Reminder: the Live Show

Here. At 3.30 IST.

The uber captain

A standout moment of the IPL final between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings was MS Dhoni’s innovative field placement for Keiron Pollard.

Besides a regular long off on the boundary line, MS placed a mid off on the edge of the circle. “We tried this out in practice against Mathew Hayden,” MS later explained. “Bit hitters don’t play reverse sweeps and dabs, they look to hit down the ground,” he further explained, arguing that in such cases, a mishit to a fullish length ball outside off would present a catch to mid off, and if the shot did come off, there was always long off to limit the damage.

Brilliant captaincy, I thought at the time as I watched Mathew Hayden at mid off dive to hold Pollard off a mishit, and thus end any remote chance MI had to pull off a win.

Now I am beginning to wonder.

According to sources, Venkatesan’s influence over Srinivasan and the team has risen to such an extent that he decides who should be included in the playing XI and also, shockingly, the batting order.

Dhoni himself was told to bat at various positions throughout the tournament, sources said, even though he was successful at Nos 5 and 6 in the first two matches.

The decision to open the bowling with off spinner R. Ashwin – thought to be a strategic masterstroke by Dhoni – was also allegedly dictated by Venkatesan, as was the decision to bowl Muttiah Muralitharan’s full four overs quota in all the 11 matches he played. Luckily for CSK, Ashwin’s promotion worked wonders for the team.

According to insiders, Venkatesan even decides Dhoni should bat or field if he wins the toss. Though Venkatesan is over the moon when Chennai wins, sources said he comes up with inane explanations for the team’s loss.

“On one occasion, he said the team lost because someone had parked his car on the western side of the stadium,” an insider said. ” To this, our team owner just nodded his head in agreement.

Link courtesy Manu, on Twitter.

Light reading

For the kind attention of Mr Shashank Manohar, this document released by the BCCI, of which Sharad Pawar was then president and you were vice president, in December 2005.

Offered to you here, since this might be one of the documents that the BCCI is missing. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there about transparency, about television rights, about… never mind, just read the damn thing.

Without comment.

Aide memoire

Vishy Anand versus Topalov. Live, at 5.30 IST.

Same difference

A telling image fronts Anand Vasu’s piece in the Hindustan Times about the decline and fall of Lalit Modi. And what is most telling about the demonization of the erstwhile high-flier is that the match is being applied by the BCCI.

That is the single significant development of the last 24 hours: the onus of selective leaking has changed hands, from the investigative wings of the government to the top honchos of the BCCI/IPL. Various newspapers have this morning claimed to be in possession of documents relating to the ownership of the Royals and Kings XI Punjab — documents, ironically, that the BCCI says it does not have in its possession.

And then there is Shashank Manohar’s startling media conference of yesterday afternoon — an exercise in alchemy if ever there was one, designed to whitewash the role of the BCCI functionaries who comprise the governing council.

When the firestorm first broke out, this is what Manohar had to say:

“Till date, you have made public statements about a lot of issues which were not even discussed in the meetings of the governing council when it is the governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard to each and every issue related to IPL.”

Now consider this statement, made yesterday:

An allegation is being made and the media is saying all the members of the governing council are party to all the decisions. Now most of the contracts have been entered into without the consent of the governing council and they’ve been brought to the governing council after the contract was signed. So the governing council has no other option and are presented with a fait accompli,” Manohar reason, before citing an example.

How does this statement jell with the previous one? If the council had the authority to take all decisions, how does Manohar — who as BCCI boss is the ultimate deciding authority — get away with saying most contracts were entered into without the council’s conduct?

Manohar’s cleverness lies in the deft way he pulled the wool over the media’s eye with his “example”:

“I came here [Mumbai] three days in advance to look into all the documents and contracts in view of the ongoing controversy. I called Sundar Raman [the IPL CEO] because on that day in the evening there was an IPL awards function. I asked for the contract of that function and I was told ‘Sir, there was no contract. The contract terms were finalised last night.’ And this he informs me at 3 in the afternoon when the function is going to be held at 7 in the evening.

The first problem with the example is that by pinning his case to a current example, he tries to make light of the council’s constant, continued abdication of responsibility. Assuming for the sake of argument that he discovered this problem two days ago by happenstance — how does that excuse the fact that much of the revelations relate to 2008/2009, when the IPL was being formed, franchises were onboarded, and rights relating to telecast, the internet et al were being gift-wrapped and handed out?

Did Manohar not know, over the course of two years and more, who had been awarded all these rights? Did he and his fellow council members not bother to find out? If, as he says, the council makes all decisions relating to the IPL, then was the council party to the grant of these rights? If not, why not?

Even if you look at the example Manohar cites, it indicates at the very least the shoddy style of the council’s functioning. Did Manohar and his cronies not know, even before the start of IPL-3, that there would be a closing ceremony? Why did he wait till the day before the event to ask — and that too, tangentially — about the event and the relevant contracts? In a properly run organization, would all details relating to IPL-3 not have been discussed, and decided upon, well before the event began?

Manohar counters the charge of unprofessionalism by obfuscating, by suggesting that it is not his job to look into all the documentation. The council’s job, he says, is merely to decide; from then on, it is the job of the professional managers to nail down the details.

Fair enough. So the question remains: did the council decide anything?

Did it decide who would get the internet rights? Did it decide the television rights? Did it decide the modalities of bidding for the two franchises opened up this year? Clearly not — remember that fiasco? Where Manohar, on the morning of the bidding process, decided to postpone the exercise because he said the clauses are too stringent? It begs the question: how come the clauses were not discussed and approved by the council in advance? You knew, as BCCI boss and IPL council member, that there was to be an auction. The date was announced two months prior to the event. So why did it never occur to you, as the BCCI’s top honcho, to ask for details?

All the muck Manohar threw at Modi yesterday does not obscure that central fact: that the governing council is as responsible for this mess as Modi is. The buck stops at Manohar’s desk, not Modi’s — surely he cannot in one breath say the governing council is responsible for all decisions, and in the next claim total ignorance of the decisions that have been made?

Not to belabor the point, but consider again what he said yesterday:

“An allegation is being made and the media is saying all the members of the governing council are party to all the decisions.”

Right. When all else fails, blame the media. So did the media say this, or did you?

“Till date, you have made public statements about a lot of issues which were not even discussed in the meetings of the governing council when it is the governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard to each and every issue related to IPL.”

In the wake of Modi’s suspension, optimism surfaced in some quarters of the commentariat that the ongoing probe, both at the government and the BCCI levels, will result in a clean up of the functioning of the IPL in particular, and the board in general.

Manohar’s doublespeak is the clearest indication that no such thing will happen. The board’s focus is clearly in distancing itself from the mess, identifying Modi as the sole person responsible, and presenting him to the media and the public as ritual human sacrifice.

That done, we can all get back to business as usual — till the next scandal, the next sacrifice.

On an unrelated note — back on Yorker, the daily live show, today after a week-long absence. Here’s the link: it goes live between 3.30-4.30 IST.