With clean chits must come transparency

Cricket may not be India’s national sport, but it’s surely the favourite sport and pastime among the masses. Yet, the rulers of the game in this country do not have the fan at heart where being accountable is concerned.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) working committee in Chennai on Tuesday backed president in exile N Srinivasan and the Indian Premier League Chief Operating Officer Sundar Raman despite the Mudgal commission appointed by the Supreme Court finding flaws in their administration of the IPL.

BCCI’s president-in-exile N Srinivasan in Chennai on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
BCCI’s president-in-exile N Srinivasan in Chennai on Tuesday. Pic/PTI

There’s no harm in backing accused officials if members are convinced they are clean, but don’t the public deserve a more elaborate explanation as to why these two important officials were supported? After all, the meeting was held a day after the Supreme Court released a section of the Mudgal report.

This is what the BCCI said in a press release on Tuesday: “The Members noted the conclusions in the final report of the Mudgal committee and felt that there is no taint on the conduct of Mr N Srinivasan and the allegations levelled against him by unscrupulous elements were baseless and were aimed at destabilising the working of the BCCI.” Are they suggesting these “unscrupulous elements” were influencing members of the Mudgal panel?

Firstly, why a mere press release after such a critical meeting? If a probe backed by the country’s highest judicial authority reveals in black and white that the cricket officials did not act in tune with the spirit of the game, the Board reaction should have come through a proper press conference. Some tough questions coming through was a given but in any case, the person taking questions on behalf of the Board will say what he wants to say and nothing more and a media conference can be brought to an end as experienced in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s I-won’t-say-a-thing press conference before the 2013 Champions Trophy where he was questioned about the spot-fixing scandal. This defensive approach and running away from the media will only exacerbate the issue.

Tuesday’s press release did not have a clear explanation or even a gist of what Indian Premier League COO Sundar Raman said in his defence about phoning a bookie contact eight times in a season. Ditto Srinivasan’s explanation about not acting on an offending player.

Some pundits reckon the BCCI’s latest stance shows disrespect to the Mudgal findings and this show of support to the two big officials is akin to a batsman fishing outside the off stump when the ball is moving around.

Former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi makes a good point when he says this was a golden opportunity for the Board to redeem itself and take some tough decisions. But tough decisions rarely extend to officials. It should not be forgotten how Ravindra Jadeja was banned from playing the 2010 edition of the IPL because he was caught negotiating a deal with another franchise as a Rajasthan Royals player which was against the guidelines of the tournament. The same Jadeja, who now plays for Chennai Super Kings, had the Board’s full-on support in the fracas involving James Anderson and himself on the last England tour.

It is to be seen whether Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals will be banned from the IPL now that the Mudgal report indicts their respective team officials for betting during the IPL. My hunch is that a fine would be just fine (pun intended) for the Board members.

It appears there are not enough of contrasting views within the BCCI. A handful of critical voices, or even less, can be easily handled and achieving a business-as-usual scenario is the easiest thing in the world.

There are not too many critical voices among the cricketing fraternity as well. Former players, and understandably so to an extent, don’t want to slam an establishment which has given them security for life through the one-time benefit scheme which was launched thanks to the profits earned by the IPL.

Looking after the financial interests of present and former players alone doesn’t make a cricket body perfect. A commitment to displaying more transparency will help achieve that goal. That’s if the BCCI wants to erect a goal post.

Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor

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