Last week, a TV channel released emails that suggested the 2009 IPL auction had been fixed so that the Super Kings could sign Andrew Flintoff, who then turned out to be the biggest waste of money in the fledging league’s history. Modi later told Cricinfo that Srinivasan and the Super Kings “pressurised the [IPL] operating team”. When he was asked if other successful bids were less than transparent, he replied: “Yes, to my knowledge”.
The BCCI has already come out in support of its current blue-eyed boy. “I can produce papers which prove that the charges levelled by Mr Modi against Mr Srinivasan are blatant lies,” said Shashank Manohar, the board president, who is now likely to authorise legal action against Modi.
This is the season for sporting scandals in India. The IPL fiasco came first, though compared to the daylight robbery that is the Commonwealth Games, that seems chump change. But for a competition that is only three seasons old, this latest allegation is a real blow. When the commissioner [suspended for now] of the league admits to such gross malpractice, what credibility does the competition have? Who won’t look at future auctions and wonder if they are above board?
More importantly, can the BCCI afford a top official whose involvement with one team isn’t even a secret? Once upon a time, players from other Australian states used to say that the baggy green national cap came free with the New South Wales’ blue one. Similarly, there are embittered whispers doing the rounds now that all you need to do to get an India or India A call-up is wear the Super Kings’ canary yellow. It doesn’t help when the chief selector is a brand ambassador for the same IPL side.
“The BCCI has always maintained that the auction was free and fair, and any suggestion of collusion between board members to divvy up top players such as Flintoff would be a hammer blow to the tournament’s already tarnished reputation.” wrote David Hopps in The Guardian. It’s become the default position to attribute any criticism of India or its cricket board to jealousy and resentment of its riches. That’s as pathetic as the notions of superiority that prop up right-wing conservatives in the US.
The IPL has the financial resources and the power to attract most players, but like Caesar’s wife, it must be seen to be above board. Without that, the hype and hoopla can only last so long. Not everyone wants the IPL to fail, but there are many all around the world who would like it to be run better. Why not have professional management, with men and women whose neutrality are not in question? Surely, the owners who have sunk small fortunes into each franchise would prefer it too.
India’s new generation of players has been the target of much criticism over the past month. Wasim Akram called them soft, others have questioned their commitment and ability to see beyond short-term riches. But like anyone else, they need good role models. When those governing them or laying down the rules break them so flagrantly, what can we expect? The rot starts at the top, not with some callow 20-year-old.
*This article appeared in The Sunday Guardian on August 29, 2010.