From entering the world of cricket administration in his home state of Tamil Nadu in 2001 to becoming the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 2011, N Srinivasan has come a long way. He slowly worked his way to the top post of the most powerful board in the world of cricket. No wonder then, inspite of his son-in-law being involved in alleged illegal betting in the ongoing saga which has hit the Indian Premier League, the man in the hot seat is refusing to quit.
However, when you see the BCCI chief refusing to leave on grounds of propriety and morality and instead hear him saying that he will not be bulldozed into resigning, it does fill you with revulsion. Here is a man who has been charged with conflict of interest for long – he owns the IPL franchisee, the Chennai Super Kings and is the president of the BCCI. He has also been accused by former Test player and selector, Mohinder Singh Amarnath, of protecting Mahendra Singh Dhoni from being dropped as India captain after the disastrous tour of England and Australia. He has a case against him in the Supreme Court filed by former BCCI president AC Muthiah challenging the board`s rules that permit BCCI and IPL administrators to be part of the IPL and own league teams.
And if that was not enough, he has now landed in one of the worst controversies to have hit the Indian cricket. The BCCI has always been a hotbed of politics. There are camps and hectic parleys take place at the time of elections. With so much money riding on the Indian cricket board, who wouldn`t want to be in the thick of things and have their fingers in the pie. And then, not to forget the power and the pleasure that the officials derive from ruling the cricket stars, the real heroes who go and perform on the fields.
When the three players of Rajasthan Royals, S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, were arrested by the Delhi Police for alleged spot-fixing, Srinivasan came out and vociferously announced that the guilty would not be spared and that he was shocked and stunned at the turn of events. At that time, no one in the wildest imagination had thought that the dirty world of betting and fixing would end up right at the doorsteps of the head of India`s cricketing body. But now that his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, is in police custody for illegal activities, the tone and tenor of Srinivasan have changed. Instead of saying that he would step down on grounds of morality as one of his family members has been alleged to be involved in what is probably cricket`s worst scandal, the BCCI chief has become belligerent and even attacked the media for going after him.
In what sounds just a lame excuse to buy time, Srinivasan on May 26 announced the setting up of a three-member commission to probe allegations against his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan. The three-member enquiry commission will consist of two members of the IPL Operations Committee and an independent person in whose appointment Srinivasan will have no role. He also said that Meiyappan was just a cricket enthusiast who frequented India Cements office. Who is the BCCI chief trying to fool? Are the people of this country so naïve that they are going to buy his argument? However much Srinivasan tries to spin a yarn, the fact is that his position as the head of Indian cricket is compromised and clearly untenable.
After Meiyappan was summoned by the Mumbai Police`s crime branch, India Cements had also issued a statement saying that he was neither the CEO nor Team Principal of Chennai Super Kings and that Gurunath was only one of the members (Honorary) of the management team of the franchisee. Incidentally, Meiyappan’s Twitter account initially said that he was the Team Principal, CSK. It now says he is the MD, AVM Productions and Entertainment, AVM studios, AVM constructions. Can things get more bizarre than this?
Just pause and consider the situation – in one of the videos aired by television channels, Meiyappan is heard saying in an IPL workshop – "It always feels great to own a team like this." He was designated as the owner of the CSK at that particular event. He has also been seen sitting in dugouts during matches and has been said to have attended team strategy meetings and has been involved in team composition. There has been footage of him sitting at players` auction and bidding for cricketers. So, even if not technically, he was the team owner for all practical purposes.
And if the `team owner` starts placing huge amounts of bets in the IPL matches, including the ones played by his own team, then where does that leave the credibility of the league. How can one be sure that Meiyappan was not passing insider information to Vindoo Dara Singh, through whom he was supposedly placing bets? In fact, the Mumbai Police have already told the court that he was also involved in match-fixing and passed on important information to bookies.
Srinivasan is probably hoping that nothing incriminating comes out in police questioning of his son-in-law and then once he is out on bail, everything can be brushed under the carpet and things can get back to being hunky-dory. However, if an attempt is made to cover up things after so much dirt has been unearthed, then the BCCI will risk losing the faith and trust of millions of fans in the country who love the game and for whom cricket is akin to religion. For the sake of fans and of the sanctity of cricket in India, N Srinivasan must go, even if one gives him the benefit of the doubt and assumes that he was unaware of the activities of his son-in-law.
Can Srinivasan put his hand on his heart and say that he can remain objective as far as the doings of son-in-law are concerned. To be noted is the fact that when Mumbai Police officers had gone to Chennai to question Meiyappan, he was not found there. And where was he at that time – with his father-in-law in Kodaikanal.
Amidst talks that the officials are trying to persuade him into resigning, the BCCI president made it clear to the press that he had not done anything wrong and that there was no revolt against him in the board. However, if media reports are to be believed, then the BCCI officials do want Srinivasan to step down, though none of the officials have come out in the open and talked about it. But then if he decides to brazen it out and hang in there then it may not be easy to remove him. As per rules, at least 3/4th or 24 out of the 31-member body must vote him out at a special general meeting. Also, at least 10 full members have to sign a requisition for such a meeting.
Srinivasan has also been saying that the ongoing saga is a conspiracy to dethrone him and he has in more ways than one hinted at the role of NCP chief and Union Agricultural Minister, Sharad Pawar. Remember, Pawar appointed Srinivasan as the BCCI treasurer in 2005. Srinivasan had then formed an informal alliance with Pawar, in a bid to oust the then board president Jagmohan Dalmiya from the BCCI`s centre of power. Well, as they say, life has turned a full circle for the BCCI chief.
It is said that Srinivasan and Pawar do not share the same bonhomie any longer and thus the accusations by Srinivasan towards Pawar. Even if there may be some truth to the matter and even if the Mumbai Police were asked by the NCP in Maharashtra to go after Meiyappan, can Srinivasan and company claim with all sincerity that his son-in-law did no wrong. How long can you deny the obvious, especially if you have been caught with your hand in the till?
Post Script: The BCCI president needs to do a reality check as to where and in what position he is placed at the moment. He needs to realise that to remain arrogant and consider himself all-powerful will not only harm him but the interest of the game. To see him in a denial mode after all that has come out in the public domain is not only downright ridiculous but completely laughable, to say the least.