Opinion » Lead

Updated: May 29, 2013 00:23 IST

All the president’s men

Suresh Menon
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The cricket board has come out of the betting scandal as a toothless body with its focus on protecting its chief, the IPL and its chairman, not the sport

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the Indian Premier League scandal has been the indifference of the public to the revelations. Television channels have been covering the story in the manner of a soap opera where the ambient sound is a continuous screech. Yet, the match-going public was unaffected; so much so that N. Srinivasan, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, uncharacteristically thanked the people for their support. This is the first recorded instance of the BCCI president acknowledging that the audience is a part of any sporting spectacle.

But that was then. Now, fortified by the support of his cohorts in the BCCI, the brief vulnerability is gone, the arrogance is back. And Chennai Super Kings were given the Fair Play Award. What better way of rubbing the face of cricket lovers into the dirt?

Short-lived fantasy

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the fans had refused to turn up at Eden Gardens for the final, forcing it to be played before an empty stadium? Alone among the stakeholders in the sport, they have the power to force the cricket board to clean up its act, first by keeping away from matches and then by boycotting the products of the sponsors involved in the IPL. That fantasy was, however, short-lived.

Another fantasy: players with the integrity of Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid take a stand. Dravid has spoken of the ‘bereavement’ he and his teammates at Rajasthan Royals felt at the turn of events. But more needs to be done. The team that ensured India kept its dignity and sanity despite a captain and other players being found guilty of match-fixing 13 years ago needs to come together a second time. Add Sourav Ganguly, Javagal Srinath, V.V.S. Laxman, Venkatesh Prasad to the group above. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.

But then, as Saurabh Somani has suggested in his column in, perhaps Indian cricket survived not so much because of the integrity of its players as the indifference of the general public to the scandals.

In that case, the Indian public is reacting on the right lines. And that is even more depressing than the stories of betting and fixing tumbling out now.

If stories of the unhappiness of the sponsors are true — and which sponsor would like to be associated with a tainted product — money, which is the root of all evil might, in this case, be the root of all good. More than the public, the sponsors hold the key in the IPL which has been characterised as a means for billionaires to get together and make more money, and hang the sport.

Sadly, even the media, now so critical of the shenanigans in the IPL, saw no contradiction in reporting the playoff and the final matches in its usual breathless manner when it too could have taken a stand by either ignoring the matches altogether or dismissing them in a single paragraph.

Board of Compromises

The BCCI, once again the Board of Compromises for Cricket in India, has come across as a toothless body — although what is really missing is a couple of other body parts — focussing on protecting the Board president, the IPL and its chairman, His Oiliness Rajiv Shukla, when its stated aim is to protect the sport.

Why aren’t enough people feeling bad about the scandal? Is it because it is a minor one compared to the huge money and bigger politicians involved in, say, the coal allotment scam? Is it because we have all been numbed by the regular excavation of dirt in other areas? Is it because we are convinced nothing will change?

To say that cricket is a reflection of society is glib. It is an artificial construct, with man-made rules and human expectations. For that very reason, it must follow a moral code that places it above the daily dealings of society. We inject meaning into sport which is essentially a meaningless activity, and with that we also inject morality and expect a higher standard of behaviour from those connected with it. Cricket is a philosophy that cannot be a mere reflection of society but something society must aspire to, with its emphasis on ethics, fair play and teamwork. If Sreesanth cheats on his girlfriend, that is a private matter. But if he cheats on the cricket field, he has no place in decent society.

Mr. Srinivasan remains BCCI president secure in the knowledge that the public doesn’t care if the IPL is a version of WWE wrestling, comforted by the fact that self-interest will guide the actions of his colleagues in the Board (right now self-interest coincides with the president’s interest), that if he brazens it out long enough, the media will grow tired of the story and move on to other scandals so thoughtfully provided by our men and women in public life. His argument for hanging on is disingenuous since no one is accusing him of complicity. He needs to go because the inquiry must not only be fair but seen to be fair. This is an issue of propriety that simply bounces off the president’s thick skin, making no impression whatsoever.

