Rot that has beset Indian cricket
It is interesting to note the timely intervention of the Supreme Court into the serious allegations of match/spot fixing, betting and allied activities of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL). Whether the current phase of judicial activism in Cricket leading to Sunil Gavaskar’s stewardship of BCCI will lead to long-term cleansing of cricket or not, time will tell. But it is important to look at the rot that has beset Indian cricket, the nation having the highest earning cricket board of the world.
Worst Phase of Indian Sports
Indian sports including cricket is going through its worst ever phase since Independence. For the first time in December 2012 in its 118 years of Olympic history, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which selects and represents Team India at various international multi sports events, stood suspended by the world parent body International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a result of which Indian athletes were not allowed to participate in the London Olympics 2012 or hoist the Indian national flag and play the national anthem. Indian cricket has also been afflicted with wide spread mismanagement, financial irregularities, corruption, match/spot fixing and betting.
BCCI like all other National Sports Federations (NSF’s) enjoys complete autonomy without any transparency or accountability while performing key public functions which are akin to State functions such as selecting and representing team India and controlling the entire game of cricket at the district, state, national and international arena including control over the careers of players, umpires, broadcasters, franchisees, agents, sponsors, etc.
BCCI as also its Member State Associations are headed by various politicians cutting across party lines such as Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Rajiv Shukla, C P Joshi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arun Jaitley, Narindra Modi, Anurag Thakur, amongst others who have, over the decades, nurtured and created fiefdoms by manipulating and handpicking members of their electoral college and under the garb of holding ‘honorary posts’ have eaten into the vitals of Indian cricket completely ignoring the participation of cricketers in its management and affairs. Time has come when Indian cricket bodies need to be revamped and restructured in order to clean them of the large scale irregularities, all pervasive conflict of interest, conspiracy of silence and status quo by embracing sweeping and meaningful reforms which have the potential of radically transforming the governance and functioning of BCCI / IPL.
It is important to highlight in the interest of every sports-loving person of India and the burgeoning sports management industry the various irregularities, frauds, illegalities and scams in the field of cricket which have also appeared from time to time in the print and electronic media and this is being done keeping in view the larger public interest and for improving the gentleman’s game of cricket, reputation of which is at its lowest ebb. In a city where land is gold, powerful get it dirt cheap. According to a PIL filed by Mayank Gandhi land measuring 39,950 sq. metres was allotted to MCA for training of youngsters in cricket but the Association used it for commercial purposes. This was done at the behest of Pawar, whose writ has run large on the MCA over decades now. Pawar got the government rules bent in order to get a recreation ground in prime Bandra Kurla Complex in the guise of promoting cricket although it tied up with Shirke constructions to run this as a swank commercial club for the super rich by giving it exclusive rights to sell 3,000 memberships at the rate of Rs 15 Lakhs each. Thus, MCA got allotted 52,157 sq. Metres plot on a throw away rate for a lease period of 80 years.
A team of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office raided the premises of the DDCA and had inspected the various documents including the accounts of the said cricket body and the BJP leader Arun Jaitley was President of DDCA. This was done on the complaint of BJP MP Kirti Azad making allegations of financial fraud, illegal payments to members of the DDCA without clearance from the Registrar of Companies, rigging of elections, extravagant expenses, illegalities in procurement process and misuse of funds, etc. Azad had also raised this issue in the Lok Sabha.
Need for Transparency
The above activities of the officials who are managing the affairs of various State Cricket Associations including the BCCI clearly show that they have serious vested interest in maintaining the status quo, not allowing their scrutiny through the Right to Information Act and stalling the passage of National Sports Development Bill (Sports Bill/Khelpal) despite the fact that they, through their parties, such as Congress, NCP, NC, BJP, etc have two third majority in the Parliament to pass all necessary legislations. In the year 2000 CBI, during the probe conducted by it in the match fixing scandal, had suggested appropriate laws to be enacted for dealing with the menace of match fixing including prosecution of culprits. Instead of taking immediate steps in this direction, the said top political bosses have maintained conspiracy of silence by ignoring the valuable suggestions thus freely permitting such illegalities being committed with impunity.
Plan of Action to Cleanse Cricket
1. To ensure complete transparency in the functioning of the BCCI, the same must be brought under the RTI Act since all other National Sports Federations are already under the ambit and purview of the sunshine legislation.
2. Since there is no accountability of the BCCI towards anyone, we must be committed to introduction and passage of the Sports Bill/Khelpal which encompasses the best international practices and good democratic principles in running the affairs of the sports bodies.
3. Continued activities of the cricketers/ team owners in the BCCI/IPL concerning match/spot fixing and betting have necessitated passing of deterrent laws to save the image of cricket in India from deteriorating further.