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Updated: May 26, 2013 12:40 IST

In the grip of greed

K. Venkataramanan
Comment (13)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal has put India’s cricket establishment in the dock and left fans wondering whether the sport will ever regain its lost image as a gentleman’s game

Indian cricket is in ferment. Its credibility is all but lost in a crisis caused by the apathy of the body that controls it. For years, the game’s popularity has functioned as a shield to its administrators, who could afford to ignore signs of irregularities, obvious conflicts of interest and creeping venality. From the time Delhi police arrested three players, it was clear that the rot was not confined to them or one or two of their associates operating in the periphery of Indian Premier League franchises: betting no more seems to be an extraneous activity involving shadowy groups outside the cricket establishment, but part of it may be an auxiliary of the system itself.

The scandal has reached the highest level in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with the arrest of B. Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of the country’s top cricket administrator, N. Srinivasan. For over two days after the Mumbai police made public the Gurunath connection, Mr. Srinivasan and his son-in-law had nothing to say. It was the sort of silence that can only be explained by the fear of exposure, and not confidence that they are above board. It was also of a piece with the disdain the cricket establishment has shown towards all criticism and any demand for transparency over the years.

The Indian cricket board undoubtedly enjoys pre-eminent status among national sporting associations, and the reason is obvious: its massive financial clout. It is not dependent on the government for funds, a good thing perhaps, in the context of the need for autonomy for sports in the country. Its national market has the largest broadcast audience among cricket-playing nations and its television and marketing rights are, therefore, the costliest. According to a KPMG-FICCI report, IPL-V had a total viewership of 122 million in India, much higher than the number of eyeballs generated by the Olympic Games or the soccer World Cup in the country. The BCCI’s average annual turnover between 2007-08 and 2009-10 was fixed by the Competition Commission of India, the fair trade regulator, at Rs. 870 crore. Six per cent of this, or Rs. 52 crore, was the penalty that the regulator imposed on the board for abusing its dominant position in the game and denying market access to its competitors. It is no surprise that cricket administration in India attracts the neta and the lala who compete for ostensibly honorary positions in the establishment.

Much of the revenue in world cricket depends on the Indian market, giving an imperial status to the BCCI among cricket-playing nations, and it plays the superpower to the hilt, often browbeating smaller nations into toeing its line on key administrative matters of the International Cricket Council. The monopolistic nature of BCCI’s functioning undermines the notion of cricket, or any sport, for that matter, as a public activity that belong to its players and fans. The board’s policies, especially with regard to clauses that players aspiring to play at the state or national level will have to accept, have been questioned in the past by players and courts. Even though the Supreme Court, by a narrow 3-2 majority, declared that BCCI was not ‘State’ within the meaning of the Constitution, none can dispute that there is a public dimension to its role in regulating and controlling the game. Its claim that the team it fields in international events represents the BCCI, and not the country, and its stout resistance to suggestions that sports bodies come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, have been seen as attempts to evade its accountability to the public. This is not to contend that it should be besieged with queries from fans on every aspect of the game, especially team selection. Rather, it should follow norms attached to public bodies for awarding contracts and rights, and must be seen to be doing so. Its actions should be free from arbitrariness or discrimination.

About 35 years ago, Australian cricket reeled under the onslaught of Kerry Packer’s parallel tournaments. The danger then was that the game was sought to be hijacked by commercial interests. Today, it is no more a cricket versus commerce issue: the BCCI has demonstrated that the two can be synonymous.

In 1995, the Supreme Court decided a dispute between the BCCI and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry over Doordarshan’s right to telecast cricket events on the terrestrial plane even while satellite broadcast rights were given to a private party. Airwaves are public property, and the use of airwaves should be regulated by a public, rather than a government, authority, the apex court said. Similarly, cricket, the game, its values and spirit, must be accepted by the Indian cricket establishment as public property, and its regulation and organisation left to a genuinely public authority, neither a government-sanctioned body nor a cabal of private interests. National legislation is required to ensure this for all sports so that dubious business and political elements do not have a stranglehold on any game.

venkataramanan.k.@thehindu.co.in

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Finally, politics has found its equal - cricket - in corruption. And the Common Man does not mind being conned - once again.

from:  Raju
Posted on: May 27, 2013 at 19:56 IST

IPL has given a new dimension to dull cricket test matches that take 5 days and yield no results. IPL brought business/sports/entertainment into one platform filling the grounds to the brim. All games (except may be golf) are full of scandals and cricket is not an exception. It is better to move forward and make it cleaner and transparent. Betting is acceptable and not a crime but fixing is a crime and should have no place in any game.One has to be careful not to throw the baby with the bath water or kill the goose laying golden eggs.

