Lodha committee verdict


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It was a day like no other in Indian cricket! In front of a packed media gathering, Justice Lodha and his team read out what is clearly a death blow for the Rajasthan Royals, India Cements and CSK, and more importantly, the Indian Premier League.
The writing was on the wall for N Srinivasan and India Cements for the longest time. It was for Raj Kundra and the Jaipur franchise, as well. Each of them chose to ignore it. They decided to be brazen, aggressive and even dismissive on occasions. Corruption issues were hardly given due importance, it was all a media circus, is what we were repeatedly told. The media was the culprit. Trying to shoot the messenger had turned into the norm. Finally, the bullet has come to bite them. In a stinging judgment, which in the words of India’s highest judiciary is binding upon all parties, India Cements finds itself suspended from the IPL for two years. The same applies to the Jaipur franchise which owns Rajasthan Royals.
The landmark judgment, which is being hailed by everyone, tells us three things:
First, Justice Lodha and his team did not buy the Srinivasan and India Cements argument that Gurunath was not part of the ownership structure. Rather, what Justice Lodha said at the India Habitat Center points to the fact that what was said by Mr. Srinivasan and the India Cements top brass, was not the truth. Yet Mr. Srinivasan continues to be India’s representative at the ICC. He continues to be ICC Chairman when his own franchise stands suspended on charges of corruption, and his son-in-law is banned for life from the game he administers.
Frankly, Mr. Srinivasan does find himself isolated. He has been saying repeatedly that Gurunath had nothing to do with the team. He famously even called him an ‘enthusiast’. Unfortunately the SC appointed committee has bought none of it. Is it not proper then, on grounds of probity and propriety, that Mr. Srinivasan concedes his mistakes and steps down from his position as Chairman? Is it too much to expect that the BCCI, which should look at the verdict as the best ever opportunity to get its house in order, will finally take a call and send Shashank Manohar to the ICC as India’s representative?
What about brand IPL? Has it not taken a beating in the aftermath of Indian cricket’s darkest Tuesday in recent times? Of course it has. Sample this – the founder of the IPL is now in exile in London. The man who ran the show between 2010-2014 is now seeing his team get suspended by an SC appointed committee. And that’s not all. The man who now runs the show – Sundar Raman, will soon be in the eye of the storm because what has so far been delivered by the Lodha committee, is just the tip of the iceberg. The committee is yet to speak on Sundar Raman and the BCCI. Should the BCCI constitution be fundamentally changed? What about issues of conflict of interest that have become endemic in India’s cricket establishment? We are all waiting for the committee’s views on these issues.
While it is time to conjecture if this is finally end game for N Srinivasan, it is pertinent to ask what this means for the BCCI? Will the BCCI finally see the writing on the wall or will it continue to act like a cosy club? This is without doubt, the best opportunity the BCCI will get in a long time, to put its house in order. The Lodha committee is telling the Indian cricket board that unless you do so at the earliest, we will force your hand in the future. Conducting a comprehensive investigation that has now lasted a little under six months, they will surely deliver a damning blow to the BCCI if the Dalmiya-Thakur dispensation does not act soon.
In every crisis there is an opportunity, and that’s how the BCCI ought to see the Lodha committee verdict. That’s how Mr. Srinivasan ought to see the verdict as well. If he genuinely loves the game he administers, it is time to pass on the baton, for otherwise he may soon find himself indicted by the Lodha Committee on charges of conflict of interest, because he continues to be the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association President. And if the BCCI allows him to be in his position for long, chances are they will find themselves in a corner as well.
Also, the judgment has clearly helped restore the faith of fans in the judicial process. That the SC can indeed force the hands of the BCCI, is now a reality. After giving the BCCI many opportunities to act, the SC appointed committee has pushed it to the wall. The IPL too, may have been delved a severe blow in the short term, but in the long term it has the opportunity of coming out bigger and better. Transparency, accountability and probity can indeed be introduced in Indian cricket as a result of the Lodha committee verdict. And only by doing so can the BCCI save itself. Else, the second report of the Lodha committee will be far more damning for the world’s richest cricket board.
In all of this, many have asked one straight question – what will happen to the players? Some have even gone further and asked what will happen to MS Dhoni? The Indian captain, in many ways the face of the IPL and the Chennai Super Kings, stands the risk of not playing in the tournament he loves for the next two years. Why should Dhoni be penalised, is the sentiment? And it is only common, from his legion of fans.
If the Indian captain has done no wrong, it is perfectly valid to ask why should he be penalised? As a cricketer who earns his bread and butter from playing the sport, it is unfair to penalise someone for a crime he has not committed. But MSD’s case his different. MSD, it must be recalled was called by the Justice Mudgal Committee and asked if Gurunath Meyiappan was indeed the team principal? His answer – which is well documented by now in the public domain, was not something befitting of the Indian captain. It is very difficult to believe Dhoni did not know who his own team principal was. It is rather impossible to believe that Dhoni was unaware that Gurunath was a key official and was part of the ownership structure. As the skipper, who interacts with the owners on a daily basis, it is only natural to expect that Dhoni knew. As Vice President of India Cements which owns CSK, it is fair to conjecture that Dhoni was aware of Gurunath’s exact position in the team hierarchy. Frankly, this is the same premise that the Justice Lodha committee has used with regards India Cements. India Cements has been trying to tell the world for the longest time that Gurunath was not team owner and was not part of the ownership structure. This draws on the famous Srinivasan comment where he called Guru an enthusiast.
Was it not befitting of the Indian captain, in the spirit of the game, that he told the Mudgal Committee who Gurunath was? Was it not proper on his part to stand up to the integrity of the game rather than trying to defend his team owner? Clearly MSD has let the game and his fans down by not disclosing the true identity of Guruntah to the Mudgal committee. As a result if he faces the brunt of the Lodha committee’s announcement there is very little that one can say to defend him. Frankly, he had his chance to stand up to his position as India captain. He chose his franchise. His loyalty was to CSK and not to the game of cricket. And now his franchise stands suspended. So perhaps it is fair that MSD faces the consequences as well.

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

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