If a majority of cricket fans are disappointed with the outcome of the so-called emergency meeting of the cricket board’s working committee on Sunday, I can only offer my sympathies to them. Frankly, at the end of it all, I had a sinking feeling and felt why - at all - did I travel down south in this excruciating heat, catching a flight at six.
When I spoke to the television channels soon after the meeting, even I didn’t realise what a colossal waste of board’s money and the time of the members as well as the huge posse of media networks which waited in anticipation to hear something more tangible than a drab statement issued from Delhi by the board’s joint secretary who, along with two other politicians did not think the meeting was important enough to fly down to Chennai.
After the meeting I can only construe that the board’s image has taken a beating and in all my years of association with it I have never seen its reputation plummet to rock bottom.
Though I have talked about some of the issues I am discussing here with the media persons after the meeting, I thought should elaborate some of the points here.
Soon after calling the meeting to order, board president Narayanaswamy Srinivasan shocked the gathering by saying the meeting was an informal one as a board affiliate questioned its validity since the mandatory 72 hours notice was not given as required under the BCCI constitution.
Many members at the meeting felt that the best course for Srinivasan was to quit as a first step to restore peoples’ faith in cricket in general and the board in particular. They were only left whispering whereas I stood up to tell Srinivasan more than once during the meeting that he should gracefully quit. I am surprised to find that Srinivasan had the gall to say that I did not ask for his resignation! The members who attended the meeting should now stand up and say who was telling the truth, Srini or me.
Then a series of steps were initiated violating the board’s constitution. The first and foremost was the constitutional validity of asking my best friend Jagmohan Dalmiya to manage the day-to-day affairs of the board in the absence of president Srinivasan who reluctantly agreed to step aside, refusing to step down.
The BCCI constitution has no provision for an interim or acting President and how could an eminent legal brain like Mr Arun Jaitley propose Jaggu’s name in violation of board’s constitution.
The second shocker followed soon, this time the constitution of the probe panel to go into the alleged betting and spot-fixing involving Srinivasan’s son- in-law Mr Gurunath Meiyappan.
Any probe panel MUST be fair, independent and lawfully constituted with specific terms of reference. No one in the board seemed to know who actually constituted the panel and I wanted to find out which organ of the board chose the members of the panel.
After repeated requests to elicit the information, I was told not by President but another official that the probe panel was selected by the IPL Operations Committee comprising Sundar Raman (CEO, IPL), Peter Griffiths (IMG), Rahul Mascarenhas, BCCI legal assistant, and P R Raman, (BCCI legal adviser and the brother of Mr Meiyappan’s counsel). I was told that Prof Ratnakar Shetty acted as convener for the panel.
The appointment of the probe panel is void ab initio (to be treated as invalid from the outset) because the committee had no power or authority under the BCCI regulations to appoint such a panel. The power of appointing a panel to take decisions regarding serious matters like spot fixing, match fixing and violation of franchise contractual obligations is vested with with the Working Committee / Special General Meeting of the BCCI.
Realising that public memory is short, I insisted on recording my dissent on all the issues – Srinivasan’s refusal to step down, the unlawfully constituted probe panel, the board’s constitution itself not inspiring public confidence and the unconstitutional interim arrangement. I also suggested that the only competent authority to take these important decisions is the Special General Meeting.
For my part I suggested the following steps to restore people’s faith in the board:
* Mr. Srinivasan must resign till such time the investigation and the probe reaches its conclusion.
* The probe has to be fair and independent and the people on it must be of impeccable repute
* The most important thing is to go into the whole gamut of issues relating to corruption in cricket, putting in place proper checks and balances at the domestic level coupled with strict vigilance and exemplary punishment at all levels.
It is a difficult fight but then other sports internationally have to a large extent succeeded in battling the monster. It has to be a relentless fight and it has to be fought with conviction and zero tolerance.