Srini to Jaggu: Cheers, mate!

In a private corner of a bar someplace, N Srinivasan and Jagmohan Dalmiya are likely sharing a single malt and laughing fit to bust; their laughter probably crescendoes with each new headline in the media, and each new talking head on TV, announcing that Srini’s bid to return as president has been stymied again.

The word the media wants is “facilitated”.

Going in to today’s meeting, there was only one outcome Srinivasan needed to avoid: that the IPL governing council, of which he is *not* a member (ex-officio, he calls himself — but that is in his capacity as BCCI president, from which post he has ‘stepped aside’ — so on date, he cannot be part of the governing council even ex-officio) would accept the Bombay High Court strictures, accept the inquiry committee report as invalid, and order a new probe.

*If* that had happened, Srinivasan was finished — because there is no way in hell a probe committee can be constituted, meet, examine evidence (no matter how superficially) and submit a report between now and September, when the BCCI general body meets to elect the president and other office bearers for next year.

If, therefore, a new probe had been constituted, Srini is de jure in no position to contest in September. And once a new president (along with new secretary, treasurer and assorted other busybodies) are elected, there is no immediate way for Srini to regain control of the reins.

So for Srini — and Jagmohan Dalmiya, who is temporarily in alliance with his one-time persecutor — that needed to be stopped. It was — by the simple expedient of crashing the meeting, grandly “recusing” himself from a meeting in which he had no locus standi anyway, then storming back in after a brief absence and creating a ruckus which ended with the council, shorn of options, agreeing to preserve status quo ante.

So Dalmiya remains ‘interim president’. Srini remains in charge. (Remember that Dalmiya has no legal standing to sign major, particularly bilateral and multilateral) agreements on behalf of the BCCI — that is the president’s remit, so Srini’s signature still has value).

And most importantly, Srini can now contest in September — which makes the result a foregone conclusion. His one potential stumbling block was Sharad Pawar, who had mounted a bid for a return to the Mumbai Cricket Association, and who as MCA president could have legitimately staked a claim in the upcoming election.

That was trumped by the simple expedient of delaying the MCA polls, originally slated for this month, to October — that is, after the BCCI polls. Various ‘reasons’ have been given by MCA; collectively, they are the equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework and I have to redo it all over again and need time so I can’t be bothered to be running elections just now’.

There is a possibility Pawar can still be a candidate if he can get enough other associations to nominate him as their representative — but that is an extremely unlikely possibility because a Pawar heading an association and thus in a position to do favors is a whole different kettle of fish from a Pawar out of cricketing power and thus in no position to offer carrots or wield sticks.

So who is left? Arun Jaitley is the pre-anointed next in line and it suits him just fine to sit out this year; there is a general election on the horizon and the last thing he needs is to have his name constantly in the limelight over the BCCI’s serial acts of corruption.

Rajiv Shukla is the other possibility — but besides having time on his hands, he is currently busy consolidating his own power base, playing his part in the Congress party’s back room machinations vis a vis the general elections, and snowballing the value of his various businesses. He has the IPL back in his hands; like Jaitley, the one thing he does not need is to be named in the same sentence as ‘BCCI’ and ‘corruption’. (In this context, it is interesting to note that when the fixing scandal broke over the IPL earlier this year, Shukla faced some internal ire at the highest levels of his own party, and had to resort to some fancy footwork to distance himself from the mess).

Jagmohan Dalmiya would have been a viable option — but the Bengal boss is content just now to consolidate his total rehabilitation, and cement new alliances; 2013 is a tad too early for him to try for another innings.

Net net, Srini is a shoo-in, in September — as long as his candidature could pass unquestioned. And now it can, since the IPL Governing Council did not — or more accurately, was not allowed to — accept the Bombay High Court strictures.

Of course, the appeal in the Supreme Court could go against the BCCI — but that is a long, long way away. Remember the AC Muthaiah-helmed case against Srinivasan’s various conflicts of interest, that is still awaiting final judgment from the SC? Given that, what chance is there that this one will be heard, and a judgment delivered, in time to trump Srini in September — even assuming the BCCI submits its appeal within the next few days? Srini will fancy his chances of re-election before the SC verdict comes in — and once installed in power again, all things are possible.

So guess who is laughing now, while we collectively celebrate how Srinivasan has been ‘stymied again’? ‘Well played,’ you can hear Srini and Jaggu telling each other, as they clink glasses.

‘BCCI tried to bribe me’. Indeed?

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

The man making the allegation is Aditya Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), whose PIL led to the Bombay High Court declaring the BCCI-appointed two-member inquiry committee “illegal”.

When reading this, bear in mind that the CAB was de-recognized by the BCCI over allegations of corruption, and this is now the subject of a prolonged court battle.  Prima facie, that would suggest that Verma and his association have a vested interest in throwing mud at the BCCI.

