New name, old wound

For more than a decade now, the BCCI has been in serious need of self-regulation

June 01, 2013 11:10 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 08:19 pm IST

Is it the end of the road for N. Srinivasan in the Board of Control for Cricket in India? The question that has loomed large ever since the BCCI President’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, was arrested by the Crime Branch of the Mumbai city police last week may be answered on Sunday afternoon at the Emergency Working Committee Meeting of the Board in Chennai.

But it was a rather convenient question to come up with during an inconvenient time in Indian cricket. And its resolution, at best, may be a kind of quick fix that would, for the time being, push all the slush to a corner, out of the public gaze.

It is as unlikely to herald a new era in the administration of Indian cricket as it is to eradicate, once and for all, the life-sapping pollutants of the game in this country.

When pushed to a corner, giant institutions with a history of bad governance and palace intrigues move rather lethargically; and once they do, they are rather quick to zoom in on a scapegoat.

This is not to say that Mr. Srinivasan’s continuance at the helm of affairs is any more tenable, but only to point to the inevitable conclusion: nothing has changed in Indian cricket, and nothing will, for some time to come.

Even a few of us who were, not long ago, wooly-eyed optimists, now know that the entire system is so deeply mired in corruption that it would take a leap of faith to believe that a meaningful transformative shift has come about in a short time, no matter whose head is on the block.

To promote a sport as popular and prosperous as cricket is in this country, what is needed is a capacious vision. But what we do have in its place is petty politics. Where missionary zeal is needed, we have mercenary deal-making.

Those who have claimed the moral high ground in the BCCI today — as if in a serendipitous moment of epiphany — cannot ever persuade the knowledgeable among us that they actually deserve that pedestal. For this is a sports administration in which fortune does not favour the brave; it almost always goes the way of men who have political savvy.

Mr. Srinivasan himself displayed plenty of it during his mercurial rise to the top. But it may not be enough for him to find redemption in this critical hour.

The Chennai-based cricket supremo’s weakness has never had anything to do with political shrewdness, or the lack of it, to be precise. On the other hand, it was an overdose of political adrenaline that saw him grow to a point where he came to believe in his own invincibility.

But hasn’t life always taught us that the mightiest among us are invincible only so long as we are not proved vincible?

If the man who changed the rules brazenly to allow himself to become the owner of an Indian Premier League team — the Chennai Super Kings — while also holding on to the reins of power in the Board finds himself on the dock today, then he is a victim of his own hubristic self-image. He became a prisoner of his own narcissistic narrative.

Then again, where were all these good men — the ones who have made possible Sunday’s meeting where Srinivasan’s fate might be decided — when the rules were amended to accommodate the CSK owner’s overlapping agendas?

Where were these do-gooders of Indian cricket when K. Srikkanth, a Brand Ambassador of Chennai Super Kings, was also the Chairman of the Selection Committee?

Perhaps good men absent themselves when these things happen — or so they would like us to believe now with all their made-for-television hand-wringing and hyperventilating.

And to pretend that the latest spot-fixing tsunami has mortally wounded Indian cricket with a devastating stake through its heart is rather naïve. The great game has been on life-support for quite a while in this vast country where tens of millions of men, women and children are captivated by it.

And successive BCCI administrations gave us the impression that all was well, while their focus was always on staying in power and making entrepreneurial use of cricketers to turn the Indian Board into a world class bully.

For more than a decade now, the BCCI has been in serious need of self-regulation. But this issue was never addressed and it is the reason why Indian cricket is in the cesspool in which it finds itself now.

Maybe the time has come for some kind of external regulation. What form this might eventually take — or should take — is meat enough for another column.

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