SRINIVASAN’S BIG GAME
The all-powerful BCCI president will now run world cricket. That’s not good news for those who want a clean-up of the sport.
THAT BCCI HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE CORRUPT MEANS CRICKET TEETERS ON THE EDGE OFABYSS.
Good governance is not the most inspiring of terms when it comes to sport. It doesn’t get backsides off bucket seats or rouse a roar from the craw. Bad governance is quite the opposite. It can infect the faithful with apathy, leaving once clicking turnstiles to rust in rigidity. The average fan accepts that administrators will enjoy the poshest and plushest seats for pivotal games. In return, the least he expects is that his beloved sport will be run with an ethos that has placed at its heart dignity, transparency and sound business practice. In BCCI, these seem to have been replaced by totalitarianism, cronyism and intimidation. Internal BCCI emails seen by this writer provide a fascinating insight into its working and paint a bleak future not only for Indian cricket but the world game now stalked by N. Srinivasan. The BCCI president, despite being mired in controversy, was named as the next ICC chief on February 8. He will take over as chairman in July.
If BCCI sneezes, world cricket catches a cold. The sniffles may have just begun. IPL is losing money and Justice Mukul Mudgal’s report has exposed a link between the supposed guardian of the game and illegal gambling, the menace that encourages the scourge of match-fixing. Srinivasan is supposed to be whiter than white; his privileged position demands it. Yet his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyyapan, has been accused of betting on matches involving the that team he managed, the Chennai Super Kings. The IPL team, of course, is owned by Srinivasan. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Super Kings and Team India captain and a vice-president of India Cements, a Srinivasan firm, was also embroiled in the scandal when he was named in a police report for having agreed that Chennai would score 130-140 runs in an IPL match against Rajasthan Royals. They scored 141 and lost the match.
Ordinarily, the world would sigh and reckon this was another example of India’s feeble betting laws and ‘favour culture’ sullying cricket’s good name. But they are sitting up, wary because Srinivasan effectively runs the game after having carved up ICC for consumption in a power grab with the England and Wales Cricket Board ( ECB) and Cricket Australia ( CA). The poor will get poorer and the rich are supposed to get richer in the revamped ICC. What of its governance? All decisions will be taken by BCCI, ECB and CA and the rest will fall in line. That BCCI has been shown to be corrupt means cricket, from Colombo to the Caribbean, Lord’s to Lahore, teeters on the edge of abyss. From these emails and missives, it is possible to go inside BCCI and see how dark that void could be. They suggest an all-powerful Srinivasan; they betray a lack of rigid structure that successful organisations are founded on.
In a letter dated May 8, 2013 to Alan Isaac, president of ICC, Srinivasan delivers a thinly-veiled threat for lack of support in the row over the election of L. Sivaramakrishnan, said to be an India Cements employee, as players’ representative to ICC Cricket Committee at the expense of Federation of International Cricketers Association head Tim May. “I do not really mind if ICC management wishes to remain silent if they are sympathetic to the FICA media campaign,” Srinivasan writes. “However, we’ll truly treat this as a defining moment in the relationship we have with ICC management. We’re not going to let this blatantly unfair attack of FICA with ICC a silent spectator go without a response in
due course.” FICA had sought an inquiry into the vote and claimed that captains from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe had been told to choose Sivaramakrishnan in a re-vote after May had been returned. It was alleged BCCI had used its financial power to coerce the boards into voting its way. This puts into context an email exchange between Dhoni and Geoff Allardice of ICC with the former irked that he has to vote again. “It’s L. Shivaramakrishnan (sic) but how is it that from the previous mail Sanga’s (Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara, another contender for the job) name gets picked but Shiva’s doesn’t.” Since Dhoni is close to Srinivasan, it is possible he was following orders.
If this exemplifies Srinivasan flexing his muscles, then two emails from April 2013 show an apparent disrespect for the protocol of his own organisation. On April 15, Peter Griffiths of IMG, which helps run IPL, wrote to BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale to appoint a commission to hear a complaint under IPL 2013 operational rules. The rules mandate BCCI secretary to pick the members. But five days later, he got this email from Tamil Nadu Cricket Association secre- tary Kasi Viswanathan: “I am reproducing the message written by the President to you: ‘Sanjay, Rajiv Shukla, Ajay Shirke and Ravi Shastri may hear the complaint. N Srinivasan’.” Jagdale and Shirke quit on May 31 to protest the board’s handling of the scandal. Now Jagdale says he had “no problem” with the way BCCI was run.
In another sidestepping of hierarchy, Prasanna Kannan, IPL chief financial officer who is reported to be an employee of India Cements, informs Jagdale of the appointments for home series against England, Pakistan only on April 4, 2013, long after these had been held in late 2012 and early 2013. It is irregular that the secretary would not have made the appointments himself and it raises the question as to what exactly did this have to do with an IPL official. Kannan, it begs mention, assisted Srinivasan in his ‘co-operation’ with the Mudgal panel.
The spot-fixing scandal and mounting evidence of BCCI’s disregard for what is proper has turned fans away from IPL. Since the first edition in 2008, its TV rating has dropped from 4.8 per cent to 2.9 per cent. “About $1 billion worth of IPL’s brand value has been destroyed by such controversies and lack of governance,” says Unni Krishnan, a global strategy director at London-based brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance.
This is worrying for world cricket now that its purse strings are held by BCCI and Srinivasan, as detailed in the revamp proposal, Final Position Paper, drafted by Srinivasan’s secretary, which will ensure every member bar England, Australia and India is worse off. “Srini knew he could control everything. He says Haroon Lorgat should not be running South Africa’s board and Lorgat is suspended. He says DRS is not acceptable, so it isn’t. He runs ICC,” says I.S. Bindra, the veteran administrator who has served both BCCI and ICC. “In my time, Jagmohan Dalmiya was the godfather. Srini wanted to follow him in spirit. But Srini is more dangerous because he has more resources. He told me he wanted to be the next Dalmiya.” That doesn’t bode well for cricket.
BCCI CHIEF N. SRINIVASAN