Not even the unsubtle efforts at blackmail by his associates — Rajiv Shukla and the opportunistic Subroto Roy Sahara — made any difference. Mr. Shukla’s attempts to round up the troops against Mr. Srinivasan came to nought. No knight in shining armour, not Arun Jaitley, not Narendra Modi — both of whom are board members — emerged to take the BCCI out of the mire of corruption. Mr. Roy’s threat of pulling out as sponsor of the Indian team if Mr. Srinivasan continued in office was laughed out of consideration by those who profit with Mr. Srinivasan in office rather than by having a do-gooder take over the reins.

Jumping on to the bandwagon to provide comic relief is former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, appearing like a cross between Mother Teresa and a cuckoo clock, telling us at hourly intervals how pure he is, and how Mr. Srinivasan is the fount of all evil. This, from a man who once addressed Mr. Srinivasan as ‘darling’ and was a party to condoning Mr. Srinivasan’s original conflict of interest — acquiring an IPL franchise (Chennai Super Kings) when he is a crucial part of the board that administers and polices cricket in India.

The targets

There is a lesson for the BCCI in the manner in which the bookies approach the vulnerable. The disaffected, the unhappy, the weak are natural targets. If a bookie could tell that someone like Sreesanth was some of the above, surely that should have occurred to the psychologists in the team and the Players’ Association too?

But then neither exists, and that is a part of the problem. Counselling, an important part of keeping sportsmen mentally fit, and a players’ association focussed on the well-being of the player, are alien concepts simply because of an archaic misunderstanding which equates players’ associations with trade unions.

In the last week of the IPL, the competition was off the field: between the police departments of Delhi and Mumbai, between Mr. Srinivasan and the truth, between news channel and news channel. We are a long way from the end.

Spot-fixing has followed the pattern of corruption scandals in India: initially, the authorities deny everything. Then they brazen it out. A commission of inquiry is promised. Responses thereafter are along the lines of “let the law take its course.” Occasionally a scapegoat is found who is way down the pecking order leaving the real culprits to continue in positions of power.

What next? Will Mr. Srinivasan claim that Gurunath Meiyappan is not his son-in-law either?

(Suresh Menon is Editor, Wisden India Almanack)

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Where is the direct charge against Mr Srinivasan?Why should he be answerable for his son in law's alleged involment in betting scandals?By the same analogy was not UPA chirperson,Sonia Gandhi answerable for her son in law Robert Vadra's scams in Haryana land deals?Did anybody ask Sonia to resign?Or for that matter was Sharad Pawar held responsible for his nephew Ajit Pawar's mind boggling corruption as Maharashtra agricultural minister?Only Farooq Abdulla has made a fair comment that Srinivasan cannot be asked to resign for his son in law's alleged role in betting scams.

from:  S.S.Nagaraj
Posted on: May 30, 2013 at 13:12 IST

Cricket has become a victim of parallel economy run by black money and
the gullible public are taken for a ride. the spectators have to become
wiser. The government has to step in and divest BCCI of its surplus
revenues unaccounted for and distribute them for the development of
other games. A "Sports emergency" has to be declared for the health of
the nation and rest of the sports.

Posted on: May 30, 2013 at 12:52 IST

It is odd that Mr Menon is perplexed by public indifference to the IPL scandals. But
why should the public care? The public does not care when for far more serious
scams in society - be it in coal, 2G, fertilisers, food grains...

And if past history is anything to go by, I wouldnt be surprised if Sreesanth gets
elected to Parliament. Since ⅓ of sitting MPs face criminal charges of some sort, he
wouldnt be totally at sea. The moot question is whether he would join Congress to
brush shoulders with Mohammad Azharuddin - another match fixer cum MP - or
whether he would join the BJP whose ranks include a certain Navjot Sidhu.

