Srinivasan’s ICC post on shaky ground

Narayanswami Srinivasan  Indian Premier League  IPL  ICC Chairman  N. Srinivasan  BCCI  BCCI President  Cricket Australia  CA  ECB  Gurunath Meiyappan  Raj Kundra  cricket news

Obdurate would not begin to describe Narayanswami Srinivasan. Even as the cricket world looked on with a fair amount of trepidation and skepticism at the Supreme Court verdict on cricket’s malpractices within the Indian Premier League (IPL), the International Cricket Council (ICC) Chairman looked the other way, rather unwittingly giving away once more that the apex administrative body of world cricket is, also, in ample disarray.


He snared. He snapped. He growled. But he could not unclasp the clutches. The more he struggled and strained, the tighter became the grasp. Until it was time something had to give. One can only surmise that the day may not be too far when Narayanswami Srinivasan comes undone (as will the ICC position), blindsided by his own ambitions. Consider this for a rather bleak and bizarre scenario of how world cricket administration operates under the strangulating clutches of one man’s nepotism, greed and unrestrained ambition. A prominent cricket administrator stands accused during his tenure of inaction and furthermore, of conflict of interest within his own cricket association. Even the revelation of deep rooted corruption by his own kith and kin in a cricket league that he owns in part fails to deter political ambitions, much less draw out a statement accepting that the credibility of the game has been brought into disrepute. His brazen lust for power forces the hand of the apex judicial body in the country to reveal that the cricket administrator’s name features on the list of entities under investigation. Coerced to step aside from the top administrative post within his own fiefdom, the cricket administrator prepares himself for an even greater invasion. This time aghast cricket administrators, officials and aficionados turn mute spectators as the cricket administrator ensures not only a permanent top post in the apex world cricket body for his board back home but also, self appoints himself to the post even as he is held culpable of inaction over misgivings within his own board. Even then he refuses to acknowledge the far reaching implications of an inept administration, leave alone a corrupt one. This is not only a frightening scenario but also, very real one. That in a nutshell describes the operations of world cricket at the moment within the corridors of the ICC. Even as N. Srinivasan was forced to step aside in June, 2013, forced to step down altogether in March, 2014 and barred from contesting for the post of the BCCI President earlier this year in January by none other than the Supreme Court of India, he continues to occupy a top post in the ICC – that of the ICC Chairman creating specially for the BCCI representative in June,2014 - after brazenly forming an oligarchy –cartel of cricket boards – with Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The first order of business for the big three has been sidelining cash strapped Test playing nations into submissively accepting the new world order that reduces the functioning of the ICC to a virtual figurehead in the hands of the ‘big three’ and marginalizing the very enthusiastic but embryonic non- Test playing nations from the most visible platform – the ICC Cricket World Cup, thereby, stunting the agenda of globalization of cricket altogether.


There is little doubt that cricket as a sport has been shortchanged. Yet the man who helmed the affairs at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for more than three years has never accepted to date that cricket has taken a hit as a result of the fiasco that erupted following the betting and spot fixing scandal that broke out in the 2013 IPL season 6. This particular delineation from public sentiment, not just in India but around the world, was most astutely brought to bear upon the man when he stood next to Sachin Tendulkar on arguably the cricket world’s greatest stage. While Australia were annihilating their Trans Tasmanian rivals, New Zealand, in the ICC Cricket World Cup final earlier this year, there was a scuffle behind the scenes as N. Srinivasan broke precedent and in his position as the ICC Chairman managed to sideline the ICC President, Bangladesh’s Kamal Mustafa, for the trophy presentation ceremony. It was merely another example of Srinivasan’s lust for power and the perceptive cricket audiences let him know of his unpopularity with reverberating jeers that matched in resonance only with the cheers that went up for Tendulkar who shared the same podium.


