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Updated: May 29, 2013 10:33 IST

Dhoni is gagged as cricket’s politicians close ranks

Vijay Lokapally
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Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni during a press conference in Mumbai before leaving for the Champions trophy on Tuesday.
PTI Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni during a press conference in Mumbai before leaving for the Champions trophy on Tuesday.

Five dot balls. All attempts by reporters to get Mahendra Singh Dhoni to say something, anything about the ongoing spot-fixing and betting scandal at a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday were met by smiles and silence, with a minder from the Board of Control for Cricket in India insisting that the five questions thrown at him be allowed to sail past without the Indian cricket captain putting bat to ball.

When asked about the scandal a few days back, former captain Rahul Dravid had compared the revelations to a “bereavement.” But at the press conference held on the eve of the Indian team’s departure for the Champions Trophy in England, the BCCI made sure there was no mourning. Each time an inconvenient question was asked — regarding spot-fixing or the Gurunath Meiyappan affair — a Board official who had accompanied Dhoni to the press meet indicated he should not answer. Though he had no obligation to do so — the contractual stipulation of not speaking to the media could hardly be made to apply to an official press conference — the normally hard-hitting Dhoni tamely complied with the gag order.

As of Tuesday evening, Indian cricket’s redemption from other quarters does not appear likely either. “Why are the people who sit in Parliament and State Assemblies and [who] demand resignations from corrupt members, even from the Prime Minister, silent now?” Kirti Azad, a BJP MP and former Test player asked The Hindu rhetorically, in an oblique reference to Arun Jaitley and Narendra Modi — two powerful politicians from his own party who are members of the BCCI board.

Though these leaders have refused to comment on the mounting evidence of corruption at the heart of game, another board member, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, broke his silence on the issue.

Asked about N. Srinivasan holding on to his post as Board president despite his son-in-law battling charges of betting on IPL fixtures, Scindia said, “I am not alleging that any individual is guilty.” “However, in the interest of propriety and probity and the question mark that is cast over the sport of cricket in India today ... and considering that there is a certain team under question, a certain conflict of interest, there is a certain individual family member involved in that episode… I would certainly expect and appeal to Mr. Srinivasan’s inner conscience that he step aside … in the interest of the sport,” he told NDTV on Tuesday.

He is part of the Board’s disciplinary committee and president of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association, which has one of its key officials, Sanjay Jagdale, functioning as the secretary of the Board.

Former Board president I. S. Bindra had on Monday demanded Mr. Srinivasan’s ouster. “I have been keeping quiet on this issue but his statement that he will not step down shows that he is as arrogant as ever. I demand that he should step down from the BCCI president’s position forthwith and not cause any more damage to Indian cricket which has been built on the sacrifices of a number of sports administrators and tremendous contribution of our icons,” Mr. Bindra had said in a statement.

As for the Board, a top official claimed, “We follow our procedure. There is a system in place. An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the truth. Once the committee finalises its report, the Board will take action according to the rules. In the past, too, we have acted in the interest of the game.”

However, the silence maintained by Board members cutting across political lines in their defence of Mr. Srinivasan — Arun Jaitley (Delhi), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Farooq Abdullah (Jammu and Kashnir), G. Vinod (Hyderabad), C.P. Joshi (Rajasthan) and Rajeev Shukla (Uttar Pradesh) — has not gone unnoticed.

As a veteran official claimed, “There was love of the game, not money, that drove us to serve the game. There were differences between (Jagmohan) Dalmiya and (Inderjit) Bindra but not at the cost of the game. But most of these politicians are only interested in self-promotion. They have little interest in the game but would not stop at extracting maximum mileage from cricket.”

A case in point is former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s attempts at seeking affiliation for his State in order to enter BCCI. For his part, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh hosted two IPL matches to showcase the bright points of his tenure.

A closer look reveals that officials from Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have not been able to improve cricket in their States. In spite of being among the more visible faces in the BCCI for years, Shukla and Farooq Abdullah have done little to use the funds to improve infrastructure in their States. In short, cricket there has not gained due to the presence of these politicians in the BCCI. Even Modi’s involvement in Gujarat cricket is minimal.

“Uttar Pradesh has Kanpur as a permanent Test centre but does not have a stadium of its own. J&K is notorious for being indifferent to the needs of its cricketers. Haryana, too, is no different. On the other hand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the two newest cricket centres, boast of world-class infrastructure. It is clear these politicians have only their own personal agenda to pursue,” said a senior Board official without mincing words.

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It is surprising that people are expecting politicians to take a moral call and ask Srinivasan to resign. Tomorrow, when one of their scams/misdeeds comes out, what will they do? Won't they have to heed calls for their resignation then? Plus, as somebody has already pointed out, when the entire culture of India is geared towards not taking any responsibility, why expect Srinivasan to be any different?
PM did not resign inspite of scam after scam; Sonia Gandhi with a orchestrated belligerant defence of her son-in-law probably became the guide to Srinivasan; our external affairs minister was threatening Kejriwal openly when caught; DMK cabal maintains they did no wrong; Sibal does not even concede any wrong, forget taking any responsibility; Yeddiyurappa had to be thrown out forcibly; Kerala politicians are a blot on society but refuse to go ...

