IPL: Can cricket ever be fixed?

Will Mudgal report, put under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court, begin the process of uncovering this shadowy game?
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi

Justice Mukul Mudgal’s report on cricket betting and spot fixing scandal does not really say more than what was really known- that IPL is really a scam dressed up as a competitive sport. The report suggests that there is merit in the allegations that Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law  of Narayanaswami Srinivasan, President, Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), was  truly mixed up in betting and spot fixing. Worse his report also suggests that at least six international players, including one cricketer doing national duty in the disastrous tour to New Zealand, are involved in this spot fixing scandal.  

Although the identity of the player has not really been revealed, but there are ample hints that it could be a player from the controversy ridden Srinivasan owned Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Could it be its cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni or his out of form lieutenant, Suresh Raina? From the charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police against Gurunath, who was jailed for a short while, it is apparent that he was in the loop about how the match will progress. And this information does not come to a person till the time the Captain is on his side. Take for example this incident from Mumbai police’s charge sheet.  During the match between Rajasthan Royals and CSK on May 12, 2013, a conversation is available between Meiyappan and Randhawa [Vindoo Dara Singh] where Meiyappan tells Randhawa [that] Chennai Super Kings will score 130-140 runs. Chennai Super Kings scored 141 runs that day. There are numerous such conversations where Gurunath seems to place bet against his own team and winning. Incidentally, he is listed as the Team’s Principal or owner and there is no doubt at all about how he may be controlling the information and outcome of the game. The conduct of Rajasthan Royals and other teams has been found to be extremely dubious. In fact, Raj Kundra, one of the co-owner of  Royals escaped police action, but Mudgal report finds him guilty of everything that was wrong with IPL.   

These revelations cast a long shadow on the Indian Premier League, which has been seen as serious money spinner for a game that was short on funds. Ever since it started a few years ago, it has been rocked by all kinds of scandals ranging from sex, sleaze to money laundering. Some cheer girls blew the whistle on what happened when the lights went out of the cricket stadium. Lalit Modi, IPL’s first Commissioner who choreographed this colorful league, is a fugitive from justice and is hiding in London. He is accused of embezzlement, money laundering and what have you. Modi physical absence though has not been missed as he is busy tweeting and giving skype interviews to TV channels against Srinivasan and others who have fallen foul of him. Scion of the Modi Empire, he has been demanding that CSK be banned for all its misdeeds. He is though silent about the game the big boys play in the cricket board like Arun Jetley and Rajiv Shukla amongst others. It is only in cricket that both the political parties are on the same side. Bishen Singh Bedi tried his aam admi googly Delhi cricket elections, but found little support.

 

All the murky goings on in the game of Indian cricket board and despite the merciless hammering of the national team in New Zealand have not really devalued its status. In the recent, ICC board meeting, Srinivasan was able to convince other 10 test playing countries that the game would be deprived of funds, if India is not respected and given bulk of the earnings. For those who have any doubts about its financial status, 80 percent of ICC funds come from India- surely it wants special treatment for this. BCCI’s proposal, which found acceptance from Cricket Australia and English County Board, the father of cricket fixing, was resisted by other playing nations. India’s weak midnight twin, Pakistan, howled at such discrimination, but it could do little as it earns nothing. Worse, it cannot host matches in its terror ravaged country and has to play in sanitized climes of UAE. 

While BCCI may have established its primacy, cricket commentators raise questions about what Srinivasan’s primacy in ICC affairs would do to the game of cricket. India has not been a signatory of Decision Review System (DRS) that allows a cricketer to challenge a leg before decision given by an Empire. Also, BCCI has not signed the world anti-dope agreement (WADA). During the New Zealand matches there were number of occasions where the Indian team would have benefitted from DRS, but they chose to ignore this important technological intervention. 

Srinivasan will take over as the ICC President in the coming months and continue till 2017. His presence will strengthen India’s hegemony over the game, but would it make cricket better. What was really needed was to clean up the game so that the paying public that worships it like a religion are not shortchanged by the Dubai dons, underworld and avaricious bookies. Srinivasan does not have credentials to make the game cleaner. 

ICC is expected to put up its report on cricket fixing on its website, which will detail its history and the ways to check it. The report, it is learnt, shows how the county cricket of England spawned match fixing as the team owners were keen to improve their ratings in the highly competitive game. That was in the ‘70’s. Since then the fixing and betting have got more nuanced. Satellite TV and a global audience has increased its reach to millions of new audience and raked in billions of dollars. The game in India, which brings in colossal funds, corrupts players from different countries. Australian, English and Pakistani players have all been caught with their hands on the till. Hansie Cronje, ex South African captain, accused of fixing- died in infamy. Pakistan has suffered grievously from charges of corruption with many of their young fast bowlers falling prey to the machinations of the fixers. 

Ordinary fixers are understandable, what Mudgal committee and others shy away from doing is to connect the dots to prove that top honchos who run this game fix the game. Take the issue of the auction of players for the next IPL league. The high price at which some players are being snapped up by franchise owned by cash strapped debt ridden companies like Kingfisher and GMR indicate that there is another revenue stream available to them other than what is stated. 

Will Mudgal report, put under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court, begin the process of uncovering this shadowy game?