A week, they say, is a long time in politics. But clearly not in cricket with Indian cricket board chief N. Srinivasan managing to cling on to power despite allegations that his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, was involved in the spot-fixing of Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.
Last Sunday, one saw the Board of Control for Cricket in India President Srinivasan surround himself with BCCI officials and take on a barrage of questions from the media in Kolkata, adamant that he would not resign since he hadn’t done anything wrong.
It was widely expected that this Sunday would see the exit of cricket’s top honcho, particularly after the media backlash and the resignations of senior BCCI officials. That was not to be.
On May 26, he announced the formation of a “commission” (I always thought that inquiry commissions were formed by the government, but Srinivasan and the BCCI are a super power!) to inquire into the charges against his “enthusiastic” son-in-law Meiyappan.
Srinivasan came across confidently, having shored up his position in the BCCI working committee a day before. This was a man, the pundits agreed, who wasn’t going anywhere. He was going to brazen it out. It has been estimated that the BCCI is one of the world’s richest sporting bodies and has inside its management senior politicians from major political parties like the Congress, BJP and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
As television channels remained fixated on the IPL scandal, the focus turned to India Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s evading questions on the scam – all signs that Srinivasan had succeeded in obtaining his silence.
Interestingly, Dhoni was appointed vice-president of India Cements, Srinivsan’s company that owns the Chennai Super Kings, in February this year. Rare is the day when an “employee” speaks up against the “boss”. Dhoni, so far, has stuck to the script.
And, then, two top BCCI officials quit on May 30, apparently making life difficult for Srinivasan. On May 31, there were press reports that the International Cricket Council (ICC) had warned Meiyappan to be careful about his alleged association with bookies.
Returning from a foreign trip, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the same day was quoted as saying that he hoped sports and politics would not get mixed up.
A day after the prime minister spoke and on the eve of the Chennai meeting of the BCCI meeting, IPL boss Rajiv Shukla, and a member of the Council of Ministers, quit as IPL chairman.
With media hype reaching unprecedented levels, it was being projected that Srinivasan had been cornered and would be forced to resign as BCCI president.
Change, projections suggested, was finally in the air – cleaning up of the IPL and Indian cricket was round the corner. The resignations of Rajiv Shukla and earlier of Ajay Shirke as treasurer of BCCI and Sanjay Jagdale as secretary were a sign of the change to come.
In the end, Sunday proved to be a damp squib. The meeting turned out to be a non-meeting as far as forcing Srinivasan’s ouster was concerned.
A brief statement issued after the meeting said: “Mr. N. Srinivasan announced that he will not discharge his duties as the President of the Board till such time that the probe is completed. Till such time, Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya will conduct the day to day affairs of the Board.
The Committee expressed full confidence in Mr. Sanjay Jagdale and Mr. Ajay Shirke and requested them to withdraw their resignations in the larger interest of the Board.”
A reading of the bland statement makes it clear that it was Mr. Srinivasan’s decision not to discharge his duties and he would be back as president once the probe into the spot-fixing affair was over. There was no direction from board members.
Television channels reported that a deal was struck before Sunday’s meeting so that Srinivasan and his associates, among them Jagmohan Dalmiya, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and junior BJP leader Anurag Thakur, ensured that BCCI would not have to change its ways.
Whatever be the few dissident views, they don’t seem to count in the larger scheme of things.
Like Indian politics, Indian cricket is above accountability and scrutiny.
So much for the noise generated in the media on the spot-fixing saga in the last fortnight and more.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.
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