However, without suggesting that the CAB is a well-run state body (which state association actually is?), the BCCI taking action against one of its members over corruption is risible, to say the least. We are, after all, talking of the same body that filed a police case against Jagmohan Dalmiya for misappropriation of over Rs 46 crore, then when it became expedient wrote off that amount, and today has (illegally) installed him as interim president. (Details documented here).

That — and many other instances of state associations being allowed to get away with murder — leads to the inference that the BCCI uses the carrot and stick policy as part of its standard operating procedure; that it has institutionalized the use of bribery and/or threats to get its way (Read). And this in turn suggests that Verma’s allegation cannot be totally dismissed as muck-throwing by a disgruntled official.

Here is Verma in his own words:

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

He, however, refused to divulge the names of the people who tried to bribe him to withdraw the case, saying the matter was sub-judice. Then, Verma said, the lobby tried to intimidate him by telling him he was putting the career of his young cricketer son in jeopardy by fighting against the BCCI.

“They asked me. Why are you playing with the future of the career of your cricketer son?”. However, Verma, whose son plays under-19 cricket, refused to give up his fight. “I have been fighting single-handedly against the BCCI for the legitimate rights of the Bihar cricket for the past three years,” he said. “I am not one to give in to any kind of pressure.” Verma said this was the first time when the BCCI had tasted defeat in a court case.

The allegation is in and off itself serious; it is of a piece with how the BCCI has operated in the past. And it is because the BCCI has been allowed to get away with each individual act of corruption, extortion and general malfeasance that it has become increasingly emboldened; why each successive act has been more egregious than the last.

It is time (most would argue that it is way past time) that a line was drawn in the sand — and the way to do that, here, is by naming the people involved, by bringing it out in the open, and by seeking official/judicial intervention.

Verma refuses to divulge the names by saying the matter is sub-judice, but that cat won’t jump — if it is, if this combination of bribe and threat is part of his official case, then he shouldn’t be talking about it at all. Doing a tease, then refusing to go the whole hog, does everyone — the game, the fans — a disservice; it airs an allegation but does not substantiate it. Which is why I hope Verma, who now flies the flag for probity and has set himself up as the crusader against corruption, now does a full Monty, either through the legal mechanism or in public.

Now is as good a time as any to let sunlight into a body that has traditionally operated in deep shadow. There have been numerous opportunities in the past, and the game has paid, continues to pay, a heavy price for missing them. At the risk of being sententious, I really hope this latest allegation doesn’t turn out to be yet another one day sensation that is forgotten by tomorrow.

 

 

 

Sins of omission

Bihar does not have a recognized cricket association. Or rather, it has two — the Cricket Association of Bihar whose head, last heard from, was Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Association of Biharl Cricket, floated by cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad. The BCCI dissolved the CAB back in 2008 for ‘financial irregularities’ (which is a bit rich, because if held to that standard the BCCI would need to dissolve all its state associations, and then its own self); since then, the issue has been dragging its feet through various courts.

The shenanigans of the rival associations had led to an exasperated Supreme Court declaring — hoping? wishing? — in November 2012 that cricket should not become a ball in the game of political football. To which pious thought we all say Amen.

But that said — how ironic is it that it is this dysfunctional body that today flies the flag for probity, and successfully challenges in court the constitutional irregularities committed by the BCCI in the constitution of its “inquiry committee” to probe gambling and spot-fixing in the IPL.

Read that again, slowly: Bihar, led by Lalu Yadav, is now the outpost of probity for the BCCI.

Look now at who the BCA has to tilt against: A BCCI hierarchy that contains among others, Rajiv Shukla, among the best connected of Congress politicians; a raft of other well-connected politicians including Jyotiraditya Scindia and Narendra Modi, to name just two.

And Arun Jaitley — the BCCI’s president-in-waiting but more to the point, arguably one of the sharpest legal minds in the country and the national law-minister-in-waiting.

Does it not seem slightly unreal that none of these luminaries saw that the appointment of the inquiry committee, which they all endorsed either actively, or passively by silent acceptance, is “illegal”?

When you collude in illegality, what does that make you?

One tangential point — and this has been made by IS Bindra, who to his credit has despite being part of the system been routinely, vociferously, calling out the serial wrongdoings of the current regime:

Jagmohan Dalmiya, the “interim president”, is as unconstitutional an appointment as was the inquiry committee.

Here is a question I’d love to hear Jaitley speak to: Per the BCCI constitution, is it not the vice-president who assumes the duties of the president when the latter is for whatever reason unable to perform his duties? If yes, why was there a need to bring in someone from outside the chain of command to fill the vacuum created when N Srinivasan had to step down?

