Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo
The Indian board's commitment to fight corruption in cricket has come under the scanner after it has emerged that it stayed silent for months on an ICC offer to provide full anti-corruption cover for the IPL this year, mainly because of the fee involved. The issue was raised at the BCCI's working committee on Wednesday, when members were informed that the fee quoted then by the ICC - US$1.2 million - was too high.
The BCCI, which runs the IPL, finally agreed to the offer this month when reminded about it during the ICC's executive board meeting in Dubai. That was on April 17, the day before the IPL began, and it was too late for the ICC's Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) - which starts work on an event at least two months in advance - to provide a credible level of preventive cover.
The BCCI's position has raised a few eyebrows within the Indian board and officials who attended Wednesday's high-level meeting told Cricinfo of their concern at a price being put to the fight against corruption - which, they feel, is an ever-present danger in cricket. To place the ACSU's fee in perspective, the BCCI had declared an overall income of approximately US$ 200m for 2007-08, and a profit of US$ 10m from the first IPL alone.
Shashank Manohar, the BCCI president, is a senior member of the ICC board, which has consistently maintained that corruption in cricket is a menace that demands the most stringent preventive measures possible. In fact, after the last ICC board meeting, Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, admitted there is a higher concern about Twenty20 cricket with all the excitement and money.
"The board has consistently said it cannot afford to be complacent (about the risk of corruption in Twenty20 cricket)," Lorgat told Cricinfo last week. "We are mindful that with Twenty20 cricket there is great excitement and money. Put those ingredients into a pot and there is a higher concern."
Last July, after the first IPL, the ACSU chairman Sir Paul Condon told the ICC's annual conference in Dubai that Twenty20 tournaments like the IPL bring with it the "biggest threat in terms of corruption in the game since the days of cricket in Sharjah."
"But the BCCI's position when it comes to the IPL is quite puzzling," a state association official, who attended BCCI working committee meeting, told Cricinfo. It's learnt that some officials pointed to the presence of individuals other than the players and support staff in the team dugouts last year and stressed the importance of utilising the ICC's services to lend credibility to the tournament's anti-corruption measures.
N Srinivasan, the BCCI secretary, and Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, were not available for comment.
Officially, the BCCI is well within its rights to organise its own anti-corruption measures for the IPL, which is deemed a domestic event. "But it's obvious, isn't it, that the IPL is much more than just another domestic event?" another state association official, who attended the BCCI meeting, said. "There are nearly 80 foreign players involved from across the world along with Bollywood stars, their staff and supporters. No one is saying that there is corruption in the IPL; we are confident that there isn't. But are they doing enough to keep it that way?"
The IPL's anti-corruption protocol last year was handled by a team of around 10 officials, including retired police and military officials, recruited independently by the league. The team was guided by ACSU officials, who played a supporting role. This time, the IPL's team is being assisted by Nicholls & Steyn, the private security agency based in South Africa that has also been entrusted with the task of managing the event's security. Bob Nicholls, one of the partners of the security firm, had told Cricinfo that they were "not involved so much" with the anti-corruption aspect. In contrast, the ICC's ACSU is not a profit-based body and any income over expenses is pumped back into the game.
The ICC had first offered full ACSU coverage for the second IPL edition a few months after the hugely successful inaugural event got over last May, based on independent observations and inputs collated during the tournament. The IPL agreed and were then sent a quote on the fee this would involve. The IPL, however, indicated that the fee was too high and said they would revert on the offer, which they didn't till the ICC board meeting 12 days ago.
The ACSU's pre-event spadework involves staging reconnaissances in the host cities and gathering intelligence from local sources to identify potential corruptors. Against this background, the effectiveness of the IPL's anti-corruption procedures this year is open to question after the tournament - involving 59 matches over 37 days, at eight venues - was shifted to South Africa just three weeks before its scheduled start in India.
The ICC's ACSU came into being after the match-fixing scandal of 2000 involving Hansie Cronje, which also led to bans on Mohammed Azharuddin, the former India captain, and Salim Malik, the Pakistan batsman.