Those claiming to be on sanctimonious ground cannot be above reproach themselves. While Lalit Modi may be hailing the R.M. Lodha Committee findings and verdict and even calling for the termination of the two suspended team Franchises, he cannot deny that the whole mess surrounding conflict of interest began during his reign as the IPL commissioner. N.Srinivasan’s designs at working the system to his own benefit were evident even from the early days of the inception of the Indian Premier League revealed in the course of the collapse of bonhomie between the two strange bedfellows. Srinivasan’s insidious plans were most prominently brought to bear when he described Gurunath Meiyappan, the man in the spot light and embroiled in the betting and match fixing controversy of the IPL 6 2013 - his own son-in-law and team principal for the Chennai Super Kings – as a mere ‘cricket enthusiast’. The stark description had people pulling their hair out particularly when the then BCCI President had used the phrase ‘rotten eggs’ to describe the three cricketers – including S. Sreesanth – arrested in the spot fixing scandal only days before. If Srinivasan thought he could hoodwink the passionate cricket public, he was in for a shock. While he took up the cudgels against the media for supposedly hounding him, he failed to realize that he had unwittingly made himself a target of cynosure following his flimsy defense of his son-in-law, particularly in light of the fact that he and Modi were locked in a largely public battle over irregularities that had become part and parcel of the BCCI since the initiation into the IPL. It would not have been rocket science for a man so honed in on power to realize that all he had to do was marginalize Meiyappan by ordering a fair, impartial probe while recusing himself from the post pending investigation into matters to improve his own image in light of these revelations. Instead Srinivasan rendered the functioning of the BCCI to a blatant farce when under intense pressure from the board, he stepped aside briefly in June 2013 and within two months of a two-member panel comprising judges from the Madras High Court had the whole controversy dubbed a non-issue by handing out clean chits to the Chennai Super Kings, the Rajasthan Royals, Raj Kundra and even Gurunath Meiyappan. The Bombay High Court promptly squashed the findings of the two member panel while the Supreme Court pulled up the BCCI for not following up on setting up an impartial new panel to investigate into the serious matter. Aditya Verma’s petition in the Supreme Court challenging the BCCI saw N. Srinivasan being pulled up for one of the first controversial moves made in his position as the BCCI Treasurer when he had the BCCI constitution amended to allow board officials to hold commercial interests in the IPL and the now defunct Champions League Twenty20 in 2008 at the time of inception of the IPL to allow India Cements, of which he is the MD and vice-chairman, to own the Chennai Super Kings. On the 22nd of January, 2015, the Supreme Court made it its first order of business to squash this controversial clause from the BCCI constitution, forcing Srinivasan to choose between the top administrative post in the BCCI and the IPL team Franchise. Even as Srinivasan began to offload shares of the Chennai Super Kings in a race for the BCCI president’s post, the Supreme Court came down on the ICC Chairman once more by barring him from contesting for elections. In the period between being forced to step aside and thereafter instructed to step down altogether from the BCCI President post at the end of March, 2014 by the Supreme Court with Sunil Gavaskar named as the interim BCCI President for the period of the IPL 7 season, Srinivasan was leading yet another earthshaking venture, this time within the corridors of the ICC, while demanding reinstatement to the BCCI post through repeated petitions in the Supreme Court. An exasperated Supreme Court revealed that Srinivasan’s was the thirteenth name in the sealed envelope presented to the apex body by the appointed Mukul Mudgal committee looking into the controversy as directed. Although found not guilty of betting or fixing, Srinivasan’s position as the BCCI President became untenable in light of the fact that as the BCCI president, he failed to constitute a fair, impartial investigation into the scandal, failed to act against certain players and refused to abdicate his position even briefly to validate the sanctity of the investigation and furthermore, brazenly dismissed Meiyappan’s role even when police investigation pointed to the contrary with cricket at its lowest ebb and its credibility on the line.


Faced with a dilemma of contending himself for the top BCCI post or remain as a Franchise owner, it did not take long for Srinivasan to jump ship in favour of power just as he did not waste time to occupy the newly appointed position of ICC Chairman once the big three had established ascendancy over the ICC proceedings through scrupulous means in June, 2014. Furthermore, he did not blink twice to shortchange the BCCI as the Chennai Super Kings readied themselves for transfer into a wholly owned subsidiary with a devaluation value of Rs.5 lakhs which does not even begin to cover player salaries. That his power runs deep was evident when he overruled the selectors who were in favour of demoting the Chennai Super Kings captain from the post of the Indian Test captain and instead showed them the door back in 2011. The captain, in what appeared to be a quid pro quo relationship, refused to throw light on Meiyappan’s role with clear distinction and instead was rewarded with the post of vice-president in India Cements, the Franchise that own Chennai Super Kings and in which Srinivasan’s family holds the highest stake. There is already a great deal of consternation emerging since the formation of the big three, not to mention the fact that the three boards of BCCI, Cricket Australia (CA) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) are more than happy to take a cut from the $330 million that the Star broadcasting is willing to pay to drop the Champions League Twenty20 that provided a platform for domestic Twenty20 tournament winners to showcase their talent, earn a neat sum and their players staking their claim for a place in the IPL. With the Supreme Court ruling blowing up in their face, the BCCI has chosen to put the proposed veritable second IPL tournament for the year, the IPL Premiership Cup, slated for the UAE in September on the backburner. It is not hard to see how the BCCI would have hoped to have squeezed precious international cricket calendar for not one but two IPL windows with crass commercialization deeply entrenched in their agenda. As a responsible member of the ICC, it behove Srinivasan to take cognizance of the situation with the impending Supreme Court verdict and choose his words wisely. Yet once the media got trail of his whereabouts, Srinivasan exclaimed that the decision to suspend the Chennai Super Kings Franchise, India Cements, was harsh and unfair and yet was quick to disassociate himself from the Chennai Super Kings. As the ICC Chairman, the man was expected to speak about maintaining the integrity of the sport and honouring the verdict and yet he was quick to brush it off with “I have nothing to do with it” thereby, revealing the brazen attitude of cricket administrators as well as the deep-seated malaise of lust for power at all costs. In handing over the verdict to suspend the Franchises of the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals for a period of two years, the Supreme Court-appointed R.M. Lodha Committee was unequivocal about the fact that the quantum of punishment being carried out was supposed to be the prerogative of the world’s richest cricket body. In the absence of the BCCI action to redressal, the Lodha committee was forced to act on behalf of the BCCI. The image of the International Cricket Council is at stake. What does it say of the sport’s apex body when the man occupying the newly appointed top post, no less than that of the ICC Chairman, washes his hands off a scandal that erupted during his reign and is accused of inaction as the board president of a powerful cricket board, is guilty of conflict of interest as deemed by the Supreme Court and has shown deeply entrenched nepotism that has resulted in such disgrace and disrepute to the sport as also observed by the highest judicial authority in that country? What does it say of the ICC when they are more than willing to cede powers in the hands of the same individual accused of trying to sweep the murky, reputation-damaging scandal under the carpet?

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