Non-responsive responses… and a flashback

Someone with his best interests at heart needs to tell Lalit Modi that his best procedure, right now, is to shut the hell up and let the dust settle. What he should not do, IMHO, is speak in his own defense — it is just too easy to take him apart.

Consider this sequence: Satyajit Gaekwad of Rendezvous Sports World alleges that Modi offered the consortium $50 million to get out of the game. Modi’s response is a classic:

“I can’t bribe somebody to give me the franchise because I am not a bidder in the first place,” he said. “There is no reason for me to give them the bribe because automatically, it would lead to the cancellation of the tender and it would lead to a new tender. So I don’t know where they are coming up with this imaginative figure.”

A lot of words do not become an answer. This one is too easy to take apart. (1) No one said Modi offered $50 million to be given the franchise — the allegation is, the bribe was offered to get out of IPL. Which ties in to the larger allegation that Modi was working to tilt the auction process to ensure that Ahmedabad got the second franchise. (2) He says if Kochi got out, it would lead to the cancellation of the tender. Precisely — that is what some of us have been saying all along: that the game was to get Kochi to get out of the IPL, paving the way for another auction, which could be suitably tailored to favor those Modi was in favor of.

All he has really done with this “response” is to confirm the commonly held suspicion.

Incidentally, such manipulation is not exactly without precedent. Remember the ruckus in mid-2009, when the IPL boss abruptly cancelled the television broadcast deal with Sony, a year after the broadcaster had leased subcontinental rights from holders WSG Mauritius? The Board had initially sold the rights for the Indian territory to Multi Screen Media [earlier known as Sony Entertainment Television] for Rs 220 crore. A year later, in an abrupt move, the Board signed an agreement awarding the rights to WSG Mauritius, for Rs 335 crore. When Sony dragged the IPL and BCCI to court, the Board lawyer’s argument was simple: We did it because we are getting more money from WSG, he told the court.

And while on that, here’s a classic example of Modi’s penchant for making up reasons as he goes along. Guess what ‘complaints’ the BCCI advocate, appearing to file the IPL’s response, cited as reasons for terminating the contract with Sony? Here, this should — in context of ads that appear in between deliveries, commentators who have replaced standard cricket terminology like sixes and catches and dismissals with DLF Maximums and Citi Moments and Karbon Kamaal crap — hand you a laugh:

“Despite making frequent complaints, Sony failed to respond to the IPL’s concerns,” Virat Tulzapurkar, the BCCI counsel, said. The complaints included prematurely cutting to breaks, commercials inserted during a live match, replays and other on-field actions and audio soundtrack drowning the match commentary. The BCCI claimed they had made Sony aware of these points in May last year, during the inaugural IPL season.

The firestorm, meanwhile, has produced commentaries and editorials by the score, all arguing for a clean-up of the BCCI, with some measure of government intervention. And that triggers “deja vu all over again”, as Yogi Berra once said.

Ten years ago, the BCCI was similarly mired in a series of allegations — mismanagement, financial irregularities and a deliberate attempt to sweep match-fixing under the carpet being the chief among them. The BJP was in power then, and Sukhdev Singh Dindsa [who, incidentally, has been head of the Cycling Federation of India for 14 years and counting] as sports minister played an activist role in turning the screws on the BCCI.

Dindsa had at the time summoned Jagmohan Dalmiya and his cohorts to a meeting, read out the riot act [the immediate provocation was that Dalmiya refused to accept a CBI inquiry into match fixing, and argued that the board as a private body could not be so investigated; that argument was repeated in court on a subsequent occasion five years later, and got shot down], and threatened to take the BCCI under government control.

The Board honchos all but went down on their knees, promised to clean up their act and, as a token of good faith, said they would present the government with a “vision statement” outlining what it would do for the betterment of Indian cricket.

The man who created that document was Rajiv Shukla — journalist [and former colleague during my Sunday Observer days] turned television producer turned Congress leader turned BJP inside man turned Congress ‘strongman’ [I might have left out a few turns there — inevitable in a man whose career has had more hairpin bends than your average ghat road]. Shukla, incidentally, is the person currently interfacing between Sonia Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, sundry members of the Cabinet, Lalit Modi and the board, to find a way out of the current imbroglio.

What Shukla produced, on that occasion ten years ago, was the ultimate sham [Here’s an analysis we had done at the time, and the transcript of a chat with Harsha Bhogle on the Board and its ‘vision’].