PostScript: My column on Yahoo today, about how the BCCI has historically rigged inquiry committees to get itself out of trouble.

How about a ‘DMS’?

It has been wrong from the beginning to bill this as a contest between humans and technology, when in reality it has always been a case of humans using technology and interpreting the evidence it provides. Hawk-Eye can, at best, provide an approximation of the ball’s path, and while being relatively more accurate than human judgement, it is dependent on a number of variables, including overhead conditions, to deliver optimal projections. Hot Spot, while it has improved, can still produce misleading evidence, sometimes because of extreme conditions, but sometimes because of simple human error.

Amidst all the sound, the fury, and the emotion-heavy venting, Sambit Bal’s piece on the DRS comes as a relief. And the part underlined above really goes to the crux of a ‘To DRS or not’ argument that seems to be slipping into a game of ‘gotcha’ by the pro and anti factions.

How about we pretend, just for a moment, that we are sensible? How about we put the cart where it belongs — at the arse-end of the horse?

As Sambit points out, the point of having technology is to use it to eliminate, or at the least minimize, error. So, who makes the error? The on-field umpire. When? At the point of rendering the original decision.

Therefore, when do you really need technology? To aid me in my decision-making — not to second guess my decision after I have made it.

So how about this scenario? You are umpiring at the business end. Anderson bowls, Haddin swishes, keeper and fielder go up in appeal — and you are not sure Haddin got the nick the fielders think he did.

The operative bit here is, you are not sure. And that is when you need technology (Errors — a large part of them — stem from your being forced into a decision without having all the facts at your disposal).

So in this hypothetical scenario, the umpire whose decision is sought phones upstairs and goes, mate, can you check the visuals on this one? I know the keeper took it clean, I think I heard a noise, but I didn’t see an edge. Check?

The third umpire checks the front foot, checks Hot Spot, freezes the frame if necessary at the point of supposed impact to see if there is perceptible daylight between bat and ball, and reports his findings back to the on-field umpire. Who, now armed with as much data as is available, then makes the call yea or nay. And that is that.

Today the use of technology has created a game within a game  (You are playing against the system, you’ve got three throws of the dice, let’s see if you are good enough to put your chips on the table at the right time).

What if we move the debate away from whether or not to use tech, to when to use tech?

What if we replace the Decision Review System with a Decision Making System?

Or does that smack of a solution too simple it of course should never even be considered?

To hell and back

“I was sick of being called ‘Park Street’. I realized that I can’t fight this behind a mask. I had to make the point that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Society should be ashamed to make rape victims feel a stigma. Me? The ‘Park Street Rape Victim’? Bullshit!  I‘m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister. People depend on me and love me!”

There are stories — of man’s inhumanity to his fellows, for instance — that disgust you, that repel, that provoke rage and grief in equal measure.

There are stories — of the spirit triumphing over tribulation, of dauntless will and bottomless bravery — that give you warm fuzzies; that make you glad you are alive and there is hope for you and your kind yet.

And then there are those rarer stories where both emotions conflate. Stories that make you rage and cheer all at the same time. Stories that plumb inhuman depths and soar to superhuman heights.

This is one such story. Till just a couple of weeks ago, she was a faceless entity. Or no, not even an ‘entity’ — she was a headline only; she was a ‘trending topic’, a Twitter hashtag. She was a statistic; she was grist for nudge-wink-giggle bar-room conversation.

She was ‘The Park Street Rape Victim’.

That is not what it says on her passport; that is not what she was to her mother and her father and her sister and her two daughters and to the small world contained within Kolkatta that she was part of — but that is what she was, that is all she was, to the wide world outside.

Rape shredded her of her dignity, her security, her sense of self. The aftermath abolished her identity.

This is the story of The Park Street Rape Victim Suzette Jordan.

This is the story of a ‘victim’ who decided to become a ‘person’ again.

There is something about the way Suzette Jordan says “my rape” – emphasizing the ‘r’ – that makes you flinch each time you hear it. Life, for Suzette, is divided into two tight compartments: “before my rape” and “after my rape”. She speaks using her whole body as a symbol of protest. She’s fiercely confident and laughs heartily, which are not what a ‘rape victim’ is entitled to be and do.

Commissioned by Nisha Susan (@chasingiamb) and Gaurav Jain (@mau-mauing) for Yahoo, and written by Shriya Mohan, it is a follow-up to Nisha’s timeless piece from yesterday of what every woman should know, and do, in the first 24 hours after rape.

Also, please do read this comment posted by Varunan yesterday, relating to Nisha’s story.

24 Hours (and an announcement)

As on June 20, 2013, New Delhi alone has recorded 860 cases of rape. (Note: Those are only the documented cases.)