from:  bcmanyan
Posted on: May 27, 2013 at 12:43 IST

Today, BCCI is most powerful amongst all Cricket Control Boards in the world. This
is because of its immense financial power.This power has been derived by the mad
crowds the game is able to attract in India. Converting the passion of the crowds
into a money spinner has been aided by live telecast and commercials seen by
millions around the world.Where there are passionate crowds,betting cannot lag
behind.Where there is betting, fixing bound to be there. So,it is people thronging
cricket stadia who are responsible for the malaise of betting and fixing. Also,
where there are both money and people,politicians have to be around,explaining
why politicians are keen to head even State Cricket Associations,hoping one day to
graduate to head BCCI. The way a politician is made or marred by people's vote,the
day people shy away from cricket,the game would die instantly. Betting,fixing and
the politicians would disappear from cricket. No law can curb betting as long as
cricket stadia are packed.

from:  KS Raghunathan
Posted on: May 27, 2013 at 00:45 IST

To all the True Lovers of the game of Cricket. Please fight to remove corruption in this game. CSK owners must be punished.
BCCI must come out clean and the game must be administered by Cricket loving people an not by politicians.

from:  jonathan
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 19:22 IST

Spot fixing is a symptom of the illness in our society. As long as the emphasis is on making money and greed is taught to be good,there will be more such instances

from:  Hari Duraiswami
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 18:07 IST

The lust for money was never so strong.All the work
ethics,integrity,probity et. al. were not so shadowed ever.The evil eyes
of the greed has personified itself in such a way today that its grip is
like impossible to get rid of.Earning money from justified ways have
become a thing of past.

For sure , our love has lost its gentleman's tag.

from:  mohit kumar
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 17:35 IST

What is all this hullabaloo all about? The folks involved in cricket betting are doing what is largely happening throughout the country. Morals have gone out of the window and greed has become the over riding pre-occupation of all our countrymen, may it be the folks in the President and Prime Minister's offices, the bevy of ministers, our Civil Servants down to the scavenger cleaning the roads. So why are we blaming a few officials in the BCCI, CSK or the other teams? All that these folks have done, though despicable, just mirrors the current national sentiment prevailing in the country.

from:  Venkat
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 16:14 IST

The Central Government instead bringing in legislation on ban on betting etc., should first direct the BCCI to conduct properly all the domestic trophy matches every year. Why can't the central government and cricket suggest the BCCI and ICC to approve Three day matches trophies to one day and one day trophy matches to T20, so that local talent are encouraged. Let the BCCI call for franchises for the three and one day domestic cricket events and earn money and pay well the players too, so that, events like IPL or etc T20 events does not attract much the bookies and others in international level match betting or fixing etc. I hope all the cricket fans will definitely write to the BCCI as well as to the Central Government greed and muddy affair can be curtailed.

from:  TR.Madhavan
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 15:40 IST

What was started by Lalit
Is indeed a franchise of bandits.
Money and fame
Inflicted the ill fated game
O..cricket,you said..?
That is long dead, long long DEAD

from:  vishwas
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 14:49 IST

India needs soul searching, this has become national passion and
identity to make illegal and fast money. India had a chance to become a
cricket super power eliminating western monopoly instead she disgraced
the sport and earned the most corrupt nation and heaven for bookies in
the world.

It will be a shame not to admit bookies in Bombay bets billions of
rupees in illegal bets and are supported by the influential people and
politicians in India. I am wondering how will India dump there disgrace
on Pakistan this time instead of doing the honorable thing accepting
the truth that is.
The cure only is achieved after accepting there is a disease, that is
gambling in this case.

from:  akash
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 14:49 IST

I have grown over by adolescent obsession with cricket.

I feel sad when I see so many hundreds of millions (perhaps) in this
country who are still fascinated by this tamasha called cricket.

Nothing will change of course in terms of all the corruption.

Let me make one or two predictions:

1) TRPs might tumble not so much because cricket has "lost
credibility" because of the betting scandals or anything of that
nature but rather because there's simply TOO MUCH of it overall.

2) Then, we might see other 'manufactured' *controversies* such as

(A) 'wardrobe malfunctions'

(B) upskirt photos of celebrities without panties

Do I really have to "explain" how all these will pan out?

No.

from:  Sachi Mohanty
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 14:16 IST

Srinivasan please go, go for the Game's sake.You are not bulldozed by anybody but by yourself. What you said during the arrest of the three tainted players same goes for you as well.

from:  archit
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 13:46 IST

In the 80s and 90s, whenever India vs Pakistan matches were played in
Sharjah and other places, how many underworld Dons looted money both in
India and abroad is a story we do not want to remember now. It was the
seed which has taken poisonous roots and even today it is glaring how
Bollywood, underworld and cricket are bonded to loot money from the
innocent public.

from:  SARANATHAN
Posted on: May 26, 2013 at 12:04 IST
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