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India Today - - FRONT PAGE - By Ku­nal Prad­han and G. S. Vivek

POWER PA­TRON­AGE IN­TRIGUE

THE IN­SIDE STORY OF HOW IN­DIAN CRICKET IS CON­TROLLED

At 9.30 p. m. on May 25, the night be­fore the fi­nal of IPL- 6, BCCI Pres­i­dent N. Srini­vasan, dressed in a black- and- white striped tee shirt and flanked by six bounc­ers, was the last guest to walk into a din­ner party hosted by Jag­mo­han Dalmiya at Kolkata’s Taj Ben­gal ho­tel. Dur­ing a tense evening tem­pered by freely flow­ing Blue Label whisky, Srini­vasan re­treated into an an­techam­ber with Dalmiya and IPL Chair­man Ra­jeev Shukla. Dalmiya cited ex­am­ples of how for­mer BCCI pres­i­dents Raj Singh Dun­garpur and A. C. Muthiah had re­fused to quit when match- fix­ing al­le­ga­tions had first sur­faced in 1997 and 2000, but ap­pealed to Srini­vasan to step down on moral grounds since his own son- in- law Gu­runath Meiyap­pan was in po­lice cus­tody on al­le­ga­tions of bet­ting and spot- fix­ing. “It’s not my na­ture to quit,” Srini­vasan told them. Fine, Shukla promised, we won’t ask again.

But on May 28, an in­ter­ven­tion sup­pos­edly by Congress Vice- Pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi set his par­ty­men in mo­tion. The cam­paign, started by Union Power Min­is­ter Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia, who is the pres­i­dent of the Mad­hya Pradesh Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion, was picked up by Union Sports Min­is­ter Ji­ten­dra Singh, and taken for­ward by Ut­tar Pradesh Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion chief Shukla, the min­is­ter of state for par­lia­men­tary af­fairs. Not long af­ter, NCP chief and for­mer BCCI pres­i­dent Sharad Pawar, the Union agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, joined the cho­rus.

This be­lated at­tempt to sud­denly shrug Srini­vasan off is il­lus­tra­tive only of BCCI’s instinct for self- preser­va­tion. The board, a fief­dom of 30 in­di­vid­u­als, each armed with a vote, is try­ing to do what it does best: Pro­tect its turf from out­side in­ter­fer­ence. There is still the ques­tion of who will bell the cat, and how th­ese pub­lic fig­ures, es­pe­cially Shukla and BJP leader Arun Jait­ley, who hur­riedly ar­ranged a closed- door meet­ing on May 28 at his Kailash Colony res­i­dence, will garner the num­bers needed to de­pose a pop­u­lar BCCI boss.

Srini­vasan, the of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated vice- chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Rs 4,050- crore In­dia Ce­ments, has har­nessed sup­port by fi­ness­ing the modus operandi of largesse and pa­tron­age into an art form over his seven- year as­so­ci­a­tion with BCCI. His great­est achieve­ment— pre­sid­ing over a con­spir­acy of si­lence in which ev­ery­one is com­plicit, from state as­so­ci­a­tions to play­ers to com­men­ta­tors to ex- crick­eters. His give­g­ive regime has drawn power by in­creas­ing the wages of Team In­dia play­ers from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh per Test match as BCCI pres­i­dent- elect in 2010. By hand­ing out a one- time bonus pay­ment to for­mer do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional crick­eters rang­ing from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore in 2012. By of­fer­ing cen­tral com­men­tary con­tracts worth Rs 3.6 crore per year each to top opin­ion- mak­ers Su­nil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri. And by pleas­ing a num­ber of fence- sit­ting state as­so­ci­a­tions by drop­ping the ir­reg­u­lar­ity and em­bez­zle­ment charges lev­elled in 2006 against their po­ten­tial ral­ly­ing point, for­mer pres­i­dent Dalmiya.

It is this tyranny of favours, not too dif­fer­ent from the one fash­ioned by Dalmiya when he was at the helm in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties be­tween 1990 and 2005, that forced Jait­ley and Shukla to keep mum in the days lead­ing up to the IPL fi­nal on May 26. In some way, ev­ery top mem­ber of BCCI has been touched by Srini­vasan’s bounty. His for­mer boss Pawar sug­gested on May 29 that Srini­vasan was “not se­ri­ous about deal­ing with wrong­do­ings”. But the con­tro­ver­sial amend­ment in clause 6.2.4 of the BCCI Con­sti­tu­tion in Septem­ber 2008 al­low­ing of­fice- bear­ers to own teams had been ini­ti­ated by a let­ter from then- pres­i­dent Pawar

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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