The Indian Premier League, set to enter its seventh season on 16 April, will be played out under a cloud of suspicion. It is, increasingly, a tournament that is losing credibility. Firstly, it will not begin in India due to security concerns arising from the Indian general elections and secondly, the BCCI, ruler of Indian (and global?) cricket has, once again, shown itself to be a corrupt, inept organisation.
It all kicked off on 16 May 2013 when three Rajasthan Royals players were arrested for match fixing. One of those was former Indian international Sree Sreesanth. The picture only got murkier with inextricable links from bookmakers to IPL players. Some big names were mentioned, not least Indian captain MS Dhoni.
So too, some franchise owners. This led, this week, to a court ruling in India forbidding the participation of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in the 2014 IPL. BCCI president N Srinivasan was also told to step down so that a fair investigation into the allegations could be conducted. So much smoke, so many mirrors.
That Srinivasan is president of the BCCI in the first place, surely needs questioning. He is managing director of India Cements, a major IPL sponsor and owner of the CSK franchise. His son in law has been deeply implicated in the betting scandal and Srinivasan himself has lied about his son in law’s involvement with the franchise. The conflict of interest that exists within Srinivasan is overbearing to the point that it’s unbelievable he holds the role that he does at the BCCI.
When corruption so clearly runs through the administrative channels of the game in India, what chance it not running through the playing channels? A match/spot fixing scandal in a tournament such as the IPL, overseen by an organisation dripping with backhanders and dodgy dealings, was inevitable.
The BCCI has been very good at sweeping such mess under the carpet. The Dhoni trail, for example, went very quiet. There has been no interest in acting with neither dignity nor decency from Srinivasan. ‘Indian cricket’ and ‘corruption’ have become uncomfortably familiar bed fellows and nothing has been done to prevent this. So long as the cash keeps flowing…
And nothing is more focussed on cash than the IPL. Its corporate whoring of cricket is amusing. Even the commentators are on the pay roll, effortlessly blending in company slogans with ‘DLF Maximums’ and ‘Max Mobile Strategic Time Outs’; no facet of the game was left unsold and new ones were made up – then sold. This is the price to pay for the entertainment value so often provided. It may make the purists cringe in anguish, but it’s entertaining.
I’m a fan of the IPL. It’s different, it’s brash and it’s ballsy. Recent scratching beneath the surface, however, away from the dancing girls, pyrotechnics and booming sixes, have unearthed a sinister tournament on the cusp of implosion.
Players have already been warned off participating in the BPL, the Bangladeshi equivalent, so rife and open is the corruption. The only façade the IPL has is the money involved, for money masks even the gravest of ills. It needs new leadership and it needs a tough and sincere stance against corruption.
It is a tournament at a cross roads. It can clean up its act now and move in the right direction. The problem is, those in power are there for the wrong reasons and there is too much money and power flying around for them to leave. The sewer-rats have risen and are running the show.
The show, however, must go on. 16 April in Abu Dhabi, it will recommence. Both CSK and Rajasthan Royals will be there. The noise from the tournament will deafen the discontent for six weeks. After that, will anything change?
By Miles Reucroft