Why Sachin, Dravid and Sourav must break their silence on IPL verdict

In order to reform the BCCI and its money-spinning progeny IPL, the nexus between cricket and politics must end.

 |  6-minute read |   20-07-2015
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The conspiracy of silence around the Indian Premier League (IPL) scam is the loudest among those who should have been the first to stand up and speak out. Nothing is more disconcerting than the defeaning silence of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and even the usually outspoken Kapil Dev.

The web of money that the IPL's parent, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has woven is so wide that it has enveloped virtually the entire Indian cricketing fraternity.

This should shame our cricket legends. They have deployed their talent to make large fortunes. They deserve every bit of what they have earned. Most of these legends have kept their noses clean from the match-fixing and spot-fixing that is rampant in, especially, the IPL. And yet by not speaking out against corruption in Indian cricket, they have failed their fans and themselves.

Tendulkar knew about match-fixing when he was India captain in 1999-2000. It is widely regarded as one of the reasons he relinquished the captaincy. But Tendulkar has never taken a stand publicly against the corruption and conflict of interest that bedevil the BCCI and IPL. In appreciation of his talent - and silence - Tendulkar has been appointed advisor to the BCCI along with Ganguly and Laxman.

Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri have for long been paid multi-crore annual salaries by the BCCI for their commentary work. They too have been silent over Justice RM Lodha's indictment of Chennai SuperKings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) and the overall misgovernance of Indian cricket by the BCCI.

The working group set up by the BCCI on Monday, July 20, to decide on its future options over CSK, RR and overall governance includes IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur and Sourav Ganguly. To expect them to present a credible plan to clean up Indian cricket is farcical.

In order to reform the BCCI and its money-spinning progeny IPL, the nexus between cricket and politics must end. Most cricket playing countries outside the Indian subcontinent have long separated cricket and politics. It would be unthinkable, for example, for a senior British or Australian politician to be a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) or Cricket Australia.

In India to divorce the two will be much harder. Politicians across parties use regional cricket associations affiliated to the BCCI as well as the BCCI itself as a personal treasure trove. As Tunku Vardarajan of Stanford University's Hoover Institution wrote in the Indian Express: "As a cricket-lover, I have a finely honed loathing for the BCCI. There are thousands - perhaps millions - of people worldwide who share my sentiments. The BCCI has poisoned the game. It has abetted the destruction of Test Cricket in India, with damaging consequences for Test cricket in every other Test-playing nation but England. The IPL has drained cricket - and cricketers - of integrity and patriotism. It has wreaked havoc with scheduled tours and domestic cricket seasons and warped professional values."

Former BCCI President Shashank Manohar in a recent television interview held former BCCI president N Srinivasan responsible for deepening the mess the IPL finds itself in: "The BCCI has to be proactive and look at the interests of the institution and not that of an individual in order to re-impose faith in the minds of the people. Srinivasan should have stepped down in 2013. He is the root of all scandals and should immediately step down from his position as chairman of ICC."

Just as FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is undergoing a transformation after the indictment of seven of its affiliated members, the BCCI needs a complete overhaul. How would a restructured BCCI look? While Justice Lodha applies his mind to answer that vexed question in the second part of the report the Supreme Court has mandated him to deliver, here are some options the former chief justice of India (CJI) could consider.

The BCCI's president must be elected from professional ex-cricketers who have played Test or first class cricket. The same rule must apply to the BCCI's secretary, treasurer and board committee members. There are several uncompromised ex-cricketers (from GR Vishwanath and Bishen Singh Bedi to Mohinder Amarnath and Dilip Vengsarkar) who can form the core of the BCCI's new board.

The BCCI must set up a five-member internal committee to negotiate television and other media advertising rights - again with complete transparency in the bidding/auction process. The richest cricket board in the world, with several thousand crore rupees in TV rights accruing to it every year, must have a transparent and professional mechanism to select Test and ODI teams, grade players, fix remunerations, establish guidelines for brand endorsements, allocate funds to develop training academies nationwide and modernise grounds, stadia and pitches. The money earned by marketing Indian cricket is today frittered away. No one except the notoriously opaque BCCI knows exactly where this money goes. A reconstructed BCCI would make money efficiently and spend it transparently.

Justice Lodha in the second part of his report, expected to be released within the next two months, will suggest ways to restructure the BCCI. It is currently registered as a society in Tamil Nadu and has resisted all attempts to place it under the Right to Information (RTI) act. Till 2009, the BCCI was exempt even from paying income-tax. The money it makes from television rights, and distributes to its associates, buys the silence of cricketers, ex-cricketers, commentators, franchise owners and administrators.

The example of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) suggests a way forward. The ECB is a company limited by guarantee. This legal status allows it to focus on governing cricket rather than merely making profits. It is critical that the BCCI's status as a "society" accountable to none except its crony-filled board is changed into a limited liability corporation supervised by an independent regulator.

A regulatory body for cricket should be set up on the lines of the insurance and telecom regulators. The body would act as an ombudsman for the BCCI. A professional cricket body supervised by a regulator is the only way Indian cricket can be stripped off its layers of opacity and corruption.

The transition from a society registered in Chennai in 1928 to a regulated, professionally governed cricket body bereft of politicians will not be easy or swift. But Justice Lodha's forthcoming report on restructuring the BCCI, based on which the Supreme Court will pass final orders, will be the first step in a series of reforms to make Indian cricket not just rich but credible.

In this process of transformation, legends like Tendulkar and Dravid, Ganguly and Gavaskar, Laxman and Shastri, must discover their voice. That will redeem their years of silence.


Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The writer is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor. He is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations

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