The good news post

In its quest to maintain India’s No.1 Test ranking the BCCI has sent a proposal to Cricket Australia to convert the seven-match ODI series in October to two Tests and three ODIs. India had climbed to the top spot in 2009, after drubbing Sri Lanka 2-0 at home, and then retained the ranking by fighting back to level the two-Test series against South Africa in February.

Yay! Now make that three Tests, BCCI, and all your sins are forgiven.

Live, today

at 3.30. Here. Come on over and chat. 🙂

It’s about money, honey

So when I came back to India in late 2006, I had friends going, what the hell is wrong with you, you mean you have no investments? Not one? Not even now, when the stock market is booming and people are becoming mega-rich overnight?

My stock answer was, I don’t understand stocks and shares.

And the response invariably was, you don’t need to. Find a good advisor, tell him what you are looking to do and leave it to him to manage things for you. So I did all of that. Slept my way through several discussions, signed a lot of paper and a lot of checques, and began planning my rise to millionaire status, and my retirement, in quick succession.

And then the market tanked.

Two years and a bit later, it had still not reached the levels it was at when I invested in it. So, when I was planning to shift lock, stock and wife to Bangalore, I decided I might as well sell out and keep the money liquid, to fund house-renting and related expenses. Needless to say, the upshot of two years of investing is that I lost a few lakh of my hard-earned money.

And I still don’t understand how any of that happened.

Hopefully, enlightenment will come in carefully calibrated doses, going forward — today, Deepak Shenoy debuts his column on Yahoo.

It’s fascinating how the wizards of the financial world can take something simple and make it utterly confusing and intimidating. Take a simple loan: it used to be “I’ll give you money, you’ll pay me back more money”. Today there are processing fees, pre-closure charges and service taxes. Even the “more money”, traditionally known as “interest”, is now suitably prefixed with “flat-rate”, “monthly-reducing”, “floating rate”. They’ll even loan you money against deposits – the mouth-watering proposal of “Let me lend you your own money and charge you interest”. And finally, what you pay back is now an “Equated Monthly Installment”, a complicated mix of interest and principal, which has the magical effect that even after you make diligent payments for 10 years, you still owe the bank the same amount.

Exactly. That is precisely why I continue to live in a rented apartment, resisting all temptation to buy a swish place of my own.

There is a “huh” factor in everything financial. Shying away from it is ineffective, because our lives are intertwined with money more than ever before. We might have earlier trusted the industry to take care of our money; it no longer seems that’s a given. That just means we have to figure things for ourselves. Like a jigsaw puzzle, once you get the key pieces in place, it’s a lot more understandable.

Ah, okay. So I’ll wait for those missing pieces to surface in Deepak’s subsequent columns. And start investing again. And dream of being a millionaire in my own swish apartment.

Or maybe not.

Modi, and beyond

This is not to suggest that associate nations have no place in the World Cup — but as long as the league groups are structured to ensure the passage of two pre-determined teams into the next round [and please, could we cut the crap about “anyone can beat anyone on the day” and cricket being a “game of glorious uncertainties”?] , and there is no premium on the major teams winning their head to head encounters [no points carried forward], the first phase of the World Cup is something I’ll gladly take a pass on.

The only excitement thus far was provided artificially, by the rain-rule formula deciding the game between England and the West Indies — and while on that, there is a reason the formula is known, south of the Vindhyas, as Duckworth Loosu.

Elsewhere, with the Kasab trial all over bar the shouting — and hoo boy, what a lot of shouting there’s been — it’s time to brace ourselves for the next ‘trial’. To wit, the impending evisceration of Lalit K Modi.

Sorry not been tweeting as been working on my reply to the show cause. So have had no time. Thanks for all your support and messages

That was Modi, at 5.11 pm May 3rd, on Twitter.

Around the same date, if not time, he lobbed this little number into the BCCI forecourt:

“The showcause notice generally refers to documents, records, messages, requests etc.,” Modi wrote in an email obtained by the Times of India.

“It specifically states that it is being issued on the basis of available documents.

“It therefore appears that there exists documents, records and materials which are proposed to be relied upon and/or used against me.

“With a view to ensuring that I have a fair opportunity of responding to the allegations in the showcause notice, may I request your good self to provide me with copies of all materials which you intend to rely upon and use against me.”

I so love this man — Modi, not Barack, should have written about the audacity of hope. That line — “It therefore appears there exists documents, records and materials…” is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Here’s why:

“The tax authorities and Enforcement Directorate officials are seeking a lot of papers connected with the IPL and in some cases we don’t have the original documents. We have only xerox copies, which they feel is not proper,” Shetty told CNN-IBN, an English news channel. “According to [IPL CEO] Sundar Raman the original documents are with Lalit Modi. My job is to put up a list of documents that were supposed to be with IPL and original documents obtained in each case.”

You can’t help liking a man with chutzpah to burn. Modi keeps all documents with him at all times; he vanishes inconvenient documents at will [remember the not-so-mysterious lady who scooted out of his office with a laptop and files, half an hour before he was first raided? Incidentally, no one has yet asked who tipped Modi off about the impending raid, and why — stash that in the box file of questions it is too inconvenient for the establishment to ask] and then, when called to account, demands that relevant documents be produced. In the original, I’d assume.

