At the forefront of technology

So yesterday, in between doing my usual stuff in the Yahoo edit room, blogging, and hosting the day’s episode of the live show, I along with a handful of colleagues here in Bangalore were involved in three different tele-conferences with company folk across the Asia-Pacific region. Been doing a lot of that, since I joined Yahoo — and very simple it is, too, besides saving an enormous amount of travel.

Couldn’t help thinking of that, when I read that BCCI president Shashank Manohar, who is reportedly hugely incensed with the “serious breach” committed by his technical understudy, Lalit K Modi, had summoned an “emergency” meeting of the IPL governing council — in ten days.

Ten days?

Dude, if that is your definition of “emergency”, god help us all when it comes to routine affairs. Never heard of telephone/video conferences? Maybe you should get that company, who your commentators keep hyping as being in the forefront of technology, to help you out here?

Then again, we all know the real reason: to buy time.

Modi’s petty act of revenge against Tharoor has had the unintended consequence of opening up a much larger can of worms [that Modi did not anticipate this, when he compulsively tweeted about Kochi and added grandiloquent comments about the need for transparency, is indicative of his mental processes].

Here’s a sampler:

Dixit's barrage

That’s Sanjay Dixit, one time Modi aide de camp in Rajasthan and now implacable foe, on his Twitter stream, pointing out that since we have now entered the era of transparency, it is perhaps time to talk of the holding pattern of the Rajasthan Royals franchise. That’s a whole other can of worms — and Modi really doesn’t want to go there. The IPL is still in relative infancy — it could possibly survive questions being asked about a franchise that is yet to begin operations, but start questioning the others, and the whole edifice could crumble in a hurry.

Even this could be managed. The BCCI could pretend shock and horror about the murky dealings relating to RR, throw Modi to the wolves, and continue to run the racket with others at the helm [and it helps that within the BCCI there is no shortage of willing volunteers all anxious for a slice of the IPL pie]. But the problem actually is much bigger than even that.

For instance, one line of Modi’s response to Manohar has passed largely unnoticed:

“They said they would revert back. Within minutes of me asking the same, I got a call from Shashi Tharoor asking me not to ask about who these shareholders are. You [Manohar] had mentioned that we should ignore who this owner is, but our condition requires us to authenticate who they are.”

Ouch!

That is why this story is only going to get better. Or worse, depending on your point of view.

The BCCI, the IPL, the political class, Bollywood, industrialists — they are all so inextricably tied to one another that the slightest tug on one end of the string comes with the risk that the entire fabric will unravel. And that is precisely why Manohar needs 10 days to hold an “emergency” meeting — time to paper over the cracks, limit the damage, and find some kind of formula to put the worms back in the can.

The political fallout can be contained. Though the BJP has latched on to the issue and demanded Tharoor’s head over the issue of corruption, the Congress is not exactly without weapons for a counter attack. For instance, we are talking of this Modi and the BJP? Also, don’t forget that arguably the most corrupt cricket body within the BCCI fold is the DDCA — run by a minor BJP functionary by the name of Arun Jaitley. Glass houses, stones…

So no real problems there — some short term fussing, which is eminently containable, is the worst that will happen on the political front.

The danger the BCCI sees is that the GoI, seeing a direct threat to one of its own, will let loose with the economic weapon. A probe into Kochi is one thing — but a larger IT-driven investigation into all franchises, and into the IPL itself, terrifies the heck out of the Board.

Hence Manohar’s need for time, to figure out a viable compromise formula that can be credibly sold to the media and the public. The first step was to gag Lalit Modi. His last post on Twitter was almost two days ago. The fact that the independent minded commissioner actually submitted to being gagged should tell you a story — he acted without thinking beyond the short term, and now he, and the BCCI, are in desperate need of solutions.

Ten days of back room maneuvering — with BCCI veep Rajiv Shukla playing the interface between the Board and the government — now follows. It also provides space for the dust Modi raised to settle on its own. It is highly unlikely that the media will pursue the matter beyond another news cycle, at best — after all, if the media approaches the board it can say we have called for an emergency meeting; if it goes to the government there is always Manmohan Singh’s latest statement that he has called for all available information and will decide on action after he has digested that. In other words, there are stonewalls in place, and such tepid responses don’t give the media much grist to work with.

Already, however, one thing is clear behind the scenes: come season 4, Lalit Modi will remain as commissioner, but with a considerably reduced wingspan, and freedom. Watch this space.

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25 thoughts on “At the forefront of technology

  1. Pingback: Battle, With Curiosity | Posts

  2. Pingback: links for 2010-04-15 « Unjustly

  3. Prem, There is a slight difference in the position of LKM and ST. Modi is not accountable to us (as cricket fans we may think he is but in relaity h is only accountable to BCCI & its affiliates) while Tharoor and minster in Mumbai & their daughter defenitely are accountable to the public.

  4. Very nicely written piece. =d>

    It’d really be interesting to see how LKM handles friends who have turned against him now, as is evident from the twitter posts of SD. IMO – Such people can cause more damage than others.

    • Yeah. What toppled Dalmiya in the end was the friends he couldn’t hang on to — a lesson LKM apparently never learnt. You can go one of two ways — do everything yourself, and not let anyone else into the details so no one can talk out of turn, or work with others, but make bloody sure you either have a handle on them, or that their interests are covered to. LKM tends to use people like servants — and that can rub a few people the wrong way. The example above being a case in point.

    • Thanks. Analytical blogging, maybe. Investigative journalism? You embarrass me. The reason for these blog posts are, there is some stuff in the public domain, and much else that is not out there. I try to present the complete picture in one place. Glad it helps.

