FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
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