FROM THE EDI­TOR- IN- CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS - ( Aroon Purie)

The In­dian Pre­mier League ( IPL) has been no stranger to con­tro­versy since it was founded in 2008. But the lat­est scan­dal which has en­gulfed the IPL leaves the rest— in­clud­ing the high- pro­file ex­il­ing of founder Lalit Modi and the res­ig­na­tion of Shashi Tha­roor as a Union min­is­ter in 2010— pale in com­par­i­son. Those ear­lier scan­dals were about the gov­er­nance of IPL. This lat­est one is about the cricket it­self. Af­ter all, no one would want to watch a con­trived game, ei­ther on tele­vi­sion or in sta­di­ums. The phe­nom­e­non of spot- fix­ing is per­haps the worst- kept se­cret in the sport. That book­ies and play­ers some­times con­trive to fix out­comes— not of en­tire matches but of spe­cific events in a match— was blown into the open in 2010 when three Pak­istani Test play­ers were con­victed for spot­fix­ing in Eng­land. Given In­dia’s his­tory— a big match- fix­ing scan­dal had come to light in the year 2000 that in­volved top play­ers like Mo­ham­mad Azharud­din and Ajay Jadeja— one would have as­sumed that the BCCI would have in­sti­tuted strin­gent mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nisms to pre­vent any re­cur­rence of the men­ace. There have been more re­cent warn­ing signs. Last year, a TV chan­nel con­ducted a sting on five lit­tle- known play­ers, all of whom it seems were to ready to be cor­rupted by book­ies. The May 16 ar­rests of three IPL play­ers, in­clud­ing Test crick­eter S. Sreesanth, on al­le­ga­tions of spot- fix­ing, just shows how lax In­dia’s cricket ad­min­is­tra­tors have been. They have sim­ply cho­sen to ig­nore the ex­is­tence of a pow­er­ful bet­ting mafia con­trolled by ele­ments of the un­der­world in In­dia and abroad which is con­stantly on the look­out for vul­ner­a­ble crick­eters.

Not­with­stand­ing the present cir­cum­stances, it is dif­fi­cult to deny that IPL was a great in­no­va­tion for cricket- crazy In­dia. It at­tracted the best tal­ent from over­seas, mak­ing In­dia the hub of the T20 game. Most sat­is­fy­ingly, it show­cased emerg­ing tal­ent in In­dian cricket. For crick­eters, it was manna from heaven. The big stars got mas­sive pay pack­ets but even the lesser- known play­ers earned hand­some re­turns and recog­ni­tion. The IPL, at one point, seemed to have found a for­mula to marry the skills of crick­eters, the glam­our of Bol­ly­wood and the money of In­dia Inc to cre­ate a car­ni­val of en­ter­tain­ment, un­til it un­rav­elled.

The seeds of de­struc­tion were laid at the start. Rules were never sacro­sanct. In a move that will now re­turn to haunt cur­rent BCCI Pres­i­dent N. Srini­vasan, the body’s con­sti­tu­tion was amended prior to the IPL to al­low its of­fi­cer- bear­ers to have a com­mer­cial in­ter­est in the sport. Now, as links emerge be­tween Srini­vasan’s son- in- law ( also the CEO of the Chen­nai Su­per Kings fran­chise) and failed Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Vin­doo Dara Singh, the rot in IPL is set to reach the very apex of the cricket es­tab­lish­ment. Also, the acute con­flict of in­ter­est be­tween Srini­vasan’s role as ad­min­is­tra­tor and ben­e­fi­ciary now stands em­bar­rass­ingly ex­posed. An im­par­tial in­quiry seems im­pos­si­ble as long as he is BCCI pres­i­dent.

Our cover story, writ­ten by Deputy Edi­tor Ku­nal Prad­han and As­so­ciate Edi­tor G. S. Vivek, goes be­yond the head­lines to fix re­spon­si­bil­ity on those who have al­lowed things to reach such a sorry state. At the heart of the prob­lem is the BCCI, which seems to­tally un­ac­count­able. At least gov­ern­ments are ac­count­able to Par­lia­ment and cor­po­rates to share­hold­ers. Cricket’s apex body re­sists any ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism. That it is a closed club pop­u­lated by the most pow­er­ful politi­cians cut­ting across po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions makes the task of chang­ing it harder.

For a coun­try ob­sessed with cricket and where crick­eters are national heroes, this scan­dal has driven a stake through the heart of the game. There is a need for a mas­sive clean- up for the cred­i­bil­ity of the game to be re­stored and for cricket lovers to en­joy the game again, safe in the knowl­edge that it’s not been fixed.

OUR NOVEM­BER 2012 COVER

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