New Delhi: Is the world's richest cricket board worried about naming players investigated for their alleged involvement in spot fixing and betting by a probe panel? The answer is in the affirmative, ostensibly because a series of petitions made by various parties, including Raju Ramachandran, representing the Mukul Mudgal commission, made its way to the Supreme Court, demanding that names of players in the sealed envelope should not be revealed.
Else, the country's apex court — at the end of five hours of grueling petitioning by Kapil Sibal (representing N Srinivasan) — said it will appoint a two-member committee of retired judges to fix the level of punishment for Gurunath Meiyappan and urged the BCCI president in exile to choose between the board or his company-owned Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
"I'm very sad, tense and worried. Worldwide, you clean dirt by naming the dirty. Here, you want to do exactly the opposite," said Aditya Varma, a Cricket Association of Bihar official and main petitioner against the BCCI. Sibal tried hard to prove Srinivasan was clean, but the judges did not relent and insisted action is taken against Meiyappan.
The court first gave Srinivasan four options if he, along with BCCI, did not want the court to issue adverse orders. (i) That Srinivasan should withdraw from BCCI, or (ii) a new committee should be formed to take action against those named by Mudgal panel, else (iii) BCCI's governing council should take action or (iv) the Mudgal panel takes action.
Dissatisfied, Sibal suggested five options: (i) the matter be handed to BCCI Behaviour Committee (that includes Ravi Shastri, Arindam Ganguly, Amitabh Choudhary, Sanjay Patel and one more official), or (ii) an independent committee appointed by the board, (iii) or a BCCI committee appointed by the SC or (iv) a two-member committee of retired judges appointed by the SC. If all fails, then (v) Justice Mudgal panel should look into the matter.
The judges picked the fourth option, but not before slamming Srinivasan (read BCCI) for taking no action against Meiyappan. "You do not take action against Meiyappan, and now you want us to spell out how the former CSK official should be punished? asked the judges. "Want action against Meiyappan? What can be done to decide quantum of punishment? We don't want to bypass BCCI, announce punitive measures," the judges said further.
The court continued its relentless attack on Srinivasan, pushing the troubled administrator virtually to the wall. The judges told Sibal the court was "distinctly unhappy" that Srinivasan was attending Tamil Nadu Cricket Association meetings even after stepping aside as a cricket administrator. "You stepped aside but came through the back door," the court said. "You could not take decisions but you attended meetings."
Sibal admitted it was a mistake and agreed Srinivasan should not have attended the meetings. What he did not admit was that all along the hearing of the case, both Srinivasan and the BCCI have held that as TNCA president, Srinivasan could keep attending BCCI meetings.
Sibal tried hard, continuing to weave arguments after arguments, saying there was no basis to indict Srinivasan as he was not found guilty of anything. "He cannot be prevented from contesting the BCCI's elections. He has done a lot for cricket over the years and there have been no question marks over his being president up until this point," argued Sibal.
But the judges shot back: "What is important for Srinivasan, BCCI or CSK?" In short, the judges gave Srinivasan a choice of owning CSK or being president of BCCI. "If he wants to stand for election, then his investment in CSK will be endangered," said the judges. The judges — who are yet to decide on the issue of punishment for CSK — told Srinivasan what they expect him to do.
But this is still an oral observation, not an order. It remains to be seen if that becomes a reality. A week later, the BCCI AGM is scheduled in Mumbai on December 17. In private conversations, Srinivasan has told his friends that he wants to walk into the AGM victorious. The ball is, actually, in court.