It's probably what they’d planned for, anyway. If you believe the events of Sunday, the 28th July, you’d be coerced into thinking that all was indeed fine with Indian cricket. That nothing happened, a couple of months ago, when the IPL spot-fixing/betting scandal first surfaced. It was then described rather eloquently as the “worst crisis to hit Indian cricket”, with three cricketers, including a World-Cup winner, being masqueraded as petty criminals and locked up in prison.
What ensued later, was an elaborate attempt at power-play, resulting in two officials quitting in protest, the President of the BCCI caught with his pants down, thanks to an errant relative and instead of putting propriety over personal ambitions, the sheer shamelessness in holding on to the job meant he’d stepped aside than resigned.
The mandate, in early June was clearly for a thorough clean-up of Indian cricket. The public demanded better of our board, of our officials. Instead, they chose to look the other way. Typical, BCCI.
They chose to brush things under the carpet, almost as if the carpet didn’t exist in the first place. They chose to let things play out, let a few on-field victories pacify the fans, and in doing so “restore the faith of the game” in the public’s eyes. They were right, for Dhoni’s men did exceedingly well, given the distractions of the outrageous events that were shadowing the corridors of power.
But as you probably know by now, the President kept his seat warmed up for a quick return with a sham of a probe/private inquiry, which in discharging its duties came up with the all convenient clean-chit.
Though the Bombay High Court deemed the probe illegal, the level of hutzpah has, quite crossed acceptable limits that the order we’re told isn’t legally binding on the BCCI, and its president can return to his comfortable throne. In short, it's business as usual.
Sorry to disappoint you, but this was never going to be a thorough job.
It never has been, as the excellent Prem Panicker notes in this excellent piece, where clean chits have been handed out pretty much as doles by BCCI-appointed probe panels in the past, almost without the relevant “quasi-judicial” procedures that ought to be followed.
The “clean-up” itself was a well-orchestrated farce of the highest order. It was confined to corruption in the IPL, undoubtedly topical and urgent, given its implications on the BCCI’s coffers and the public’s trust. Let’s call this bad corruption, for now.
The good corruption however, seems to be left out of their brief because everyone’s got their fingers in the proverbial dirty, not just IPL franchises. It would have meant digging deeper, going back to the basic unit of the Board and its very existence - the state associations, that one vote that could change your career from an also-ran to an all-powerful man. It would mean breaking away from the dirty shackles of alliance, power play and factional politics. It would mean unsettling aspirations and dismantling the very fiefdoms some of them have bred, carefully nurtured and expanded over the years into an alternate source of power.
CESSPOOL OF CORRUPTION
It would have meant losing out on that all-important vote - the value of which is unmatched in Indian cricket.
It is that vote which more often than not prevents the much needed reform of the sport. It is that vote which indirectly encourages corruption, especially when the authorities turn a blind eye towards those you might need on your side. Else what stops the current BCCI dispensation from taking on the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, which today stands accused of embezzling Rs. 25 crores, which the Board gave it for cricket development?
Let’s up the stakes a bit. What stops the BCCI from taking on the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association, which by the way stands indicted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, after former India cricketer Kirti Azad alleged financial irregularities in that association?
Why are other associations, the likes of Assam, Kerala, Rajasthan and Hyderabad allowed to go scot free? The BCCI in essence is a cesspool of corruption. Its associations, typically, the theatres of how meticulously its fearlessly practiced.
GOVERNANCE, NOT A PRIORITY
Solutions within the BCCI are hard to come by, and unfortunately, we may never be witness to an all-encompassing clean-up, a thorough structural audit, where firstly, the state associations are accountable to the BCCI and importantly, the BCCI, accountable to the public at-large, whom it considers to be an important stakeholder in the game.
Governance, unfortunately, has never been the priority both within the board and its member associations - barring a few who’ve done exceptional work, but given the way the BCCI functions, even they’re up for grabs when it comes to the temptations of power-play.
Recently in Bangalore, I met an official of a state association from the East Zone, who candidly told me this. “You’re an idiot if you expect a thorough clean up. It is never going to happen in mine and probably your lifetime.”
It’s hard to reconcile to this, but one wonders if Indian cricket will ever be clean. Or do we, as stakeholders, accept it as something so matter-of-factly and move on. The latter sounds more plausible.
ANYTHING FOR POWER
Even today, as I write this, the President is seeking re-election for a third year in office, as part of his term, and in doing so playing the good old hardball.
There are intense back-room negotiations going on between his camp and a particular association, which has been requested to delay its election, so that his rival doesn’t get a shot at the Presidency.
The president of that association, also a BCCI official, has budged for now, citing reasons that range from a court-case involving a member of that association to accounts not being fully audited for the delay in convening the Annual General Meeting. It wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect more such moves in the coming days, as September beckons. A lot is at stake for these gentlemen.
In my two decades of following this sport, I presumably love (and keep falling out of love with), and half a decade of covering/writing about this sport, I’ve never seen the BCCI so brazen and contemptuous, and out of touch with what the people actually expect of them.
There’s almost a surreal sense of normalcy and routine about everything we’re witness to today, and the fans helpless at best. Yes, the public per-se don’t care about who runs Indian cricket as long as India keeps winning cricket matches on field, but that's exactly what the suits want.
They feed into that very detachment, that vacuum, that ever-widening gap that gives them the license to do what they want and get away with. We deserve better, don’t we? And yes, we are all idiots.