Mr Menon writes “To say that cricket is a reflection of society is glib”. Sorry, in
India, as elsewhere, cricket is indeed a reflection of society. And corruption which
is part and parcel of India naturally manifests itself in cricket too.

Sad but not surprising that India’s Sreesanths emulate the Azharuddins of the
game & not the Pataudis & Prasannas.

from:  V.Suresh
Posted on: May 30, 2013 at 12:42 IST

I really feel that IPL is a total time wastage for a cricketer's career (especially domestic players).Its a total entertainment package for majority of present Indian viewers, which is really shocking because people now like players clearing the boundaries rather than seeing a match saving session. IPL for retired players is like a nicotine patches because this game has been like a drug addiction for them and obviously they cannot suddenly leave it, its a slow process. This T20 format will never be able to test the skills which are actually required for the game. Potential domestic players and young stars like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina should not play this formats, they should be send outside during the breaks to play county cricket in other countries just like what Rahul Dravid did. This will help them alter their game accord to foreign pitches and improve their game eventually. I really hope BCCI thinks over the issues from a players perspective and help them improve their game.

from:  Saumya Trivedi
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 22:42 IST

This is the season of fallen angels, right from politicians to bureaucrats, from Generals to Police officers, from public figures to god-men, from judges to movie stars and now we add cricket to this nauseating cocktail. The only entity laughing all the way to the bank and with impunity is the self-righteous media. And we the helpless public is resigned to its fate. God save this country.

from:  Kannadiga
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 22:18 IST

writer is correct when he says cricket should not be a mere reflection of society, but in Indian context it absolutely reflects our society. we as a society do not feel ashamed of scandals, scams or conspiracies. we even speak great about people who earn either by hook or crook, not even concerned about the security threats these pose to our nation.

from:  C N PRASAD
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 22:09 IST

Cricket lovers should stop watching since one is not sure which game is fake and which is not.

Could there be an Independent and impartial inquiry to all IPL matches ? There is no such thing in India as independent and impartial.

from:  Madhu Nair
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 21:15 IST

The statement that Mr. Srinivasan will claim that Gurunath is not his
son-in-law is in very bad taste. The author should withdraw the
How can you expect fairness from the media when Mr. Modi and Mr.
Subrotho are called as witnesses? The media has completely lost its
credibility on account this.

from:  S. Ramamurthy
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 20:07 IST

They are playing blame game with each other. I think this is a wake up call for BCCI and cricket in India to release the control of sport from the hands of politicians and stop functioning as a high profile money making club. Rather develop the sport with the money they are making.

from:  M.Hari Prasad
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 17:31 IST

Two franchises, the Deccan Chargers and the Kochi Tuskers, had their franchise agreements terminated on grounds that are far more trivial than this, yet we now have both Srinivasan and the Chennai Super Kings still firmly around after transgressions that are far more serious. It is indeed the rot in the BCCI governing body that needs to be addressed. Srinivasan has to go and so should the CSK franchise!

from:  Venkatesh
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 16:23 IST

Writer seems to be desperate to shower curse on the board and the
people involved in the corruption. Urging people to boycott matches,
senior players to unite against it- Hail the power of speech in a
democratic country.
Cricket has had similar problems in the past and will come out the
winner and those involved will be taken care of by the police and the
court. People tend to dramatize and aggravate things by indulging too
much into it. Let the BCCI, Police and Court do their duty,they are
more qualified than us and thats the reason this they are there!
And if you think game of cricket is all fixed and cheating, stop
watching it. Period. No cricket lover would stop watching it just
because something bad was done by people who don't know the value of
the game!

from:  Sarath Krishnan
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 14:19 IST

Mr. Srinivasan has proved that he is a better politician than the harden politician in the BCCI. He took on all of them and came out a winner.

from:  M. S. Gharat
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 14:13 IST

