OUT OF CONTROL
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