“It therefore appears there exists documents…”, says the man who more than anyone else knows exactly what documents “exist”. I don’t know about you, but when I read that bit, I sat up in my sickbed and applauded, then fell over laughing. Honest. What else can you do with a man who has cojones the size of medicine balls?

Unintentional levity aside, can we all stop pretending that the hearing, as and when it takes place, has any point? probative value? The BCCI has no investigating mechanism; it has no legal sanction to “try” anyone; for all that both sides are stocking up on high priced lawyers, the proceedings have no probative value; and any determination the board arrives at is not worth the paper it will be written on, because its structure is so nebulous, its constitution a patchwork quilt of amendments and codicils inserted on a whim by successive bosses, that no one is quite sure what will and what will not stand up to legal scrutiny.

In any case, none of it matters. Corruption is not per se likely to give the BCCI a conniption. Where Modi is concerned, therefore, it is not a case of malfeasance, proven or otherwise, but of antipathy. Where Modi is concerned, the attitude is ‘I dislike thee, Dr Fell/The reason why, I cannot tell.’

The “hearing” therefore is for show; the outcome has been predetermined. Pataudi, whose half-hearted mea culpa was taken down by Mukul Kesavan earlier, in one of the best opinion pieces to come out of the IPL fiasco, let the feline out of the bag recently:

“We are awaiting answers to several questions put to him and, yes, it would help if he answers them to everyone’s satisfaction,” Pataudi told Indian Express. “But even so, coming back would be difficult as the problem with him was his style of functioning, which a lot of people had problems with.”

So what can/will the board do? Removing him from the board is not an option — push too hard, leave the man with nothing, and a vengeful Modi is apt to tie the whole thing up in court, besides whispering in the media’s ears about the disposition, and whereabouts, of various interesting skeletons. So the only option left is to banish him to a kind of administrative purgatory — keep him on as vice president without the power to indulge in his own peculiar vices.

When the decision comes, it will set off a media firestorm of febrile excitement, and keep talking heads occupied for a news cycle or two. And then we will all move on.

That is the nature of the media: a prime time j’accuse buttressed by “sensational” revelations from faceless sources [while on that, check out Tehelka’s latest], a sustained public blood letting, a human sacrifice as denouement — and there an end. It is theatre — but it is not constructive discourse.

When the dust settles Chirayu Amin, and the governing council, takes over — and therein lies the ultimate irony. Amin, a member of the governing council that over the past three years manifestly did not govern, has already positioned himself as something of the antiModi, the puritan to Modi’s satyr, frowning publicly on cheer leaders and late night partying – statements consonant with his origins in the Dry State but, in terms of real reform, about as much use as prescribing an emetic to a patient diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The question that merits asking, however, is not what Amin will or will not do, so much as what right an Amin or any other member of the governing council has to take over the reins.

Consider what the board president has said, at various times, about the relationship between the BCCI and the IPL. When he was seeking to legitimize his right to hold Modi’s feet to the fire, he said the IPL is a sub-set of the BCCI, and that he as BCCI president is the overall authority.

Nice — but then people began asking him to explain how he and his fellow council members spent three years mimicking the three monkeys, at which point Manohar realized that responsibility is a concomitant of power; that if he wanted to puff himself off as the ultimate authority, then his would be the ultimate responsibility. The buckshot, in other words, stops in his gut.

That was when Manohar began walking it back, talking of how (a) the council’s job, and his, is merely to make broad decisions, not sweat the details and (b) that in any case, Modi was flying solo and the council was invariably being presented with a fait accompli.

His minion, Professor Ratnakar Shetty, then took the argument further — and severed the umbilical cord between the two entities. From the story linked to at the start, this quote:

He also backed Manohar’s view that the board did not interfere in the IPL’s functioning. “The IPL started as a separate wing of BCCI,” Shetty said. “A separate office was set up and several people employed. Lalit’s being BCCI vice-president [showed] his authority and that he was running the show. And the administrative wing of BCCI therefore did not interfere in the IPL’s working.”

So the bottom line is: (a) The governing council [of which, do note, Amin was a member] is powerless when it comes to the IPL and (b) The governing council, and particularly Amin, will here on call the shots where IPL is concerned. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

The problem is that the IPL is an unstructured codependency of business and cricket and celebrity, cobbled together in such an unstructured fashion that it is almost guaranteed to throw up chaos and corruption at regular intervals. Change cannot come from outside the system [ignore the talking heads calling for a three-member team of former Supreme Court judges performing the function of ombudsman, or for government intervention in some form — both measures likely to further broadbase corruption, not end it].

So get set for the Modi hearing, and a pyrrhic victory. But don’t brace for reform — because for that to happen, there needs to be a deeply felt acknowledgement that the existing machinery is broken. Thus far, what we have had is a total absence of soul searching, an obsessive focus on Lalit Modi as the source of all evil and his eventual public evisceration as the final solution, all accompanied by some fairly inspired buck-passing.

Reform of the meaningful kind needs to start with the BCCI and its constitution, with a proper delineation of its powers vis a vis the IPL; it requires an overhaul of the governing council [if you have no responsibility and no authority — hullo, Sunny, Ravi, Tiger et al — then you have no business collecting a whopping salary for essentially warming a seat], a clear definition of authorities and responsibilities; it needs for airtight oversight mechanisms to be put in place…

And none of this can, or will, happen, because the very people who can bring about that change are the ones who have deeply vested interests in preserving the status quo.