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The rot in the IPL system is deep
by Suresh Menon
Sep 23, 2013

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By Suresh Menon

If Gurunathan Meiyappan assured a bookie that the Chennai Super Kings would make between 130 and 140 runs in an IPL match, and the team made 141, then there are bigger issues facing Indian cricket than the wrongdoings of a son-in-law of the President of the BCCI. If that can be proved, then the team itself needs to be investigated. N Srinivasan has said airily that the “law will take its own course”, but the 11,500 pages of the charge sheet put together by the authorities (and being selectively leaked to the media in the accepted Indian fashion) brings both legal and moral issues into sharp relief.

Just like you cannot be a little pregnant, you cannot be a little corrupt in such matters.

But who will bell the cat? In the ideal world, the CSK would be banned, Meiyappan would be given his marching orders and N Srinivasan would order an internal inquiry with people of sterling character in the committee who would be given access to information.

The two-man team appointed by the BCCI gave everybody a clean chit, which was premature. But to be fair to them, it was based on the limited information the BCCI chose to provide.

Srinivasan originally stepped aside after the pressure to do so mounted, promising to be back once everything had been cleared. He is legally entitled to stand for the elections on Sunday, of course, but morally it is another matter. Everything has not been cleared. If anything, things have got murkier.

The speed with which the BCCI banned the players was impressive – there was no “let the law take its own course” then. But players are mere pawns in the game. If one throws a match, he has no place in sport. But what if the atmosphere in which a tournament itself is played is vitiated by sleaze and corruption?

There is a call for a two-year holiday from the IPL. Suspend the tournament. The rot in the system is so deep it will take that long to clean. And the BCCI will have to show greater resolve than it has done so far. To be conducting a tournament that has been so tainted while the investigations (and presumably, clean-up operations) are in progress is unfair to the stakeholders.

This is also an opportunity to get right the issues that were either ignored or dismissed as insignificant when the IPL began – an attitude that has led to the current mess.

The IPL made its debut with dodgy elements, from conflict of interest to lack of context, built into it. The BCCI ignored due diligence then, in the matter of television contracts, auctions, and team responsibilities. Many rules were made on the fly. The more powerful teams were able to steamroll their way into getting better deals, especially when it came to player replacements and retentions.

A year or two to sort out these anomalies, to tighten the rules and make them applicable across the board, to shift the focus away from the spot-fixing and betting that now seems endemic and to ensure that hereafter everything is above board, with proper penalties for transgressions in place is called for. It is also time to have clear ownership patterns, proper information regarding those in charge of the teams and the background of the companies involved in the IPL. You cannot legislate against greed, but you can make it painful to give in to temptation.

The loss of credibility might be severe enough to see the IPL collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. It is worth taking time out to bring some credibility to a tournament that generates so much money, so much excitement and such loyalty.

To believe that only a handful of players was involved in spot-fixing is naive in the extreme; just as it is naive now to presume that only of the owners saw in the tournament an opportunity to make money on the side by placing bets. Team owners cannot bet, full stop.

It does not matter if no proof exists of men like Meiyappan being actually involved in spot-fixing. It is enough to show that they placed bets on the team. Forget for the moment that betting is illegal in the country. An official doing so crosses the moral boundary as well.

Things will get worse before they get better. The BCCI’s main concern is the BCCI. The sport itself, like the law, can “take its own course” going by the pronouncements from the body which is meant to be its custodian.

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