So, why should Srinivasan go?

from:  Tom
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 17:43 IST

The political scums have not spared any field. Now its Cricket, which is loved by millions of cricket loving fans. It shameful that the Indian Government is keeping quiet from this scandal and nominating the panel members from within BCCI says it all. Good cover up. Billions of black money has changed to white money and don't know what causes it is going for (sure not for good causes) There is no scope for India to become a superpower as long as these corrupt politicians and bureaucrats rule the country. Scandals after scandals, no big fish ever arrested and give strict sentences. Billions of money is going to banks and personal investments abroad. We the citizens are to be blamed in a way for not protesting and making a change. News Channels including the leading ones are only after sensationalism but never follow it through. God bless India.

from:  G Murali
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 16:38 IST

If betting is legalized and monitored by government agencies, then the issue of black money and underworld links become irrelevant. Mafias and gangs are running the betting business because its illegal. By legalizing betting, we can eliminate the gangsters and their influence in the game.

from:  Bhaskaran Pulimoottil
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 15:37 IST

@Narayanan Sir, the problem here is bigger than losing faith in our cricketers. This is much bigger, simply because illegal betting and spot fixing is a way for corrupt people to wash their black money and turn it clean. The likes of Dawood, who have no love for India, see this as an easy way to pump black money into our country, which can be used for anything from drug trading to terrorism. The players who have been caught are small fry, compared to the real culprits, who have nefarious designs of the highest order.

from:  venkatesh
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 14:43 IST

Cannot agree more with Narayanan and Atul B.
We need more people who think like them.

from:  Sushant
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 14:31 IST

I see a lot of hulla hulla happening on the match fixing.I would like
to know what damage is done to the country in this case of betting.The
maximum damage can be that the faith on the players are wanning slowly
and people may doubt that if we are watching a "real match" or a fixed
match?But what damage it is causing to our nation's economy or the
entertainment of the people?People may turn slowly to other
entertainments from cricket .Why we are spending so much of energy and
time in this matter? It is a crime if the money is not accounted by
the betting agencies and the players.In this case our Income Tax shall
take necessary action to get the taxes paid by them.

from:  Narayanan
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 12:24 IST

Looks familiar. This is what our PM follows when faced with allegations of massive corruption. So others are copying now.

from:  Honga Singh
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 11:03 IST

i hate is awkwardness, why does everyone in bcci choose not to speak about elephant in the room. The blame game has started, its only a matter of time before everyone start pointing fingers at each other.Its about time, they accepted the problem and start taking necessary step to contain the damage already done.

from:  sundar
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 10:34 IST

What happened to the "Committees" and "Enquiries" in the Lalit Modi Case ? He is now happily enjoying his life in London, passing sarcastic comments on BCCI and BCCI appears not to hear him ! All these "Committees" and "Enquiries" will fizzle out before hefty "commissions" as we have seen in the past. Now perhaps the "Committee" membmers will spend more and more money on their "meetings" and "deliberations" from which nothing will come out. Further waste of time and money.

from:  V. Vedagiri
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 10:08 IST

Dhoni did right by remaining silent over the ongoing fixing scandal. Had
he said something, the news channels would have analysed his words from
all possible angles and would have come up with something sensational
which is the modus operandi of news channels these days.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 09:47 IST

Dhoni is also not an hero but common who worries about own life.

from:  Pavan
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 09:21 IST

What we see now a days are not cricket but politics of the worst kind.
Dhoni may be rewarded with MP post soon.To hell with BCCI and its dirty
way of making money

from:  mohanraj .j
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 09:01 IST

After (the disquiet) interview, Indian Cricket Captain M S Dhoni's rating fell to the level of 1/1.25 billion.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 08:59 IST

This conspiracy of silence is not going to help the BCCI in any way as more and more skeletons are set to tumble from the cupboard. Politicians are the bane of Indian cricket and the sooner they exit the scene the better. One is awestruck by the audacity of Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, a BCCI office bearer who pompously declares that without politicians there would be no cricket. Pray, what is the contribution of these worthies to the game? God save Indian cricket from the politicians and the BCCI.

from:  C V ARAVIND
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 06:10 IST

He might be addressing the press as VP of India cements, rather than the
captain of Indian cricket team. Shame that the cricketers are siding
with politicians rather than being transparent about the matter.

from:  rakesh
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 02:31 IST

when the entire country's affairs are on sale why is it a shock that cricket is exempt?It is the only game which we play well,organize well and it is our nature to be corrupt.
I like Mr Dhoni as a player and as a captain(probably the best we ever had).As a fan i sincerely pray that he is not involved.
There is no paucity of honest men.look at Dravid,Sreenath or Kumble and most likely many others i have not mentioned.
Does this revelation come as a surprise!?The bigger the tilak or "bottu" on your forehead the more crooked you are!!
"The fault my dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves"

from:  chivukula subrahmanyam
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 02:20 IST

The only way to stop corruption in Cricket is to IGNORE it. Please let this pathetic, lazy, colonial game die an unsung natural death, and let other, more active, energetic sports like football and hockey capture the imagination of the people.

Lets face it: the only reason there is so much corruption in the game is because there is a lot of money in it! Stop paying attention to the game, stop seeing and listening to those ads and the cheergirls, and the money will stop, and so will the corruption.

Let us play sports that make us more healthy, sports such as hockey, kabaddi, kho-kho, football, volleyball and basketball. Not this lazy game in which people get paid outsized amounts for sitting idle most of the time! Its about time India wins an Olympic medal too!

from:  Atul B
Posted on: May 29, 2013 at 01:56 IST
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