Huge Cracks in the IPL Mirror

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Not out The all-powerful Srinivasan was only obliquely bruised by the Justice Mudgal panel report. Photo: AP

Justice Mukul Mudgal has finally come up with a rather convoluted indictment of the rot that plagues the Indian Premier League (IPL). His 29-page report to the Supreme Court has actually spelt huge relief for beleaguered International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman N Srinivasan even as it brings into question the conduct of his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan and comprehensively implicates IPL CEO Sunder Raman for having links with an unnamed bookie.

Those who were expecting a more categorical verdict about the dark secrets of the gentleman’s game may have been disappointed and it is a moot point whether the mistrust, suspicion and confusion that has surrounded the IPL will be vacated by the panel’s exertions.

At the end of the day, the all-powerful Srinivasan was only obliquely bruised even as Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals owner Raj Kundra were accused of having engaged in betting. As for Raman, the report states that he was in touch with a bookie’s contact man “eight times in one season”. The IPL boss is said to have “admitted” that he “knew the contact” but has claimed that he was “unaware of his connection” with betting.

The report has, in turn, emboldened the cricket fat cats to remain stubborn, and it was immediately clarified that no real action is likely to be taken against Raman, the IPL honcho who is believed to be Srinivasan’s right-hand man.

Srinivasan himself must be a relieved man after having been cleared of fixing and betting allegations. The verdict would help Srinivasan to cement his position and serve as an impetus to his ambitions of becoming the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He has been absolved of almost all the serious allegations that were levelled against him, while the code violation (by an unnamed player) that he has been accused of having ignored may be just a technical thing.

Curb your enthusiasm CSK’s Gurunath Meiyappan has been charged with betting
Curb your enthusiasm CSK’s Gurunath Meiyappan has been charged with betting. Photo: AFP

Right from the time that the Justice Mudgal panel has been charged with the responsibility of uncovering the dirt in the IPL, Meiyappan has been under a cloud for having been involved in betting during the league. Unlike in its interim report submitted earlier, this one confirms that Srinivasan’s son-in-law was indeed a team official of the Chennai Super Kings at the time.

Meiyappan and Kundra may now come under the scanner as a clause in the IPL code of conduct says that a team can be scrapped if a franchise, group owner or company acts in any manner that affects the reputation of the league.

However, it is intriguing that several of the perceived violations, including receiving information of betting engaged in by Meiyappan and Kundra, had been deemed non-actionable by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit looking into match fixing and security violations. If at all Raman sought action from the icc unit has also not been sharply clarified.

The match-fixing scandal was exposed in May, and the Mumbai Police detained Meiyappan in the second wave of arrests after three cricketers, including one-time Test star S Sreesanth, had been arrested. After persistent investigations, the Mudgal panel has confirmed that Meiyappan was a team official of the Chennai Super Kings.

At the time of the interim report, senior advocate Nilay Dutta, the third member of the panel, had struck a different note and wanted more evidence of the charges against Meiyappan. While unanimity had eluded the earlier panel, this time the panel seems to have evolved a consensus, but it is to be seen whether, given the existing laws, real action will be taken against those named, including Raman.

Future tense Raj Kundra, Photo: AFP
Future tense Raj Kundra. Photo: AFP

Already, BCCI spokespersons have started defending Raman by saying that he had sought the intervention of the ICC anti-corruption unit. His eight meetings with a bookie’s contact person have obviously been glossed over as well.

In the context of the ordinary cricket lover, what does all this mean remains a puzzle. Those in charge of running the IPL on a day-to-day basis seem distinctly lazy in closing out all outlets that allow corruption and unfairness to creep in.

“The panel may have fanned the flame, but it is obvious that it has not deviated from the trodden path,” an old-timer complained.

The question that has been asked before remains very much unanswered: is everyone on the same page in fighting the battle against corruption? Not really, and the confusion starts from the very top.

Srinivasan’s ownership of India Cements while he used to head the BCCI was deemed as a “conflict of interest” by the Mudgal panel in its earlier report. What is going to happen now is only one of the questions raised by the final verdict.

The “conflict’ of interest” becomes even more glaring in the case of Meiyappan, now that his having indulged in betting and passing on information for betting purposes seems clear. The same used to be vehemently denied earlier. In fact, the panel seems to have been unusually sharp in reacting to Srinivasan’s suggestion that Meiyappan was merely a “cricket enthusiast”.

Following that, attempts were made to dissociate Meiyappan from Chennai Super Kings but apparently such moves have been nailed at last. It was said that in order to avoid the Chennai franchise from being terminated, a massive subterfuge was mounted that may now stand aborted. That and the call regarding Kundra are two clear signals of possible action that may follow.

Rules that allow BCCI officials to own IPL teams are obviously imperfect and can lead to dirt anytime in the future. A professional sports league is being governed in a most ham-handed manner, and as the principal of Chennai Super Kings, Meiyappan could face the music.

As for Kundra, he is said to have expressed amazement about the fact that betting is not legalised in the country. Such expressions of either “enthusiasm” or “innocence” can hardly be ignored especially when players with “impeachable integrity” seem acutely vulnerable to taint.

As it happens, the BCCI has done nothing to set its house in order 15 years after the CBI had implicated former South Africa skipper, the late Hansie Cronje. All the steps to clean up the game have been effectively short-circuited by the confusion and chaos in the ranks of BCCI’s anti-corruption unit. The country’s richest sports body has successfully stonewalled all attempts to clean up its act. Far from ushering in a new and exciting brand of cricket, the IPL continues to be mired in dirt and mistrust.


The Raman Effect: Will the IPL CEO manage to weather the storm again?

Tough cookie Sundar Raman
Tough cookie Sundar Raman

It happened in the months leading up to 2008, when the IPL under Lalit Modi was making waves in its inaugural season. The managing director of a media buying firm called MindShare wanted to make a PowerPoint presentation to Modi. Granted an audience, Sundar Raman convinced Modi about his credentials and won a handsome salary as his reward.

Raman was unfazed even when a storm blew away his mentor and managed to stick on WTO the high-profile job. As a matter of fact, he almost succeeded Modi as the IPL czar. Srinivasan also saw acumen and potential in Raman and got him into the commercial wing of the icc. He is said to have the final word in the choice of the commentary team for every series played in India, including, of course, the IPL. That keeps his contacts with former cricketers alive all the time.

This IIM reject has had untrammelled acceptance in the annals of Indian cricket, and Srinivasan is said to find him extremely trustworthy. However, will the references made to him in the Justice Mudgal report stop the Raman juggernaut? An answer to that will be governed by the degree of sensitivity that BCCI bosses show.


Report Card: What the Justice Mudgal panel report means for the important players in the IPL match-fixing scandal

N Srinivasan: Found to be not involved in match-fixing; not involved in trying to scuttle investigations into match-fixing; he was, however, “aware” of the players’ code of conduct being violated by an unnamed, individual player

Sundar Raman: He is shown as having been in touch with a bookie’s contact person eight times in a given season; was privy to information about Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra that they were involved in betting, but did not act

Gurunath Meiyappan: The panel has confirmed his status as a team official of the Chennai Super Kings; charged with betting during IPL

Raj Kundra: He was in touch with bookies; but the investigation against him by the Rajasthan Police was intriguingly stopped; one of his friends, described as a “well-known punter”, admitted placing bets on Kundra’s behalf

letters@tehelka.com

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