The Dark Underbelly of Indian Cricket

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Short innings Shashi Tharoor’s IPL involvement came to an end after allegations of bribes being paid to him surfaced. Photo: AFP
Short innings Shashi Tharoor’s IPL involvement came to an end after allegations of bribes being paid to him surfaced. Photo: AFP

Decline and fall

The epicentre of the cricket quake that shook LaMo was his intense battle with Tharoor. In 2010, the BCCI decided to add two new IPL franchises. Tharoor, who supported a consortium of investors, who wished to bid for Kochi franchise, charged that LaMo had deliberately rigged the bids to favour a Gujarati business group. At that time, Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, was the president of Gujarat Cricket Association and the state’s chief minister. Amit Shah, now the BJP president, was GCA’s vice president. So, the insinuation was that LaMo wished to please the gca duo.

BCCI officials re-tendered the selection of the two franchises. The Kochi consortium won, but Tharoor claimed that LaMo threatened the Kochi investors. The latter met Pawar, his daughter, Sule and Praful Patel to sort out the issue. Finally, LaMo acquiesced, but sought revenge. In a tweet, he revealed that the Kochi owners had a ‘mysterious’ investor, the late Sunanda Pushkar, who was given a sizeable sweat equity for free and for perpetuity. The hidden allegation: it was a form of a bribe to Tharoor since Pushkar was then his girlfriend. (Tharoor and Pushkar later married)

There was a furore in Parliament; Tharoor had to resign. So, he sought his pound of flesh. He leaked corruption charges against LaMo to the media; a few jealous BCCI officials helped. Finally, LaMo was sacked in May 2010. Within weeks, faced with a slew of charges, including money laundering, he flew to London. LaMo says that he was ousted because of Srinivasan, who became his arch enemy, and Tharoor.

Mafia threats

One of the reasons that LaMo gave to explain his stay in the UK was that there was a threat to his life in India; he had told the investigating agencies that his lawyers can represent him in the cases against him. Way back in 2009, the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department (SID) revealed that a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation had paid a huge sum to the Dawood Ibrahim-Chhota Shakeel underworld gang to kill Modi. The reason: as per intercepted conversations, the organisation was angry that the IPL chief had refused to allow Pakistan players to take part in IPL that year. Security was given to Modi and his family.

In 2010, the SID withdrew the security when it found that there was no fresh threat. Modi claimed that this was done because he exposed Tharoor in an IPL scam. In October 2010, LaMo hired security agencies in the UK and, today, he gets private security from an Israeli agency.

The final twist came when, in 2013, Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, was caught in a match-fixing scandal. The Supreme Court indicted Meiyappan for illegal betting; it also ended Srinivasan’s tenure in BCCI. Alluding to a conflict of interest, the apex court asked the then BCCI president to give up the ownership of an IPL team, Chennai Super Kings, if he wished to stand for BCCI president’s post. He decided to leave BCCI since he was already appointed as the head of ICC.

With both LaMo and Srinivasan out of the BCCI, observers felt that Modigate was over. It was their ego clashes that led to the sequence of sordid events since 2010. They didn’t realise that it was only the Part 1 of the blockbuster. The sequel was about to begin. The second half started with Sushmagate and then the movie became a racy thriller. One still doesn’t know whether there is a third in the series, or whether LaMo, the director-producer- actor, will finally call it quits.

Post script In the sequel, several other big names were exposed for their links to LaMo. To sort out the passport issue, he met members of the British royal family and Ambani. Before the sequel, as mentioned earlier, he took on Anurag Thakur, secretary, BCCI, in a tweet. In 1999, LaMo became a member of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, but was thrown out in 2000 because of problems with then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Thakur’s father.

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