr.Vijay Mallya paid for Christopher Gayle; How much Mr.Mukesh Ambani paid for Kieren Pollard; these are un answerable questions and blaming players just like that its not fair at all. Also what you guys do in the studio (extra innings) totally ridiculous, so how much they paid for you????? mokka!!!!

  • jai on May 21, 2012, 14:59 GMT

    @Ravishankara on (May 19 2012, 02:14 AM GMT): Some people are not able to bear the fact that other people are making money (pure jealousy) ... so who do you think should get the money being generated other than the main ones who are behind it?

    Why do IPL need to waste any money/research/efforts and wait in forming the rules ... just copy the NBA/NFL book(s) just like they copied the format already and since NBA already did the research and have been running the franchise successfully for decades. There is your solution. May be IPL doesn't want to make it so obvious :)

  • vikram on May 19, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    Ban on players means that any existing employee in this world searching a job for better perks should also be banned......

  • Gopalakrishna on May 19, 2012, 7:13 GMT

    You look at the companies which are involved here Harsha.. GMR, Reliance, Sahara all these are not famous for Corporate Governance or are famous for the lack of it...

    And what is Mr.Srinivasan's first comment - "Wrong to say owners are involved".. "All the franchisees are people of stature behind it. It will be wrong to presume they are doing something wrong and then make enquiries."..

    So if I am a person of the stature Mr.Srinivasan is expecting, then its not wrong to presume that I am doing something wrong? This is the worst statement I have ever heard. And we are talking about people getting more money than the cap - how can they get it without the owners paying for it... Ridiculous!!!!

  • Deepak on May 19, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Harsha, can we have an answer from you !! (for a change at the least)!

  • VENKATACHALAM on May 19, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    IPL becoming a stronger, more rigorous organisation will benefit Indian cricket enormously. I don't know whether to laugh or cry on reading these final words of the article, written by such a reputed writer. Can u please elaborate what benefits Indian cricket will derive from IPL? Does everybody ie. broadcasters, players, BCCI improving their bank balances is your definition of benefits? In just a few years, we are going to becoming the laughing stock of international cricket with regard to actual cricketing skills because of IPL. But who cares for cricketing skills when everybody laughs his way to the bank playing the easiest form of the game.

  • Ravishankar on May 19, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    Bring down the money floating in IPL. It is just too much to sustain. We are going to witness collapse one or two teams shortly

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2012, 1:31 GMT

    Harsha, I like you but except for the IPL period. I am not a fan of the IPL because it has not done anything +ve for the Indian international cricket. I smell sycophancy (for the lack of a better word) in the way you continuously tweet during IPL matches. The problem with IPL is that it has a lot of money to offer to everybody and nobody can refuse this offer including you and our dignified cricketers like Tendulkar, Dravid etc. You said that people can't expect a person to be a Tarantino if he is more of a Hrishikesh Mukherjee. But during the IPL, you are like a Kanti Shah, the director of B-grade bollywood movies. I hope you take time out to read the comments. Thanks.

  • Ashok on May 19, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    I have a solution. Treat all the players equally at the auction. Have a total salary cap at the auction. Allow teams to bid for the players within the limits allowed by the salary cap. Once the players are chosen by a team, they can then negotiate a higher salary with the team. If a team and a player can't agree to a higher salary, player either goes with the salary his team can offer (with the minimum amt decided by the auction) OR the team salary cap space will be freed up, and the player will get one more chance at a second auction. If a player cant agree with a different team at second auction, then he has to sit out of IPL. This method has multiple advantages: (a) auction system will be even - all teams have same pile of money to bid with. (b) Player value and player choice - there will be a second chance for player to determine his value. (c) think of all the theater the two auctions and all the negotiations will provide.

  • Mohsin on May 18, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    Sorry but Mr. Harsha, whenever you write an article, please have some answers and also please suggest some solutions. Everyone knows the problem. There is no need to go on and on about the problem when everyone knows wat's that. The real thing is to find the solution. If you did write 1000 words on the solution it would help in large mass rather than the problem. Also this is unrelated here but I'm going to state a fact about your tweeting which are kind of embarrassing from a cricket expert. You keep tweeting what will happen if who beats whom? We, supporters of cricket, really would like to hear the technical report from you about the matches rather than those. Thank you for reading.

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