In what is perhaps a landmark judgement on the issue of corruption in cricket former Indian Premier League champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) have been suspended from the tournament for two years after team officials were found guilty of illegally betting on matches by a Supreme Court-appointed panel.In what is Indian cricket’s biggest corruption scandal, CSK’s Gurunath Meiyappan and RR co-owner Raj Kundra have been suspended for life from cricket related activities. The Indian word tamasha means fun, magic, live street theatre with totally unexpected twists, all rolled into one for the entertainment of the average person on the street. For Indians, Cricket and Bollywood are synonymous with gossip and glamour. No wonder then that the sharks moved in early.
The IPL was a tamasha for the rich who sought upward mobility and had loads of disposable income to splurge. A dressing room photo with an IPL cricketer was the in thing. According to historian Ramachandra Guha, the fact that Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, both of whom have excellent Ranji Trophy records, had no IPL team between them, while Maharashtra had two, was symptomatic of the tournament’s identification with the powerful and the moneyed.That India should have made cricket a tamasha is a familiar story of a country bereft of national heros absorbing a product, however foreign, and making it its own. While it is remarkable that India should have done it with such a quintessentially English game and, arguably, the most structured of all ball games, it is not unique.
Brazil, another emerging power, long ago took England’s national game, football, and fashioned a very Brazilian version.The crucial difference is that Brazil does not economically control football. India does and will do so in the foreseeable future. It has to export its best players to Europe which remains in charge of the world game. The IPL’s rise has been helped by the odd nature of cricket. Unlike other team sports, where international matches provide the icing on a thriving domestic structure, cricket would die if there was no international competition. Following the judgement cricket administrators in India need to answer some rather pertinent questions posed by the RM Lodha committee.
Is the BCCI for profit or not-for profit? If the latter, how is this reconciled with its commercial engagements? What are the parameters on which annual allocations are made to the various constituent boards by the BCCI [of funds, of international matches, of domestic matches, of IPL fixtures, etc?.Does BCCI have a two-tier system of those who govern the board (owners) and those who are involved in day-to-day management (professionals)? If so, on what basis are the professionals appointed, how many are there, what are their tenures and pay packages, and how can they be removed? What is the financial oversight exercised by the BCCI over the income and expenditure of constituent bodies?Who conducts an oversight of the various elections? On what basis is the election committee selected and by whom?Does either the BCCI or the IPL have a whistleblower / immunity policy? To what extent are players represented on the Board and is there any channel for their grievances to be aired?What records and papers of the state associations are available for inspection by BCCI and by the public? What are the costs and procedures for such inspection? Only when these pressing questions are answered can the future of cricket be saved from the hands of greedy corporates, wheeler dealers and corrupt owners like Kundra and Meiyappan.
The punishment is exemplary and sends out a strong message but it must not be viewed as a sensational one. If anything, the verdict has been dictated by common sense and logic -- two qualities that the BCCI and the owners of CSK and RR (Indian Cements and Jaipur IPL) have shown they clearly lack.