A game is a game only if it is pristine and free from any sporting fraud. While making this observation on Thursday in its much awaited verdict on the IPL spot–fixing case, the Supreme Court asked: can the BCCI afford to lose its credibility because of sporting frauds? After this hard rap on its knuckles from the apex court, the BCCI needs to introspect. But that might be too much to expect, considering the brazen and thick–skinned manner it has gone about its ways. For long, czars like N Srinivasan and Jagmohan Dalmia have run the BCCI like persol fiefs, its fincial transactions totally opaque, where cronyism rules the roost, with governce and accountability mostly missing. The tiol governing body for cricket in India, BCCI is registered as a society, operates like a private club consortium and claims to be a charitable organization. One of the richest sporting bodies in the world, the BCCI has begun paying taxes only recently. Criticising the Indian State for not making any law to check BCCI’s monopoly, the Supreme Court has now made it clear that its functions are in the public domain and open to judicial review. In particular, the apex court has taken serious issue with the conflict of interest in BCCI, striking down the amendment of Rule 6.2.4 of its constitution, which allowed board officials to have commercial interests or own a team. Terming this amendment at the behest of Srinivasan as the real ‘villain’, the apex court has said that conflict of interest in cricket leads to great confusion, negating its very essence.
The Supreme Court has now barred cricket administrators having commercial interests from contesting for BCCI posts. This means Srinivasan cannot participate in the BCCI elections to be held six weeks from now unless he gives up his commercial interests. He has been told to choose between BCCI or Cheni Super Kings, the IPL franchise owned by India Cements of which he is the maging director. Earlier forced to step aside from the post of BCCI president by the apex court to allow a fair probe into the spot fixing and illegal betting scandal in which his son–in–law Guruth Meiyappan had been indicted, Srinivasan still went on to take over as the chairman of the Intertiol Cricket Council. This strikingly demonstrated India’s clout in the ICC as the country which can guarantee the largest cricketing revenue, never mind Team India’s recent falling graph in the field. About the allegations of covering up misdeeds in the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League, the Supreme Court has given Srinivasan a clean chit. But it has ruled that Guruth Meiyappan and Rajasthan Royals franchise co–owner Raj Kundra were involved in illegal betting, while the allegations against IPL COO Sundar Raman need to be probed further. The court has also set up a three–member committee headed by ex–chief justice RM Lodha to decide the action against Cheni Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, as also the quantum of punishment to Meiyappan and Kundra.
The rot in the BCCI is symptomatic of the sorry state of affairs affecting most of the country’s sporting bodies. The Supreme Court has itself remarked earlier that it is a ‘sad commentary’ that people who are sports administrators have nothing to do with sports and they run the bodies at the cost of the game. Various sports federations have been hijacked by politicians and bureaucrats with little knowledge of the game; their corruption, mismagement and endless intriguing have created an atmosphere where athletes and coaches are treated with disdain. In 2012, the Intertiol Olympic Committee even suspended the Indian Olympic Association due to its politicking and tainted officials manipulating votes to stay in power. Cricket in Assam too has been a victim of this malaise with the tainted duo of Gautam Roy and Bikash Baruah having a stranglehold on the Assam Cricket Association for over a dozen years now. Repeated allegations of graft in team selection, the never ending construction of the cricket stadium at Barshapara and other irregularities have left them unfazed. Baruah even had the temerity to distribute among mediapersons doctored photographs showing him with Kolkata Knight Riders team owner Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone. Over the years, many cricketers in the country have been banned, fined and even arrested for involvement in spot fixing, match fixing and illegal betting. The nexus between cricketers, bookies and racketeers have given Indian cricket a bad me. The ethos of the 22 yards game of white flannels has been besmirched thanks to such vel administrators and dishonest cricketers. It is high time the government, prodded no doubt by the courts, takes the lead in overhauling the structure and magement of the BCCI, ects tougher laws to clean up the game and imposes harsh pelties on errant custodians and players of the noble game.