Suresh Menon has hit the nail on the head against all, except himself, begging the question Why?Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan fits easily on his biased articulation here.When IPL was a success no one dared to question anything associated with the game's brazenness - the glamour, glitz, sleaze,money, muscle etc..which was all pervading and unobtrusively hitting our eyes and pricking our conscience all along.Now when the IPL is in a dock, every sportswriter wants to take a stick and become the game's headmaster and crucify all the bad things, which just a week ago was great going. All of us have to share the blame here. Every person who watches, writes,sponsors, administers and plays are equally responsible for the present scenario.Including Suresh Menon, if he should so choose not to fit in any category listed above.Give the Game a chance. Give the IPL a chance.After all, the IPL has kept the nation involved as ONE, but let us cleanse the game first.

from:  vijaysekar
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 13:44 IST

First of all, why is Cricket being governed by politicians who have no credentials or knowledge about the dynamics of the game whatsoever.Secondly the silence of officials related to BCCI just shows the rot and dirt in the existing system. Havent we learnt anything from the Commonwealth Games Scam.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 13:30 IST

It is not that people are not shocked by the latest fixing scandals,but currently there are so many scams and frauds happening around us that everyone has lost faith in the government and other concerned bodies.There are lots of scams pending in courts but no one has been convicted yet.So,people dont think that BCCI like independent body is going to resolve these scams.

from:  Sumit
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 13:09 IST

Here is hard hitting article, thanks to Suresh Menon. He laments, 'Perhaps the most
amazing aspect of the Indian Premier League scandal has been the indifference of
the public to the revelations.' In some sense the media has to be blamed for all the
hype they have made of this sport. The volume of media attention and publicity
given cannot match what is being revealed and the efforts to grab public attention
over injustice done to the game. We are a country of people where we gain over
negative publicity! That is really pity and pathetic of this nation.

from:  A. Raj
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 12:51 IST

This is indeed a bereavement, not only for Rahul Dravid, but for every soul in this country where people eat cricket, drink cricket, sleep cricket and what not. Lalit Modi accusing N Srinivisan is simply senseless and egregious. He was the IPL commissioner and should not have allowed any conflict of interest at the first place. IPL is not an evil, but it certainly one of those roots deep within, leading to corruption. It can certainly be continued cleanly but unfortunately couldn't, just because some politicians are more interested in their benefits, instead of this holy game. Let the gentleman's game be a gentleman's game

from:  Naman Vishnoi
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 12:47 IST

Time and again in the recent past every projects (2G, Coal, IPL etc.)
which involve many stakeholders and impacting people of India are
executed with corruption and huge scam.

Leaders & public figures from all walks of life (Politicians,
administrators, film starts, cricketers etc.), spend good amount of
their time in facing corruption, finding loopholes in system to getaway,
etc.,seldom focus on the job of what they are asked and expected to do.

This is changing face of India. The young India is watching this and
emulating in day to day life.

It is unfortunate and wondering where we are going with these ...

from:  Dakshinamurthy
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 11:52 IST

I think certain portions of this article is an apt reflection of what
I've been thinking. The players mentioned in this article, Dravid and
co., and if possible current players, need to stand-up to the board and
say they will not continue representing India if the board doesn't get
it's affairs in order. The fact is that persons running the BCCI see
cricket as a business to make money. The sooner everyone (including the
players) realizes this, the better.

from:  Naren Bhartwaj
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 11:37 IST

The article is very biased and accuses Mr. Srinivasan as the primary
person behind the whole episode. There seems to be a slandering campaign
against Mr.Srinivasan who has faced several hurdles this IPL season.
Protests against Sri Lankan players playing, closing down of MAC stadium
and now the spot fixing accusation.

from:  Mani Desik
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 11:22 IST