  5. exactly my thoughts when i first read that the ’emergency’ meet was in 10 days! looks like mr. whats-his-name bose is not the foremost contemporary artist in india – that title should now go to whoever manages to paint over this fracas 🙂

  6. “The danger the BCCI sees is that the GoI, seeing a direct threat to one of its own, will let loose with the economic weapon.”

    I doubt if the govt. headed by the Congress that has many powerful politicians waiting for a chance to pull the rug from under Tharoor’s feet, will jump in to save the minister. They may actually use this opportunity to kick him out.

    MMS’ statement that he will make a call after getting all available evidence actually points to more of this possibility. I think ST’s days as minister – and what a controversy ridden period it has been – are virtually over. MMS and Sonia may have run out of patience this time.

    Tharoor has been a very immature politician. He has tried to play his cards very smart but then what he did not realize is that some of his less educated and less sophisticated colleagues are seasoned politicians who know how to game the system to their advantage. Tharoor I am afraid was caught with his pants down this time.

    • The average Cong poll will happily flush ST down the toilet, but the problem for said pol is, Sonia and Rahul are backing the minister. And there is no pol with the cojones to buck that. Remember that Sonia’s statement of support, and rubbishing of calls for his head, came prior to MMS’ statement — so the PM’s sound byte basically can be read as, “I’d like to buy some time to let this thing fizzle out, thank you very much”. Agree that ST is playing a game more suited to the US political firmament than the more down and dirty Indian one — but I’d lay long odds he will survive this one.

    • Oh and incidentally, the buzz is SM Krishna actually went to Sonia asking that his pesky junior be sacked. Only to be told to shut the eff up and get on with his work.

      • If this is indeed true, then I will vote for MMS/Sonia again in the next elections. 🙂

        We need people who are firm decision makers and not politicians who like to gain political mileage out of every chance that they get.

        • Oh it’s true. 🙂 The guy got told to leave ST alone, and stop fussing each time the media gets excited about something twitter. Fairly funny.

      • But, isn’t this issue a bit different from the previous ones? How can the ‘holy madam’ justify one of her ministers getting into a money making venture using a proxy? I was with Tharoor on his previous controversies. But, in this instance, somehow he gives a feeling that he too has something to hide.

        • Sure. With you on that. His role in the whole thing is less than transparent, and not entirely savory.

          Best case, he did a favor for a friend by steering the auction in Kochi’s direction; worst case, there was a pay off for favors rendered [remember that we are assuming the Sunanda share came after the franchise clicked — the other possibility is she always had a finger in that pie, was part of the deal for some reason, so ST decided to help out].

          ‘Madam’, though, has bigger fish to fry — her bottom line is, this is way too petty to really bother with. Besides, does she want to lose a minister over ‘corruption’? Might end up with no ministry, if she sets that precedent 🙂

          • You are spot on Prem. Great thinking. For Madam, the only thing matters is the next general elections. Three years down the line, who cares if Tharoor got into dirt over some IPL franchisee? But there is some significance if Tharoor gets a a corrupt minister tag. Madam certainly doesnt want Karat to get some mileage.

        • I am willing to give the benefit of doubt on this to ST till further details come out (which it may eventually never).

    • I cannot say there is no matchfixing in IPL. But I think the chances of the results being fixed is very less. All franchisees have players of exemplarary stature, I doubt if they will accept being asked to underperform. Howmuchever power Modi or Ambani has, I doubt if they can stand up to Sachin and ask him to throw away his wicket. Second, it may be possible to get a few players who are willing to underperform, but T20 is such a game that one or two players doing some trick here and there cannot guarantee any outcome that the “fixer” want to produce. In other words, a few specifics may be fixed, but not the entire outcome or the outcome of a set of matches itself.

      The fact that there is such a struggle for teams to dominate the points table underlines two things: 1) The difference between a good team and a bad team is really small in IPL, as all teams have almost the same share of talent. 2) T20 itself is a game of unpredictability- the term underdog does not really apply there (the corollary is that T20 is not a great Sporting game per se. In a good Sporting game, you can differentiate who an underdog is and who is not.)

      Remember that this pattern was visible in the previous seasons of IPL also.

      • Jazzyb

        That is, if you assume that maximum betting is happening on match outcomes. I also believe that throwing matches is difficult someone, somewhere will blurt out this fact and it will be trouble all over. Far too many people are involved in throwing matches for comfort.

        What if…

        a)Spot events are being fixed. It does not matter who wins and if a SRT can cover up for the non performers. Money has been made on a spot event like the number of extra balls in an over.

        b)Team compositions may be fixed. MSD was unhappy with Murali’s exclusion at Nagpur and he did not have an explanation for it before or after a game.

        c)IPL rules that LKM makes as he goes along. How many players are to be retained per team in IPL IV. LKM actually chooses the winner of this bet.

        The betting syndicate is interested in making money and not always in deciding the winner. If more money has been bet on the outcome of a policy decision, team composition or the number of wides in an over then who cares for the end result.

        • The recent talk about match fixing came up because of one thing- that the competition for the semifinalists seems “artificial” rather than “natural”. If someone wanted to fix things in order to make the competition appear tough(thereby attracting more viewership), he HAS TO FIX THE RESULT, there is no other way. I was just trying to prove that this may not be the case, the fact that 5 teams are tied at 12 points is a sheer coincidence than “fixing” it.

          The kind of fixing that you are talking about- I agree that can easily happen (and may be happening). But that does not lead to this situation at the points table, thats all.

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