We’ve been here before; we’ve seen all this before. And that is why, persuasively though the likes of Jayaditya Gupta have argued the case for a comprehensive clean up, I have no faith that it will ever happen. I mean come on — back in 2000, Jagmohan Dalmiya was at the helm, and the involvement of politicians in cricket was restricted to an Arun Jaitley or two. Today, politicians or ‘administrators’ closely affiliated to various political parties are at the helm of the national board, as also a large number of state bodies. A government-sponsored clean up? Fat chance.

PS: Since the theme of this post is largely nostalgic, here: when the BCCI released its ‘vision statement’, we had — just to show the board up — written up our own version and posted it online in the space of a few hours [not that the document took hours to write — merely that a night intervened]. Here it is.

And since Lalit Modi, as the “brainchild behind the IPL”, has been claiming to have invented the greatest thing since sliced bread, here’s a slide for your consideration [note that this was written in the days before T20]. The relevant clip:

On paper, India has a much more structured domestic cricketing set up than most other nations. In fact, the Indian domestic structure alarmingly fails to throw up fresh talent in sufficient numbers.

This clearly indicates that there is something terribly wrong with the domestic structure, impressive though it is on paper.

The board will therefore do away, within a set time frame of two years, with the present state-based structure of domestic cricket. The board recognises that some states have an abundance of talent, others are equally poor. To make them play one another is sheer folly. Tinkering with the existing structure by splitting the national competition into two groups is not a long range solution of promise, either.

Therefore, the board will put together a comprehensive proposal to introduce a professional league in the country, at the expense of the existing system. While the board proposes to get an expert, qualified committee to draft the comprehensive proposal, the broad outline is as follows:

The board will open for bidding, rights to field teams at the national level. The twelve highest bidders will then be picked, and given the right to field teams flying their individual colours. Each team owner – the term ‘owner’ to include both individuals and corporates, provided they come in the 12 top bidders category – will have the right to recruit players from any part of the country, irrespective of ‘zones’ and other geographical boundaries. Further, each team owner will also have the right to recruit a maximum of 2 foreign players to enhance the standard of his team.

It will be made mandatory for all national players to participate in this national league – international schedules will be so drafted that they do not clash with the domestic competition.

The 12 teams will clash for in a ‘Test’ style five-day competition. The games will be spread over all cricket centres in the country, in order to broadbase its appeal and to ensure that all associations benefit from attendance. The games will, further, be telecast live on the national sports channel, and the telecast will be carried out by professional broadcasters.

This Test-style competition, which should evoke enormous interest since all team owners will ensure, in their own interests, that they field quality teams, will be followed by an equally intense one day tournament.

This structure will ensure that teams of closely matched strengths are pitted in competition. To further enhance the league, no points will be awarded for drawn games, thus ensuring that teams will go flat out to win, and play at their highest powers towards that end.

Not only will such a structure enhance the appeal of domestic cricket, but it will go a considerable way towards bridging the gap between domestic and international cricket. Today, a domestic champion, fed on a diet of soft bowling on dead tracks, finds himself at sea when he plays at the highest level. Under the new structure, he will be playing in a highly competitive, international-standard league during his formative period, with the added plus that international stars will be ranged against him. The transition, thus, will not prove so traumatic – and the results can only be beneficial to the national team and its results.

In passing — not claiming to be the originator of this idea, either. Merely pointing out that anyone with half a brain would have known what to do, a decade before the BCCI actually did it — and most folks with a modicum more sense, and a tad less greed, would have done a far better job of it, too.

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15 thoughts on “Non-responsive responses… and a flashback

  1. Pingback: The end of the beginning… « Smoke Signals

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  4. I don’t have any more comments to offer on this 🙂 I think the only person left to comment on this is Aakar Patel: he will blame it all on the characteristics of us Indians – show us some money and even the best among us start getting weak in the knee. Anyway, jaane bhi do yaaron.

  5. Prem,

    Help make sense of what is going on.

    Modi is a known BJP / Vasundhara boy. The party may be distancing itself from him but it can not suddenly disown him. He takes on a sitting Congress MP and central minister. The Congress tries to take a hands-off approach to the entire matter instead of crushing him. BCCI is headed by an NCP man. Modi, one would assume, would shut up after his initial reaction , but he does not. He keeps digging deeper and throws the same charges again and again. Modi would dare not do this without strong backing. Why would the Congress accept this slap from a known BJP boy backed by the NCP honcho?