Even I was surprised to hear crowd roaring when Ravi Shastri announced
the presence of Mr. Srinivasan in the final presentation ceremony.Who
are we fooling by following cricket, keeping our eyes and ears
closed.Situation has deteriorated to an extent that when three
continuous wickets of a team fall in quick succession, even a 12-year-
old takes no time to comment that "the match must be fixed".

from:  Luv Sharma
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 11:17 IST

Cricket has become a racket.Congratulations to Suresh Menon for expressing the anxiety of the common man.It is time the BCCI is cleansed of all the "DIRT" and made to do what is expected of a sport body-encourage clean sports!

from:  premnathtm
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 10:39 IST

All the media is shouting from the top of the voice, where did these ethics and standards go when there were reports of there own men were part of 2G, and paid news episode. Did they resign on moral grounds?Its like a crow saying another crow you are black.

from:  Santhana
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 10:23 IST

It is sad to read such a biased article. According to him BCCI president
is the sole culprit, which is yet to be probed. We as a fan still love
to watch our favorite players playing the game which is in our DNA. Bad
blood is always there but that doesn't mean the whole game is bad. If
someone has a problem then i request them to stay aloof of the game and
instead watch our national game and raise the viewership of it.

from:  Akshay Dhadda
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 10:18 IST

Mr. Suresh Menon is bewildered by public reaction to the spot fixing scandal and its media coverage. But citizens too are as bewildered as he is and are perhaps confused, too. They notice double standards when it comes to scandals related to politicians and others. When valid accusations of misuse of office were made against former chief minister of Karnataka Shri Yeddyurappa, BJP took action only after about ten months. In case of Andhra Pradesh of former chief minister Shri YSR Reddy, every one knows that no action was taken when he was alive. But after his death and after his son revolted against the Congress party, the whole world came to know how late Shri YSR Reddy might have misused his powers to make huge money and amass properties. The son is in jail and is facing court cases for disproportionate assets. How many tainted ministers hold office in various States? I feel that citizens would respond only when they see some sensible uniformity in responses of the police.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 08:40 IST

One reason I can think of why people are still turning to the grounds for IPL matches is that they may see it as entertainment hang out evening rather than a sporting event.

from:  Mahesh J
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 08:28 IST

It is quite natural for cricketers to safe guard each other following the adage " Birds of a feather flock together". Each one has to protect each other.

from:  B S GANESH
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 07:51 IST

I think one of the reason for apathy towards cheating is the type of crowd which watches IPL. They are no "purists", and have been attracted towards it more because of glamour and hype rather than the interests for the game.As such,they are unaffected.

from:  Ishendra
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 06:40 IST

If we make one thing clear, there will be no confussion. BCCI is another profit making company (what is it on records, nobody bothers) and public watch its events as reality shows. The stomachache of some indivisuals (ethics and morality and national pride) do not matter to commoners. Like film industry, we can call it cricket industry or more generally, sports industry and that's it. It is better if we do not get imotional.

from:  Anil Karn
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 06:35 IST

Very well written. Hope it sensitizes people who matter. Really feel let down by this whole episode. Jai Hind!
Kumar, USA

from:  Kumar
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 03:44 IST

Are we expecting ordinary folks who've already purchased IPL final
tickets months in advance to simply boycott the event?

from:  A Sen
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 03:18 IST

This is a scary trend of our society indeed, much larger than Cricket(oh I forgot, Cricket is larger than life in India!). Corruption does not affect a vast majority of us, we have come to accept it in every step and walk of our life. I have seen people bribing officials, even if the work could be be done without one. It has become so ingrained in our social fabric. We have forgotten to protest, since that needs some sacrifice, even if it is as harmless as not watching the IPL final at Eden Gardens. The apple of sin has indeed been eaten from the garden of Eden.

from:  Shivaji Banerjee
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 01:45 IST

Rich and famous of India have invented their own Las Vegas in the form of IPL and
the cricketers are their rolling dice! Only difference is that IPL is dishonest.

from:  Diva Das
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 01:40 IST
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