The doors of Indian cricket remain shut on Sreesanth, Ankit Chavan and Ajit Chandila, after BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said the penalties imposed by the board on the three former Rajasthan Royals players for their involvement in spot-fixing in IPL 2013 would not be lifted. Thakur's comments came on a day when the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) appealed to the BCCI to lift the life ban on Sreesanth, who hails from that state.
Though a Delhi trial court had dropped the charges against the players levied under the MCOCA act, a law passed by the Maharashtra government to tackle organised crime syndicates, on grounds of insufficient evidence, Thakur said the BCCI's decision had been made after an independent investigation.
"Criminal proceedings are entirely different to the disciplinary proceedings. The decision has been taken by the BCCI's disciplinary committee, not by a court of law," Thakur told ESPNcricinfo. "Action has been taken against the players on the report of our anti-corruption unit. As per the BCCI rules and regulations, the ban on these players will stay."
Sreesanth and Chavan were banned for life by the BCCI, while Chandila's penalty is still pending because he failed to face the disciplinary panel due to personal reasons, though he too was found guilty for the same breaches as his team-mates.
Immediately after the court dropped the charges, Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila had expressed relief and hope of returning to play cricket, and there was support from players' home states.
On Monday KCA president TC Mathew told ESPNcricinfo that he had written to the BCCI asking Sreesanth be given permission to play for Kerala. "Based on the judgement of the Delhi court, we have written to the BCCI asking them that his ban be lifted. He has given his best while playing for India and if the court has exonerated him, the BCCI should also reconsider its decision."
However, Thakur said the BCCI would not change its mind, though he said the players were free to approach a higher court to challenge the ban. He also made it clear that no player had approached the board directly. "Any Indian citizen can go to a court of law if they are not happy with any decision. Delhi police will go to the higher court to challenge the lower court verdict. I haven't received any representations from these players, so as of now the ban stays."
Thakur said the BCCI had faced turbulence in recent years with corruption scandals taking up most of the administrators' time. "In the last few years there were certain decisions that had been taken for which the board has to pay. The image of the board has been tarnished in the past few years."
One of those issues was the 2013 IPL betting scandal, which resulted in the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha Panel suspending the owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals - India Cements and Jaipur India Pvt Ltd - for two years. In an immediate response, the BCCI set up a working group to make recommendations on the way forward for the IPL to the board's working committee within six weeks.
Thakur, who is part of the five-member working group, said the BCCI wanted to study the Lodha panel order and did not want to arrive at any decision in haste. "We have made it clear that we will implement the verdict in toto. The working group has been formed so we can take a well-informed, well-thought decision, for the well being of cricket. The Mudgal commission took a year to come out with their report. Lodha committee took six months. We have sought only six weeks to speak to various stakeholders before implementing the report."
When asked specifically whether there was enough evidence established by the Lodha panel to terminate the Super Kings and Royals franchises, Thakur said the BCCI's primary concern was the welfare of the players involved. "The Lodha committee has looked into each and every aspect of the situation. They have suspended the teams for two years. At the same time BCCI working group is looking into the details of how to implement it so that our players, especially the domestic players, should not suffer because of this verdict."