As millions of cricket fans wait eagerly to witness 6th IPL’s grand finale this Sunday, this article seeks to serve, among other things, a poignant note.
2013 edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, now into its last lap, predictably has been in the news right through its nearly month-long extravaganza for its massive success commercially. With the cash chests of its team-owners, players, sponsors and above all the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) swelling by the day, everything seemed well on course. It all seemed heading for a terrific win-win situation for all its stakeholders till just before the finishing mark, the bubble burst.
May 16th turned out to be a day of fast-paced, action-packed drama, akin to a Bollywood thriller. It all happened off field though. A special team of Delhi police picked up 3 IPL Rajasthan Royals (RR) players – S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – and 7 bookies from Mumbai and charged them with their direct involvement in spot-fixing of some IPL matches this year. They all were taken in one scoop at midnight and by the time people in Mumbai/Delhi and elsewhere were getting ready for their work, they all were produced before a Delhi court the same day. Neeraj Kumar, Delhi Police Commissioner, holding on to 3 priceless catches, was all smile and his voice, while briefing the media, seemed to further assert that evidences against the accused were all foolproof and enough to pin them down.
The BCCI turning the T-20 format of cricket under the IPL banner is an ingeniously devised strategy for total commercialisation of this game. Where Kapil Dev’s India Cricket League (ICL) had earlier failed to take off to be commercially viable, arrival of Lalit Modi on the scene changed all that. And by the time Lalit Modi was eased out of IPL a couple of years ago, his brainchild, the IPL had attained a monstrous size.
Noted Bollywood stars, among others, joining in to become team–owners; bidding for players – Indian and foreign – from ‘auction pool’. The corporate world – MNCs and India Inc – threw their weights behind this venture and above all the strongly obsessed cricket fans thronging the playing venues in hordes or keeping glued to the live telecasts, have all added a new glamour to this game that otherwise already had a number one crowd pulling status. Colourful attires of players and umpires, cheer girls, film stars – all descending on the playing venues further made the event truly a dreamy one. There was, therefore, no wonder, cricket crazy crowd braving the summer heat kept filling the stadiums all over; others sparing their quality time watching the live telecasts of the matches in the comforts of their drawing rooms.
That the IPL which made its first appearance in 2008, was destined to acquire in not too distant future, the kind of monstrous size that it finds itself today, perhaps could not be imagined earlier by the BCCI. Or was the BCCI aware of all the wrong doings and the manipulations that were happening in the IPL, and yet preferred to look the other way? This looks like a possibility after the events that have unfolded in the last two weeks or so.
Listen to what BCCI Chairman, N Sreenivasan had to say while reacting to the busting of the spot-fixing and of international betting network in some IPL matches, as revealed by the special teams from Mumbai and Delhi police. Staying cool as cucumber he responded by saying that it was well nigh impossible for the BCCI to control such illegal acts. Days later, on a similar stance taken by the BCCI before the Supreme Court in a PIL case, he was soundly snubbed and was directed to find ways to curb the menace soon.
As the BCCI Chairman’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, CEO of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), was arrested today by Mumbai police, it makes the BCCI’s claim of total innocence, simply a laughable one.
On the day 3 RR players were arrested, the media men were frantically looking for the IPL Chairman (also Vice Chairman, BCCI), Mr Rajiv Shukla to seek his comments. But Shukla was nowhere to be seen for the next 24 hours after which he made an appearance to say that the players, if found guilty, would be severely punished. Days later, he was also heard dittoing Law Minister, Kapil Sibbal and Sports Minister, Jitendra Singh proposal for enactment of law to curb such menace.
In the meanwhile, Mumbai police have nabbed Vindoo Dara Singh, who in course of interrogations, has admitted to have acted as intermediary between the bookies and the players. His proximity with the CSK CEO Gurunath Meiyappan is also under probe. And the news emerging in the media suggests that he placed bet on behalf of the CSK CEO.
Well, undoubtedly the IPL is the BCCI’s baby and yet its response to this nasty development in a manner witnessed, has been all too disappointing to say the least. Contrast this scenario with the one that the International Cricket Council (ICC) and England & Wales Cricket Board handled a couple of years ago. Finding some clear evidences of spot-fixing on England soil against the 3 Pakistani cricketers – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – they acted fast to have them arrested in the first place, made them to face court trial and on their being convicted sent them to serve the jail term.
Fixing the IPL’s spot-fixing issue is well and truly BCCI’s own problem, certainly no one else’s. All that the special teams of Delhi and Mumbai police are pursuing is based on their own preliminary investigations; they are framing the FIRs against the arrested cricketers, bookies and others to set the law into motion. The charges levelled against the 3 cricketers in original FIR is under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (Cheating) and section 120 B (Criminal Conspiracy) and after receiving a complaint from the Rajasthan Royals management on May 20th that said the players had fundamentally eroded the sanctity of the game, police added section 409 of IPC (Criminal Breach of Trust) to the filed FIR.
Section 420 IPC carries a maximum seven years jail sentence while Section 409 IPC provided for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term extending up to 10 years. Going by the claim of the Delhi police it seems that Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan have played their last big time competitive cricket. And going by the FIR under various provisions of the IPC filed against them, it seems they are unlikely to be let off lightly.
Delhi police has also forwarded its FIR in this case to Enforcement Directorate (ED) which is likely to file a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act that carries a maximum sentence of seven years too. This may mean further adding on to the woes the arrested cricketers and the bookies are likely to encounter in the days to come.
However, as the popular saying goes: ‘let the law take its own course’, we may have to wait and watch as to how the things further develop, take shape and end up eventually.
The Tailpiece: All 6s in a Final Over:-
1. A bookie involved in this episode but not yet nabbed, was heard saying that let the IPL’s final match this Sunday, May 26th get over, and everyone would forget what happened the other day and may look forward to 2014 edition of IPL.
2. A former Indian test cricketer, responding to the developments had his own take on this: ‘A few such isolated incidents need to be ignored. It’s all part of the game. Let’s move on.’
3. The way Mumbai and Delhi police are seen jostling for cornering more for their own glory and credit in cases of ongoing investigations, I am afraid, may lead to what began as a bang, end up as a whimper. This is felt so, inspite of the fact that the Delhi Police Chief has since clarified that they are investigating the spot-fixing angle in the game while Mumbai police is probing into the international betting network.
4. Did you hear someone saying that Gurunath Meiyappan, CEO of CSK and son-in-law of BCCI Chairman, N Sreenivasan, is Robert Vadra of the Indian cricket?
5. Asad Rauf, a Pakistani umpire doing duty in ongoing IPL matches, also came under scanner for spot-fixing, had to lose his job as the ICC promptly put its foot down to remove him from the Championship trophy matches in England coming up next month.
6. Interestingly, IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla, hasn’t commented anything after arrest of CSK owner – Meyiappan – by Mumbai police.
The question is: at the end of the day, however, who is the worst loser? The answer to this is: obviously none else than the cricket crazy junta for having been led blindly to the shows that in many cases had their scripts pre-written and re-written in the middle of the shows.
In the end, let’s pray for an early revival of this gentlemen’s game in India from the pits it finds itself in now.