Prem Panicker

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Prem has been writing about cricket since 1996 -- and sometimes wishes he hadn't.

Blog Posts by Prem Panicker

  • Srini to Jaggu: Cheers, mate!

    Dalmiya remains ‘interim president’. Srini remains in charge. And most importantly, Srini can now contest in September.



    In a private corner of a bar someplace, N Srinivasan and Jagmohan Dalmiya are likely sharing a single malt and laughing fit to bust; their laughter probably crescendoes with each new headline in the media, and each new talking head on TV, announcing that Srini’s bid to return as president has been stymied again.

    The word the media wants is “facilitated”.

    Going in to today’s meeting, there was only one outcome Srinivasan needed to avoid: that the IPL governing council, of which he is *not* a member (ex-officio, he calls himself — but that is in his capacity as BCCI president, from which post he has ‘stepped aside’ — so on date, he cannot be part of the governing council even ex-officio) would accept the Bombay High Court strictures, accept the inquiry committee report as invalid, and order a new probe.

    *If* that had happened, Srinivasan was finished — because there is no way in hell a probe committee can be constituted, meet, examine evidence (no matter how superficially) and submit a Read More »from Srini to Jaggu: Cheers, mate!
  • N Srinivasan to Earth: Just Chill Out

    1997. 2003. 2013. It's pretty simple, actually. Whenever the stench of corruption has threatened the BCCI, it has simply rigged an inquiry committee to give itself a 'clean chit'. Honestly.

    “I do not know,” said N Srinivasan, the president-in-limbo of The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), “why you people are making a big issue of it.”

    A Bombay High Court bench, responding to a petition filed by the Bihar Cricket Association, had called the BCCI-constituted panel of inquiry “illegal”, repudiated that panel’s report and asked that the entire inquiry be conducted afresh.

    What’s the big deal here, Srinivasan asks. And you can understand his bewilderment – after all, the BCCI had in this instance merely drawn from a playbook that has served its ends successfully, and repeatedly, in the past.

    Does anyone remember DV Subba Rao? Back in 2003, he was chairman of the Bar Council of India and was handpicked to probe the allegation that Abhijit Kale, an up and coming right hand batsman from Maharashtra, had offered bribes to two members of the national selection committee for a berth in the senior side.

    In course of the inquiry, Subba Rao met only three people: Pranob Roy and

    Read More »from N Srinivasan to Earth: Just Chill Out
  • Dalmiya and the new broom

    Jagmohan Dalmiya

    The BCCI has “initiated Operation Clean-Up” — and I was so impressed.

    Were you not? A clean-up, even if it is only ‘initiated’, is good, no? Particularly when Jagmohan Dalmiya, who wields this particular broom, had pessimistically said the day he took charge that there are no instant solutions?

    • More impressive than the initiation is how wide-ranging it is, this ‘Operation Vacuum Cleaner’.
    • No more apres-match parties (Chirayu Amin said the same thing over three years ago)
    • No more cheerleaders
    • No more strange faces in dugouts (Lalit Modi said that when he chucked Shah Rukh out in season 2)
    • Strict code of conduct in place (Since there is already a code of conduct in place, make that ‘stricter’)
    • No selectors to have ties with any franchise (Oh wait, apparently BCCI officials and such still can — a significant omission, but let’s not carp)

    Players and support staff to provide their cellphone numbers to BCCI ahead of the IPL (Strange, I thought the BCCI would know how to contact players and Read More »from Dalmiya and the new broom
  • The Dummies’ guide to bookies and punters


    We who love our stories clean and unambiguous have over time created an archetype: the super-fixer.

    Per legend and lore, as crafted in the media and given further heft by Bollywood (think Emraan Hashmi in Jannat), this mythical figure is an end-to-end gambling solution.

    He scripts every detail of cricket matches, beginning with the toss, incorporating the ebbs and flows of the game and ‘taking it right down to the wire’.

    He bribes, coaxes, cajoles and threatens cricketers, agnostic of nationality into following his script.

    With his granular knowledge of what is going to happen, he then fixes the odds to favor the book and to suck the gullible punter into betting on what he has already ensured will not happen.

    In doing all this, he manages to pull off two mutually contradictory requirements: On the one hand, he rubs shoulders with the top cricket stars who by definition live their lives in the harsh glare of the spotlight and on the other hand, he remains a will-o-the-wisp, invisible to Read More »from The Dummies’ guide to bookies and punters
  • Srinivasan should go — but why?

    The atmosphere of corruption he created opened the door for lesser mortals to be tempted.


    So it is all down to numbers. Which, in other words, means open bidding for votes, promises of largesse, and which faction can make the more potent promise (or threat) to buy votes.

    Just the great Indian democracy in action, and isn’t that such a heartening sight to see? Not.

    Meanwhile, the news channels are all about highlighting those voices that say Srinivasan should go. And yes, he should.

    Srinivasan should go because of the illicit manner in which he acquired a franchise; because of the way he manipulated the IPL to his own personal ends and institutionalized corruption on a grand scale. Remember how Mumbai Indians complained vociferously that he had ‘fixed’ the previous auction to favor his own team? Remember the complaints about him tampering with the duty roster of umpires, and even the schedule, to benefit his team? Remember the way he manipulated the salary caps so he — and MI — could retain select players while still retaining sufficient money to bid for top talent at the Read More »from Srinivasan should go — but why?
  • Dear Srini… With love, Sharad

    Despite his posturing today, Pawar is directly responsible for the Srinivasan situation.