That is a little over twice the incidence of the first six months of last year. And this doubling of the rate of rape comes against the backdrop of the horrific gang-rape of late December; the enormous public outcry and protests triggered by that incident; the sweeping recommendations of an inquiry committee expressly set up to explore how to reduce the incidence of rape; and the oft-expressed intent of both police and polity to make the world — or at least, Delhi —  safe for women.

Guess what? Nothing has changed — unless you call ‘getting worse’ change. Here is the excellent Nisha Susan (@chasingiamb) on what it feels like to be a woman, what it feels like to know that rape is not a question of ‘whether’ but only ‘when':

That moment sneaks up on you. The moment passes and you go back to unconsciously arranging your life around avoiding this one crime. Every time you hear footsteps behind you, every time you open your front door, every time you walk through a basement parking lot, every time you turn into a dark street, you wonder – Is this the one? Is this how it’s going to happen? As comedian Ever Mainard says, “The problem is that every woman has that one moment when you think, here’s my rape! This is it. OK, 11:47 pm, how old am I? 25? All right, here’s my rape! It’s like we wait for it, like, what took you so long?”

For some of us – for at least 24,923 documented Indian women in 2012 alone – there has come that other unfortunate, jolting moment when you have been raped.

Three out of four times, you are likely to have been raped by someone familiar, someone familial: your uncle comes to drop off a tiffin box and stays to chase you round the house, breaking everything you try to hide behind, pulling the landline wire out of the wall. Your brother-in-law tries to rape you when you are five months pregnant. Your former husband decides that divorce isn’t quite enough. Thesarpanch of your village. Your nephew. Your brother’s friend. Your brother. Your father.

Here is your rape. It has come. And here comes that epiphany. The realization that you have been warned about this moment your whole life but still don’t know what you are supposed to do afterwards.

So what are you supposed to do? What can you do? What must you do?

In a timeless piece designed for Everywoman, Nisha Susan provides answers. Read — and do circulate, because this really, really, needs to be part of every woman’s knowledge-base.

Which brings me to the announcement promised in the parenthesis. Starting today, the team of Nisha Susan and Gaurav Jain will on behalf of Yahoo India commission, edit, illustrate and publish one medium-to-longform article, on a topic of contemporary interest, at the rate of one on each of the five working days of the week.

Got ideas, tips, suggestions, comments? Contact:

Nisha Susan: @chasingiamb

Gaurav Jain: @mau_mauing

Dalmiya and the new broom

I read, on Cricinfo, that the BCCI has “initiated Operation Clean-Up” — and I was so impressed.

Were you not? A clean-up, even if it is only ‘initiated’, is good, no? Particularly when Jagmohan Dalmiya, who wields this particular broom, had pessimistically said the day he took charge that there are no instant solutions?

More impressive than the initiation is how wide-ranging it is, this ‘Operation Vacuum Cleaner’.

  • No more apres-match parties (Chirayu Amin said the same thing over three years ago)
  • No more cheerleaders
  • No more strange faces in dugouts (Lalit Modi said that when he chucked Shah Rukh out in season 2)
  • Strict code of conduct in place (Since there is already a code of conduct in place, make that ‘stricter’)
  • No selectors to have ties with any franchise (Oh wait, apparently BCCI officials and such still can — a significant omission, but let’s not carp)
  • Players and support staff to provide their cellphone numbers to BCCI ahead of the IPL (Strange, I thought the BCCI would know how to contact players and officials already, but hey — still not carping)
  • Possible jamming of cellphone towers in the vicinity of stadia during matches (Oh you poor fish, the best bookies and gamblers operate off of the TV screen — but I am still not carping)

So that is a fairly comprehensive laundry list of measures, no, if you ignore my parenthetical carps? So where is the problem?

Here. Had you forgotten this? (Emphasis added):

“Mr. N Srinivasan announced that he will not discharge his duties as the president of the board till such time that the probe is completed. Till such time, Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya will conduct the day to day affairs of the board,” the BCCI said in a release after a meeting of its working committee in Chennai on Sunday.

So, in case this needs underlining: Jagmohan Dalmiya is in temporary charge. N Srinivasan steps right back in as soon as the inquiry committee is done with its probe — and the time frame fixed was two months, so we are talking end-July/early-August.

Even if the probe is still not complete, the next BCCI election is scheduled for September — and that is when the board members get to either elect Srinivasan for a second term, or pick a new president (In the best traditions of democracy, BCCI-style, the results of the election are already known: the president in waiting is Arun Jaitley).

Either way, Jagmohan Dalmiya’s tenure has till September to run. No more. And the next edition of the IPL, with or without cheerleaders, is only in 2014.

So why are these ‘measures’ worth the internet bandwidth it took to put them up for public consumption?

(I am only asking. Not carping.)