Of the three agencies looking at corruption in Indian cricket Ã¢? the police, the media and the BCCI - two have already arrived at judgements and handed out sentences.
By Suresh Menon
Of the three agencies looking at corruption in Indian cricket – the police, the media and the BCCI - two have already arrived at judgements and handed out sentences. While the media’s rush to pronounce verdict is understandable if not forgiveable (it is what they do, and those viewership numbers are so important, after all), what is less easy to forgive is the haste of the police force, especially in Delhi.
Suddenly, we are being told that the police have no case against Raj Kundra, minority owner of Rajasthan Royals. But didn’t the Delhi police tell us he had admitted to betting on IPL matches? The lure of the television cameras, and a guaranteed fifteen minutes of fame are difficult to resist. Yet, one would imagine that law-enforcement agencies would be aware of the pitfalls of rushing to the media with half-formed theories and a lack of evidence.
It is both unprofessional and unfair to the names they drag through the mud. If the recent revelations have established anything, it is that most of the players in the ongoing drama – the BCCI, the media, the IPL and the police – have a credibility problem. The media are willing to believe the worst about anyone in the news, the police are happy to supply the sound bytes, and in the end the courts have to clear up the mess.
It is possible that everything we have been hearing on our television channels is true. That Sreeshanth and his friends were involved in spot fixing, that Vindoo Singh was a go-between of sorts, that Gurunath Meiyappan and Kundra bet on their teams. Perhaps even that the so-called ‘D Company’ of Dawood Ibrahim is behind all the crimes. But gut feeling is not enough. It will not hold up in a court of law.
It is difficult to prove any misdemeanour unless those in custody admit to it. And even then, that is different from confessing in a court of law. In cases where guilt cannot be so easily proved, lawyers tell their clients that nothing works like stout denial and prolonged silence. Kundra might have his own reasons for bringing in irrelevancies into the equation – it does not matter why, he, an NRI chose to live in India, it is of no consequence that he is an upright citizen who looks after the deprived in the UK, it is no defence to say that as an NRI he can bet if he wants to, and so on. If he did bet on his team, the consequences are damaging. Yet, if the police have got it wrong, then the implications are damaging too, though not necessarily for cricket.
The realisation that after all the hard work by the investigating agencies, those accused of spot fixing and betting are likely to get away because there was little focus on building a case cannot come as a surprise to those who have been following the story of match fixing since an Indian captain was found guilty thirteen years ago. Yet, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that the BCCI had not built a strong enough case against Mohammad Azharuddin, the captain. As the American baseball star Yogi Berra once said, it is déjà vu all over again.
Jagmohan Dalmiya’s clean up programme includes doing away with the cheerleaders and post-match parties. These are pseudo solutions. The decision to keep national selectors from being associated with an IPL team is admission – finally, after five years – that it was a mistake to have Krishnamachari Srikkanth, then chief selector, as a brand ambassador of the Chennai Super Kings. That is but a small step on the long road to dealing with conflicts of interest which have seen the IPL come to this pretty pass.
To clean up the IPL and the BCCI will take time. There is a call for suspending the IPL for a year or two while the Augean stables are cleansed. It is unclear yet whether Dalmiya fits the role of Hercules. But he must know that compromises will detract from the main task of restoring the credibility of a sport and those who govern it.