While deeply disturbing, the betting and spot-fixing scandal the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been embroiled in actually afforded the Board of Control for Cricket in India the opportunity to cleanse and reform itself. But with reports emerging that the BCCI’s probe panel investigating the matter had found no evidence of wrongdoing against anyone, it is difficult to dispel the feeling that the operation was a cover-up, not a clean-up. There had always been questions regarding the constitution of the panel. It was an act of opacity, like so many of the Indian Board’s decisions. It came to be known that the panel had been appointed without a formal meeting of the IPL’s governing council. Two of the governing council’s eight members weren’t aware of who had constituted the panel. Two others had consented over the phone. Sanjay Jagdale, a man with a reputation of being clean, resigned as Board secretary and left the panel, raising more concerns. With the Bombay High Court observing on Tuesday that the panel was “illegal and unconstitutional,” it’s clear the concerns weren’t unfounded.
The larger point, however, pertains to the relevance of the panel’s findings. It isn’t known if Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, or Gurunath Meiyappan, first “team principal” then “enthusiast” with Chennai Super Kings, deposed. But neither the Mumbai nor Delhi Police, the investigating agencies with the evidence, did. On what basis, then, did the panel conclude that nothing untoward had happened? If the sole purpose of forming the panel was to discover if BCCI president N. Srinivasan was involved in any serious wrongdoing, the Board needn’t have bothered. For nobody accused him of falling foul of the laws of the land. But if the BCCI was keen to embark on a course of principled self-scrutiny to establish its credibility in the eyes of the public, it should have waited for the Mumbai police to frame charges and then sought legal counsel. Indeed the Board hasn’t bothered to address the central issue — the conflicts of interest that, beginning at the very top, run right through its structure. The BCCI cannot forever take shelter behind being a ‘private body’. Nothing in Indian sport is quite as public. Without the public support the game has, the BCCI could never have wielded the sort of clout it does in world cricket. Yet it seems to want to enjoy power without responsibility, particularly towards the game’s fans. It operates like a strictly private club, most of whose members appear to swear by a code of Omertà. It is imperative that the Board make its decisions and dealings more transparent. Failure to do so can only invite greater judicial and legislative scrutiny.