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.

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14 thoughts on “Modi, and beyond

  1. Whoa, Prem. Real long and passionate article there. Stand Up and Salute you Sir. Particularly writing all this while knowing that nothing, absolutely nothing gonna make a change.

  2. Prem isn’t it frustrating being a journalist at times? Means look at the way corruption situations are handled in India, so much of hue and cry and as soon as the next controversy comes along, people forget about the earlier one and everything is then conveniently settled to everyones happiness away from the public glare. Even with Modi fiasco, everyone knows that nothing constructive will come out of it, the proceedings will go on for ages and most Modi will be penalized will be a rap on the knuckles. Probably one of the biggest challenges of being a journalist / columnist would be how to keep those thoughts coming out with a sense of purpose rather then with a sense of obligation.

    • Yes. Very. Frustrating, that is — when you can see what is possible, what can be done, and also know exactly why nothing will done, it can kind of get to you. One of the main reasons I stopped writing regularly on cricket, as a matter of fact.

  3. Dear Prem

    Will u be commenting on the Kalmadi vs Gill show? Kalmadi looks to continue his source of pocket money which he might have been pilfering away far from everyone’s eyes (IPL, cricket , Modi etc..). Personally would be glad to see these guys go. Sitting pretty in there posts since I can remember with no semblence of results/accountability.

    Cheers
    Raj

  4. Amen to that Prem. One doesnt want Australia knocked out because of one match. Apart from other things, the fact that one upset can take a associate nation to the next round should trigger a change in the current format. Yeah, nice that Ireland and Bangla progressed in 2007 but would India/Pak have made Super8 matches more meaningful? Ofcourse, yes.

    Kenya beat WI in 1996. We all felt warm, fuzzy and happy. But that remained just that – a one-off.

  5. You are back with a bang 🙂 As usual, nicely written. SS is really turning out to be the one-stop shop for all dope on IPL +claps+ (just the way you tweet them!!).

    Thanks for link to Mukul Kesavan’s article too. On the governing council itself, if you notice, there’s no mention of Ravi Shastri at all. I guess, it’s a indication of where Ravi is ranked in Mukul’s cricketer ratings :D. Haha !!

  6. I don’t think Prem’s point is to not have associate teams in WC. However, what could make things interesting is to have points carry forward, make the SF qualification for team that lost the league match, that much harder.

  7. “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 ”
    What then is your suggested approach ? And for the associate nations to progress they have to beat someone from the top 8 ? Do you see any other way out ?

    • Prem, if you suggest that associate nations have a place in the world cup, then there is no other way to form the groups. Putting all the associates in a single group will be like Reservation to the next round. Probably, the only thing possible is to carry over the first round point to the next round or something like that in effect.

      • But I don’t say there should be four groups. Nor am I hung up on having four associate nations in there, merely to make up some arbitrarily determined number.

    • Currently the associate nations number around the 200 mark, plus or minus. There is a qualifying cycle they go through. So hold it, and bring the top eight teams into a round robin immediately preceding the World Cup, AS A PART OF THE WORLD CUP, with all the attendant fanfare, tv coverage, et al.

      The reason for the emphasis is, currently no one knows, or cares, when the associate nations play, because the ICC does not put it front and center on the radar.

      Once you’ve had that contest, take the top two teams and seed them into the main draw. Simultaneously, instead of having four groups of three teams each, have two groups of five/six apiece, in a round robin format, with the top two from each group progressing to the semis. One thing that fixes is, every match has a point to it, you can no longer get into the league phase planning to progress by walloping a minor nation.

      The two associate nations also get more opportunities to play the big boys, as opposed to the two games they now get.

      And all I am suggesting here is a direction to think in, not the final solution. But hey, I’d reckon it can’t be too hard to reframe this competition so that every game, even one against a “minnow”, has a point to it and makes sense.

      • Zimbabwe & Bangladesh do get through directly because of their *grin* “test status”. And Bangladesh is seeded ahead of Australia btw. So actually, only 2 associate nations have made it.

        While the ICC wants the weaker teams to get more games, I guess they see that matches involving these teams may just be one-sided affairs that clutter the fixtures.

        So each “weak” team gets 2 chances to stage an upset. Unfair, yes. It’s like a knock-out, followed by a league, followed by a knock-out. But otherwise we may have have far too many painful games.

        As for the super 8 groups, the logic has been to allow the fans to be able to buy tickets for the right match in advance. But I agree, this is not strictly necessary.

        In my opinion, even if we leave the first round as is, the topper should be A1 and so on, and teams should carry points to the super-8.

        In the super-8, fans ought to be allowed to track a specific team. So Indian fans, for instance, should be able to buy a ticket for the India match regardless of when and where it is played. The dates will probably anyway be only a day apart as the T20 world cup is quite a condensed affair. . And the travel won’t be much (unless they play in India or Australia). I think the WC Soccer follows this system.

    • Would you not look at it as also the highest chance of an upset? A knockout scenario in the early stages is unfair, and a larger group of say 6 teams would mean a one match upset would be unlikely to allow an associate to progress to the next round.

      • No, because the “upset” is over romanticized by the media. Genuine upsets are too few and far between, and invariably, only the top two associate nations at best have a chance of pulling one off. Which again underlines my argument that four is too many; and four groups of three each is total idiocy.

        Instead, postulate two groups of say six each. That means every single game has context — it all adds up, and you need to win the max number of games to move into the semis. And an upset has a greater impact, when you come to think of it.

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