Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Indian Cricket: Blemish face with an Aureole around

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran.

As a born Indian I'm not supposed to say that I dislike Cricket. May be not the game in itself but by the way it is played here. So, by the way, how is it played here in India? Just a play or a fair play?

What we have made is a true religion out of cricket. The new religion has millions of followers and sympathizers for various cults. They see cricket as a matter of national and regional pride; they preach, unite and fight for it. They fall victims to the bloody traps of cults created by the cricket industry, waste their life and energy for something that has always remained a mirage - means the reality is always something else unknown to masses, in the oblivion. And IPL has become a festival of such a religious affiliation! So, anyone questioning anything related to this religion is considered as infidels and frowned upon.

As a society, our memory is very short. We are not aliens to scams and scandals too. We have seen all types and forms of corrupt practices in all walks of life. So, the present-day news breakers of betting and match-fixing scandal will move off our memory very soon. Indian cricket and IPL will be untainted as ever because we have seen thousands of such issues popping out now and then and fading off in the oblivion. Anyone remember why Mr. Lalit Modi was kicked off from the IPL? Why was Mr. Dalmia a controversial figure at the BCCI?

IPL is a high-end entertainment grabbing masses, but its darker side is very less known. Nor people are interested to know more about the reality. Young students who form a huge chunk of the fan lot, never wants to know what their stars and the amusements do to them. If a movie fails to entertain and live up to its hype, we cannot say we feel cheated. But sabotaging the audience's right to a fair game free of any corrupt practices should definitely considered a case of cheating. The IPL is publicized as a fund-raising project of the BCCI. However, it has never said anything about for whom are the funds raised. The event helps the rich to become richer by exploiting the interest of cricket lovers. 

It is an utter amazement to note how things are taken for granted in India for the sake of cricket. The BCCI, ever since its foundation in 1928 has remained as a "private club consortium" or a sports association. It has its own governing body and autonomy. It has the authority to select players, umpires and officials to participate in international events and exercises total control over them. Without its recognition, no competitive cricket involving BCCI-contracted Indian players can be hosted within or outside the country. Being an apex governing body of cricket in India, there has never been an attempt to undertake it directly by the Sports ministry or to make it a constitutionally recognised body. Nor it is accountable to the constitution of India. 

The administrators of the BCCI are obviously the bigwigs from the corporate houses and politics. Mr. N.Srinivasan, the current president, is the managing director of India cements Limited. He was earlier the secretary of the board. He owns the Chennai Super Kings franchise in IPL. Incredible isn't it? Until 2008, BCCI regulation, Clause 6.2.4 stated that "no administrator of BCCI could have had, directly or indirectly, any commercial interest in the matches or events conducted by the cricket board". Later, after the start of IPL in 2007, the clause was amended to give unfavorable benefit to BCCI members such that they can own stakes in the IPL franchise. The case against Mr. Srinivasan on the grounds of conflict of interest is still pending in the Supreme Court.

His son-in-law Mr. Meiyappan, who was the Team principal of CSK, has now been arrested by the police for his alleged contacts with an actor who served as a conduit for bookies. This raises questions about both the nature of his indulgences in the betting and match-fixing scam and the extent to which the father-in-law was aware of these. Other rules are bent too. Two players charged with taking drugs in a party were allowed to take part in the IPL matches. 

This is a serious crisis of credibility that Indian cricket is facing. The world's richest cricket board BCCI is always seen as a golden duck by business tycoons, politicians and fixers who are interested only in power and money. The IPL - packaging entertainment as a sport with the ultimate aim of making money has a plenty of scope for the shady dealings of the kind being unearthed now. There is absolutely no transparency in the IPL and the BCCI, to which allegations the body responded some years back by pointing out Lalit Modi, whose brainchild the IPL was. No other actions were taken against other culprits in and outside the body. The sports ministry must push in reforms and take over plans of the BCCI to restore public confidence on the cricket in India and to save the game. Cricket fans must realise the other side of how the sport passion and the interest of the masses are exploited. Only then, cricket in India will be a fair play. The bright aureole around must not a plausible explanation to undermine the blemished face of Indian cricket.