On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court appointed panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice R.M Lodha, announced a two-year suspension on Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) from IPL.
Finding both accused team owners guilty of betting charges, the judgment also announced a life ban on RR promoter, Raj Kundra, and CSK’s promoter and former BCCI Chairman N. Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, from any kind of association in future with the game of cricket. Thus, bringing some sense of closure to an ugly fallout of a successful and popular tournament in India.
Once the betting scandal made headlines and the matter reached the Supreme Court, in October 2013, Justice Mukul Mudgal was tasked to head a three-man committee and look into the betting and related charges that had come to light involving players and certain team stakeholders, and submit a report based on the findings of the committee for further investigation.
Based on the report submitted by Justice Mudgal in February 2014, the Supreme Court then appointed another three-member committee headed by Justice R.M Lodha, and comprising Justice R. Raveendran and Justice Ashok Bhan to:
• Decide on the quantum of punishment against those found guilty by the Mudgal Committee.
• Further investigate allegations against those, as per recommendations of the Mudgal Committee.
• Make recommendations on improving the transparency and functioning of the BCCI.
It was with this mandate that the Lodha panel took up the onerous task of bringing out the facts before an eager nation that has waited with abated breath for the truth to finally unfold, so that the game of cricket could go back to being what it always was, a gentleman’s game.
The judgement is far-reaching because it has implications for all sports that are managed by various associations and private bodies and hopefully one will see respective sport associations take note of this judgement and voluntarily take steps to begin moving towards becoming more transparent, efficient and professional in managing sports in the country.
Fans, the biggest losers
It is indeed a sad day for the fans of cricket, most of whom have been left extremely disappointed and let down by those who manage the game, which is considered as a religion by many die-hard fans. Both CSK and RR command an army of loyal fans and the two-year ban on both teams has come as a blow to not just the fans but also the players of both teams.
Uncertain future for CSK and RR players
Several established cricketers have high value contracts that are now in question. While they are better off, where do young cricketers go, especially those who are still in the process of making a mark for themselves in the world of competitive cricket?
Will the BCCI terminate CSK and RR, and if so, will cricketers of these teams be available for fresh auctions for new franchises that may be inducted in lieu of CSK and RR? If any of the contracts gets stuck in legal tangle won’t the availability of these cricketers become a problem, given that time is running out in organising the next edition of IPL?
It is unfair for honest cricketers to pay for the fault of a few greedy individuals and yet, the IPL has to be cleansed of any legacy suspicion that still lingers, and its credibility restored, before cricket fans start flocking the stands again.
What next for the world’s richest cricketing event
IPL has been a resounding success thus far and has singularly redefined who plays the game, how it’s played and how much all stakeholders earn from the game. IPL has completely turned the game of cricket on its head in more ways than Kerry Packer, the maverick Australian sports entrepreneur, ever imagined, when he tried and failed to succeed in his version of the ‘Packer Series’ in the 70s and 80s. He was the Lalit Modi of his time; brash, ambitious with a can-do attitude, and willing to go against the tide.
Lalit Modi succeeded where Packer failed and the world of cricket got an unprecedented boost through the launch and subsequent popularity of IPL, with new and young players from all cricket playing nations getting an opportunity to showcase their skills, which otherwise would have gone unseen in the wilderness of their respective domestic cricket.
Today, IPL is responsible for offering a livelihood to not just cricket players but an entire eco-system of sports coaches, managers, ground staff, event managers and of course, the media. In fact, the synergy between sports and sports broadcasting has grown even more professional and now other sports in India are beginning to take cue from the success of IPL and are launching their own versions of media and fan-friendly sports tournaments.
With such a legacy, it was indeed unfortunate for a terrific event like IPL to fall victim to betting and now the entire tournament’s future is threatened. Without doubt, trust of the fans has taken a major beating and now the massive commercial profits that the game was generating for all stakeholders, is in danger.
Justice Lodha has clarified that BCCI is at freedom to terminate contracts for both teams and now the BCCI is forced to go into a huddle to decide on the future of IPL and how to proceed further based on recent developments, something it should have done way back in 2013, when the scandal first broke.
How the scandal unfolded
It all started on 16 May 2013 with the Delhi Police arresting three RR players, S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandilya and Ankeet Chavan, on charges of spot-fixing. This was followed by arrests of several bookies including Vindoo Dara Singh. This was followed by the arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan of CSK on 24 May 2013. On 5 June 2013, Raj Kundra of RR was called for questioning by the Delhi Police and on 7 June he was suspended by the team management of RR. The BCCI proceeded to suspend him from IPL on 10 June 2013.
In all this, despite a media outcry against N. Srinivasan continuing to hold office as President of BCCI, he refused to step down. Furthermore, he failed in his duty as President to initiate any action to clean up the game and to make the BCCI functioning more transparent. It was only after Supreme Court’s strong view against his position as President that N. Srinivasan finally decided to step aside on 2 June 2013. But not before damaging the credibility of cricket administration in India. On 8 October 2013, Justice Mudgal had been appointed to investigate charges and the report was submitted to the Supreme Court in February 2014.
Time for BCCI to stand up and take action
With growing popularity and greater commercialisation of sport in India, the threat to corrupt practices is always going to continue to lurk around the corner, after all, even the best known sports body FIFA, which manages professional football worldwide, has fallen prey to corruption and malpractice. This is certainly not the first, nor the last we will hear on corruption in sports in India, but the onus of making an attempt to move towards a cleaner and better managed sporting nation lies with the government and all sports bodies managing respective sports in India.
BCCI, as the richest body controlling cricket, has a responsibility to all sports lovers the world over, and to all those associated directly and indirectly with the game in India, to stand up and take definitive action to make the body more transparent, efficient and professional, otherwise the courts will be forced to step in and do it for them. And this time, let ‘probity’ and ‘ethics’ top the agenda. The nation has had enough of this cozy club business!
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