The more things change, the more they remain the same. This aptly defines what happened in the BCCI’s Emergent Working Committee meeting convened to decide the fate of N Srinivasan on June 02, 2013. Amidst the scandal of his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, involved in betting, pressure had been mounting from all sides on N Srinivasan to quit as BCCI chief on grounds of morality, probity and propriety. But then, in the times we are living who cares about all of the above.
Inspite of the cricket board’s image having taken a beating and its credibility eroded for all times to come, Srinivasan was sticking to his chair like ‘fevicol’ and refusing to quit. He probably knew, given the way the board functions and the power equations that change every day, once gone he may never be able to come back.
However, given the clamour for his head, one did feel that good sense may prevail and he may after all, for the good of the game, decide to step down. He had already lost the high moral ground and the chance to gracefully quit on his own by deciding to brazen it out – the least that he could have done was to at least minimize the damage done and give the signal that he had some amount of rationality left in him. After all, no one was saying that he was directly involved in the alleged wrongdoings of his son-in-law but then when fingers are pointed at one of your close family members, the most appropriate thing to do is to quit and let the probe carry on in the most impartial manner.
But it was not to be. In what appears to be a complete sham and just a compromise formula, to say the least, former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya was brought back from the dead to serve as interim president. And what did N Srinivasan do – he ‘stepped aside’ as BCCI chief. If this is not completely laughable and disgusting then what is? It is also an insult to the sensibilities of a billion plus cricket loving people in this country.
Under the compromise formula Dalmiya will be head of a four-member ‘interim arrangement’ which will run the board and manage its day-to-day affairs. And to think of the fact that Sharad Pawar and Srinivasan had gotten together to oust Dalmiya from BCCI’s power centre at one point of time. As they say, there are no permanent allies and foes in politics. Dalmiya coming back to the BCCI also means that the Sharad Pawar group did not have much say in things as they panned out.
The whole thing also becomes all the more intriguing and curious when the man in the eye of the storm said that no one had asked for his resignation. Srinivasan categorically stated – “After discussions, I announced I will not discharge my duty till the probe is completed.” Well, it was always known that the man who is known to be combative and arrogant would not go down without a fight. But he would make things work out in his favour in this manner is something that has surely stumped the people of this country. This after it was being bandied about that Srinivasan would be booted out if he would be unwilling to go on his own. The man has survived and how.
After the meeting, former BCCI chief, IS Bindra told the press that he was the only one to ask for Srinivasan’s resignation. If this is true then it means that more or less all the members not only connived with Srinivasan but are complicit in all that is wrong with the board. What were the board members afraid of? Or, should we rather say that all of them had their axe to grind. At the end of it, for its members, the BCCI is all about power and clout that they wield or would want to wield in future. So, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
If this is not a complete mockery of things and a complete hogwash then what is? One wonders that if the board had collectively asked Srinivasan to step down then would he have any other option but to go. In the end, what has really happened – for all practical purposes Srinivasan remains the BCCI president and will effectively remote control the richest cricket board in the world. The board members had a great opportunity to let the people of this country know that they mean business and cricket’s interest is paramount to them. However, they lost an opportunity to restore the credibility of the game and win back the fans’ faith.
Srinivasan during his tenure has doled out huge favours to all and sundry. He has increased the annual grants that smaller associations get, he has handed out matches to smaller venues, and he has shut up former and present players by granting monetary benefits to them. So negotiations, for someone like him, in a time like this were probably not so hard.
One is not saying that all is wrong with the board – it has its plus points. The BCCI has managed to make cricket a rich game in a country where sportsmen from other fields are not so well off. Cricketers in contrast earn enough money even if they play domestic cricket and not go on to play for India. BCCI has also become a force to reckon with as far as world cricket is concerned and today India and Indian cricketers cannot be ignored.
But all of the above does not give the BCCI the right to operate in an opaque manner. Imagine the board does not have its constitution on the website. The BCCI had always acted like a cosy club with its members absolutely reluctant regarding scrutiny of its affairs. There has never been any transparency and it’s known to arm-twist those who don’t toe its line.
For those who were hoping for a clean-up of the way the board works, sadly, it is not going to be. Having said that, the fact is not many really expected a complete overhaul of the board, notwithstanding the IPL spot-fixing and the illegal betting scandal. What else can one expect from those who hanker after power and influence? Members like Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and BJP leader Arun Jaitley and another BJP politician, Anurag Thakur, who have been relentlessly asking for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resign on grounds of propriety and for looking the other way when his ministers were indulging in corruption, have been unnervingly silent on the Srinivasan fiasco. In fact, it is said that they along with former IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla went soft on the CSK boss.
Only former honorary secretary Sanjay Jagdale and former treasurer of the BCCI, Ajay Shirke had the guts to resign. However, it is also said that they were from the NCP chief Sharad Pawar`s camp, which wanted the ouster of Srinivasan and former chief Shashank Manohar back at the helm.
Post Script: Amidst all this does someone care about the cricket loving people of India – probably none? And what has changed after all – one can safely say, maybe nothing.