    It is understandable that Tharoor, being a minister, has to be answerable for a lot more and Modi, a known crook, is under no such compulsion.
    I also find partial merit in Tharoor’s argument that why would he use a known (and potentially controversial) public relationship to get a stake. He could have done that much more quietly. Partial merit because lowly IAS officers routinely give business contracts to firms where the spouse is a partner.

    What is also strange is that given the way Modi behaved when good friend Vasundhara was CM he has made no enemies who may want to hit back now.

    No channel or newspaper seems to be picking up the Bombay based minister and daughter lead as detailed by Business Standard.

    Given the political ramifications of the corruption scandal and panchayat polls due in Kerala the Congress seems almost reconciled to seeing the back of Tharoor.

    Who is backing whom and who is stabbing whom in this mad house?

  6. I remember the vision statement put up in Reddif. It was pure common-sense and the right way to go. Alas, the BCCI does not understand just those 2 words – “the right way” and “common sense”.

    • It is not that BCCI doesn’t understand, it doesn’t care. It is not in the best financial interest of the officials to think from that perspective. Despite the system we still have players like Sachin (BTW, did not intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments by not including other great players from India) show up and entertain us, as long as we have quality players show up and entertain us, we will not stop following the game, such is the love we have for the game, no matter how corrupt people running the game are.

  7. Prem, you might also want to take a look at this story [a href=”http://www.cricbuzz.com/component/latest_cricket_news/Story/25357″ target=”_blank”>Link]
    Although a lot of what is being broadcast is being repeated in the first few paragraphs, towards the end Shailendra Gaikwad (CEO of Rendezvous) actually admits that they didn’t know much about Sunanda Pushkar when grilled by Modi about her, instead dismissing those questions as ‘irrelevant’.
    If i were doing a 1500 crore business deal with someone, I’d damned sure want to know exactly who I’m getting into bed with!

  8. I remember reading your vision statement all those years ago, and being struck by it not only because as a cricket fan it was exactly the kind of thing one would expect to see, but also because it threw up in sharp relief the BCCI’s sham of a vision statement. I vaguely remember commenting on Rediff then, but once again – Kudos!

  9. Prem – I agree. However, the BCCI should come clean this time with the facts. There is too much of dirt being swept under the carpet.

    I also assume that you would have seen the Barkha-Tharoor Interview yday (Thank Lord..there is actually someone who can outspeak her !). From that interview at least, what I understood was that the sweat equity clause was not in the document and was something Lalit Modi had asked specifically to be added at the very end when it was to be signed. On top of that, I at least felt Tharoor’s explanations to be logical when he said that he was trying to get some benefits for his constituency. There were also “alleged” comments on having SMSs sent between Tharoor & that Lalit Modi recorded his conversations. If these things do exist, It has to come out in the open. I also buy his argument that for someone who has been in a high ranking position for close to 30 yrs cannot suddenly become corrupt or compromise his morals. I think its just an unfortunate situation of Tharoor not being to handle the dirty muck that is Indian politics.

    • UN is perhaps the biggest example of a corrupt organization. The corruption inside UN is mind boggling. Just because Sashi Tharoor was a high ranking official in UN doesnt mean that he has morals and that he is not corrupt. In fact it is an open secret that he announced his candidature for UN SG when India was not at all keen on him running. India was forced to back him and ended up with mud on its face just because Tharoor pushed it to a corner. That action of his also severely comprmised India’s request for a permanent seat in the Security Council.

      Tharoor had bluffed about his role in the Kochi deal. He is a public servant and a central minister. His action has not been above reproach. Why is it that no one is asking what are the services offered by his beau Sunanda for her to get a substantial percentage of equity as free shares? It is also noteworthy that the kochi franchisee have not denied the shareholding pattern or the free equity.When caught with their pants down, they started throwing allegations at Modi. Modi is no angel but to make him the only villain in this saga and Tharoor as the wronged one is unjust. This is the same Tharoor who prefered to stay in a 5 star hotel till he was exposed (and offered to make the payment only after he was discovered). I am sure no UN official, however high ranking he is, can amass the kind of wealth Tharoor has if he is not corrupt.

      The system is rotten. But then IPL is a private endeavour. Indian laws are not designed to handle these scams as many of the franchisees are off shore ventures set up in tax havens. The mauritius route has been availed of by thousands of businessmen to further their interests. And our law has turned a blind eye to it.

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