N Srinivasan sported an unusually dishevelled look: An unshaven face, the blue half-shirt oddly tucked in with the help of suspenders, when he arrived at 9.30 a.m. at Park Sheraton hotel in Chennai for a brunch meeting. It was September 28, a day before the crucial Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) Annual General Meeting (AGM) where he would seek re-election as president. It was strategy time before the big match. By the time he left at 4.30 p.m., he was sporting a silent smile of confidence.
It showed the next day, as Srinivasan, dressed in a charcoal safari suit, arrived at the convention hall on the 11th floor of the hotel. It took just 20 minutes for him to get re-elected unopposed and decide on his main office-bearers, a record time in BCCI books. Four days earlier, he managed to get former IPL chief Lalit Modi banned for life from BCCI in a mere 11 minutes. Two strikes in two weeks reaffirm the embattled Srinivasan as Chennai's Super King. But the 68-year-old's extended tenure at the helm of BCCI will see his biggest battle yet-saving his IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
The franchise has been the root cause of all ills within BCCI; the genesis of all conflict-of-interest debates when Srinivasan-the-BCCI-member offered to buy a franchise as MD of India Cements. It has now reached a climax with a petition pending in the Supreme Court alleging bias in clearing the franchise and its team principal of spot-fixing. Srinivasan's biggest worry is Clause 11.3 (c) of the BCCI-IPL franchise agreement which states a franchise can be terminated: "If any owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchisee, the Team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket." In effect, it warrants CSK's termination after Gurunath Meiyyappan, its team principal and Srinivasan's son-in-law, has been charge-sheeted by Mumbai Police in a betting case.
"My battle is against people who have been compromising the values of BCCI," says petitioner Aditya Verma, secretary of Cricket Association of Bihar, a non-affiliated unit of BCCI. "BCCI says it has nothing to do with IPL, CSK says it has nothing to do with Gurunath, and Srinivasan says he has nothing to do with his son-in-law. This is amusing," he adds. On September 30, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices A.K. Patnaik and J.S. Khehar, while sticking to its earlier order restraining Srinivasan from discharging his duties as BCCI president, remarked, "The only thing to be seen is how Srinivasan, being the president, will affect the IPL probe."
The BCCI president also has a responsibility to save CSK, the most successful business proposition in world cricket worth $75.13 million, as MD of India Cements, which owns CSK's assets. After news of spot-fixing in IPL and Meiyyappan's arrest, India Cements stocks fell 22 per cent and the company suffered a loss of over Rs 600 crore.
RIGHT MEN IN THE RIGHT PLACE
Despite all the brouhaha over spot-fixing and betting in IPL, no one in BCCI has questioned Srinivasan on CSK's future or about Meiyyappan, who mysteriously turned from team principal to-in the board president's own words-a "mere cricket enthusiast". This, despite evidence of his presence at the CSK table during player auctions and accreditation to dugouts as "team owner" from 2009 till 2012. Australian batsman Michael Hussey, CSK's most consistent run-scorer, has reiterated Meiyyappan's link with CSK in his latest book Underneath The Southern Cross: "Our owner was Indian Cements, headed by Mr Srinivasan. As he was also on the board of the BCCI, he gave control of the team to his son-in-law Mr Gurunath. He ran the team along with Kepler Wessels, who was coach." Senior counsel Harish Salve, arguing the case on behalf of Verma, says that "the team principal is involved in betting and he is the son-in-law of the BCCI president, who also owns CSK. So the question of terminating the team will come to Srinivasan".
BCCI insiders believe that Srinivasan, bearing the petition in Supreme Court and its curtailing of his powers for now in mind, has packed the IPL Governing Council and the disciplinary committee-two bodies which will take the final call on the franchise-with his men. Srinivasan has named himself as chairman of the disciplinary committee along with his staunch supporter Shivlal Yadav. Also on the Governing Council are loyalists T.C. Mathew from South Zone and Amitabh Choudhary, the Jharkhand Cricket Association chief. Then there's the ever-reliable Ravi Shastri. Significantly, all BCCI office bearers are also members of the IPL Governing Council.
Over the years, there has been plenty of tinkering with the rules and regulations to help CSK retain its branding. The four-player retention rule was enforced in 2010 to allow CSK to keep M.S. Dhoni and Suresh Raina, their main endorsement faces. Srinivasan courted further controversy when he made Dhoni vice-president in India Cements to give its branding a leg-up, never mind the evident conflict of interest.
BCCI insiders say Srinivasan has already saved his franchise by putting the mechanisms in place within the body. Only this time, there's a judiciary and the police mechanism to contend with. It's game on.
Reproduced From India Today. © 2013. LMIL. All rights reserved.
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Dear Srini… With love, Sharad