    Sharad Pawar

    So on TV just now, I heard Sharad Pawar — who recently announced his candidacy for the post of Mumbai Cricket Association president — say that “this situation would not have happened if I had been BCCI president”.

    Really?

    This whole mess began when the BCCI ignored the obvious conflicts inherent in N Srinivasan owning a franchise while being an office bearer of the BCCI, right? This was done despite the provisions of the constitution, and the constitution was then post-facto amended to make things kosher.

    So here you go: A letter on the BCCI letter-head, dated January 5, 2008 addressed to Srinivasan and signed by then BCCI President Pawar, reads in full thus:

    I am in receipt of your letter regarding participation of India Cements Limited in tender process for the Franchise of Indian Premier League.

    I have examined the bye-laws and the relevant regulations of the BCCI and I have consulted several members of the BCCI, including office bearers of the Board, and it is our considered opinion
    Read More »from Dear Srini… With love, Sharad
  • The Kapil Sibal connection

    It is astonishing that a law sparked by corruption in the IPL does not apply to the IPL.

    Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal

    Consider this sequence of events:

    • Betting and match-fixing allegations hit IPL.
    • BCCI pleads helplessness as there are no laws in place covering deliberate under-performance.
    • IPL Commissioner Rajiv Shukla and BCCI honcho Arun Jaitley meet Law Minister Kapil Sibal, “demand” tough new law.
    • Kapil Sibal promises new law with teeth.

    Here is the kicker: The Sports Ministry receives this tough new law — and finds that the IPL is kept out of its ambit:

    Sibal assured that corporates, bookies, criminals as well as Indian and international players would fall under its jurisdiction.

    The sports ministry was taken aback when it received the bill on Monday. Contrary to what Sibal had pledged, the law ministry has kept the scandal-ridden IPL out of its purview. Even the I-League is kept out its ambit.

    The ministry dismissed the proposed law as an “eyewash”. Top officials called it a “toothless bill”.

    “We’ll send our strong response by Wednesday,” a senior ministry official said. “People who have formulated the
    Read More »from The Kapil Sibal connection
  • The fault, dear Brutus…

    Srinivasan flipping the bird to the media and fans.

    Law Minister Kapil Sibal made an interesting statement the other day:

    Kapil Sibal said the government should keep away from sports “as far as possible” as it could damage it.

    “Sports can’t be run by governments…governments getting involved in sports activities would ultimately damage sports,” he said.

    He said more:

    “I am not saying that in every situation, but as far as possible government should keep away. But when it becomes absolutely necessary, then there is no way out, then of course at that time government can take a position,” he said.

    Wait — the police discover evidence of large-scale betting, which is illegal. The police discover evidence of large-scale money transfers and the active involvement of the underworld. And the law minister, no less, thinks it is not ‘absolutely necessary’ to ‘take a position’? Wow!

    When the implications of this statement sink in to the minister’s fatuous head, the inevitable disclaimers and clarifications will emerge (“When I said sports, I was referringRead More »from The fault, dear Brutus…
  • Paradise Lost

    What I wonder now, amidst these ruins, is this: how do I watch a cricket match again?

    Is a clean cricket match now an illusory concept?

    And so I find myself in an emotional cauldron; in a sport I love, in a tournament whose cricket I genuinely believe in, but in an atmosphere, even if created by a few, tinged with moral decay and danger. I feel sadness and fear. I am angry very often, but from time to time expectation wells up within: that my sport might emerge stronger, that out of pain a better sport will evolve.

    I am partly in denial; I want my sport to embody everything I have experienced within it: beauty, bravery and flair, everything that brings a smile. I want to be happy, I want to shout out that good vastly overwhelms bad. But another part of me is hoping that whatever has to tumble out does, that cricket finds its deepest caverns so those conspiring there can be exposed; that cricket feels so much pain that it will do what it takes to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Neither emotion is viable, for I know cricket will continue to exist, like everything else, with the nicest and the bravest alongside the
    Read More »from Paradise Lost
  • Crime and lack of punishment

    Corruption in cricket is as old as the apathy of the sport's administrators.


    A small story on the front page of the Times of India, May 10, merits some attention. The money quote:

    Some will still recall the famous episode in which he broke down a door after being dismissed at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla during an India-West Indies Test in 1983.

    (Sir Vivian) Richards recounted, “Someone called me up the night before in the hotel. It was an anonymous call. He said, ‘Mr Richards? You don’t know me but if I were you tomorrow I’d be careful of (the umpire). The next day, I got hit on the pads. The ball wouldn’t have hit another set (of stumps). Kapil just sort of went ‘aah’ (gesticulating disappointment) and I was given out. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the finger going up. You never heard about match-fixing and all that stuff so I don’t know what was going on then.”

    The story underlines what so many of us have been saying for so long: corruption in cricket is not new. And this knowledge is why so many of us opted out of cricket reporting, as I explained in this post.Read More »from Crime and lack of punishment

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