BCCI: the Man Piaba edition

A few news items caught my eye in sequence.

#1. The BCCI will issue another notice (because he blithely ignored the earlier one) to its GM (Operations) MV Sridhar, in matters relating to conflict of interest and possible corruption.

#2. Javagal Srinath to inspect new cricket venues for suitability — his fact-finding trips to be planned by MV Sridhar.

Huh? I’d imagine that if I was employed by a company and it had reason to question me about acts of malfeasance, the first thing that would happen is I would be blocked from playing a role in daily operations. No?

Meanwhile: the Committee of Administrators in a submission to the Supreme Court spoke among other things about the huge expenses being run up by senior board officials. The board’s response? ‘I am not expensive. You are expensive. Nyaaah!’

Elsewhere, the Supreme Court has issued show cause notices to the head honchos of the board, for deliberately flouting their orders.

It’s looking like one of those farcical scenes in old time Westerns, where everyone is holding a gun to everyone else’s head. And in the background, Harry Belafonte’s Man Piaba plays on, softly.

It was clear as mud but it covered the ground
And the confusion made the brain go ’round.

PostScript: In my most recent Scroll column, I had made a tangential point about women’s cricket:

Recent media reports talk of the money officials of the rump BCCI have been spending on themselves. Which reminds me of a point made in an earlier column about women’s cricket. The last time our women cricketers had a contract – in fact, the only time they had a contract – the total annual outlay on 11 players was Rs 1.3 crore. Compare that to the amount of money being spent on acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Choudhary.

A question: Have our women cricketers, whose contracts expired in November 2016, gotten their new contracts yet? No? Oh?

Seems a no-brainer, no? Contracts expire, you either renew, or cancel, and whichever it is, you inform the concerned people? How hard can that be to understand, and practice?

The reason the BCCI drags its feet on the question? This.

“Even now, I would still say that it is not yet well accepted within BCCI that women’s cricket is doing well. It is very difficult for them (some BCCI members) to accept the fact that this team has done very well,” said (Diana) Edulji.

Recalling her first meeting with former BCCI president N Srinivasan after he took over the reins in 2011, she said, “When Mr Srinivasan became president, I would like to say that I went to congratulate him at the Wankhede Stadium. He said, ‘If I had my way, I wouldn’t let women’s cricket happen’. He hates women’s cricket.”

 

 

 

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Talent spotting

But of course, makes perfect sense. Sreesanth was found guilty of spot-fixing by a disciplinary committee headed by Shri Arun Jaitley. Less than a year ago, BCCI general secretary (and ABVP national head) Anurag Thakur confirmed the life banafter the Delhi court found it not feasible to pursue charges under MCOCA. You could say Sreesanth’s candidature has been vetted at the highest levels.

Seriously — is the party so poor in talent that it has to rely on the illusory appeal of a cheat?

Earlier today, while trawling through my archives, I came across this column by Pritish Nandy. This section resonates:

While these are a few stray examples, the point I am making is simple. Why do our achievements in every area of life and endeavour get outshone by our single most prominent area of shame — our politics? Why does our politics grab the media, grab our mindshare, our reluctant attention day after day? Loathsome leaders; corrupt MPs; thieving ministers; ugly, despicable louts and historysheeters masquerading as netas; blackmailers; extortionists; thugs. Why do these people hijack our attention again and again and again? Always for the wrong reasons.

This is what institutionalises crime. Legitimises it. This is what attracts the worst among us to politics. The fact that they get their one shining moment of glory when they enter politics. Arun Gawli leapt from page 5 to page 1 the moment he entered politics. So did Raja Bhaiya in UP. Rabri Devi went from her kitchen into the national headlines. Phoolan Devi, from her cell in Tihar jail. Chandra Swami painted all his crimes with different political colours.

It is the Lennon syndrome at work. Do something utterly despicable — kill someone famous, loot a bank, cheat the nation, set fire to a Harijan village, badmouth another politician — and you can bask in the glory of national headlines. You are the flavour of the day, the week, the season. Newspapers will frontpage you. television news bulletins will chase you. Your chamchas will fete you. And, if you are lucky, weak and feeble governments will reach out to you for your support.

No wonder the scum of the world is in politics today.

I’ll leave you with this thought: The column was written in 1999.

The BCCI threw a party…

Just how incompetent do you have to be to organise a World-level match in one stadium and sell tickets at another stadium at the other end of town?

The current stadium, which was inaugurated in 2008 and has a capacity of 45,000, lies 20km outside the city centre, a journey time of approximately 40 minutes by auto-rickshaw. However, the main ticketing system remains still situated at the old venue. A VCA official said it was not possible to have ticketing at both grounds.

The BCCI, who declined to comment, are in overall charge of the ticketing policy for the tournament, but the arrangements for each match are at the discretion of the individual state associations. Dharmasala, the other venue that has so far hosted matches, has chosen to sell tickets for the qualifying rounds at the gate.

The VCA spokesman added that advertisements for the ticketing policy had been placed in local papers but was unable to explain why the information had not been passed on to the BCCI or ICC, so they could warn fans who were travelling in from other grounds.

 

ROFL Lodha

Acerbic. Sweeping. Comprehensive. All apt words to describe the Report on Cricket Reforms released January 4, 2016, by the Supreme Court-mandated Justice Lodha Committee. But “funny”? Yeah, that too — if you like your humor to wear a very thin veil. Some samplers:

From the outset, the Committee has reached out to the administration of the BCCI to offer its comments and interventions on the issues that were being considered. Meetings were arranged with all the office-bearers, and from the first week of April, the Questionnaire was sent to all of them. The then President Mr.Jagmohan Dalmiya and Secretary Mr.Anurag Thakur even sent identical responses to it.

That is to say, the late Mr Dalmiya (before he became late, of course) and Mr Thakur had their responses written by the same hand, didn’t bother to make even cosmetic alterations to the words, and submitted them independently, not allowing for the possibility that the committee would pick up on similarity of response. Then there is this:

We are glad to note that having obtained a broad picture from the Questionnaire about how the Committee intended to proceed, BCCI started taking some action, or at least made some announcements touching upon the contents of the questions. These include statements concerning committees to represent States where associations were in dispute or not formed [Qn.1.6], agent accreditation [Qns.6.10 & 6.13] and conflict of interest [Qns.7.1 – 7.3]. Unfortunately, a closer examination shows that these measures came without any structural modifications, and were done more in an effort to assuage the public.

Translated into undiplomatic English: We sent out a questionnaire, the BCCI honchos figured out from the questions what our areas of concern were, and promptly made some cosmetic announcements to convey the impression that our concerns were already being addressed, even before we had begun our sittings. Unfortunately, all of it was an eyewash.

Immediately following, is this bit about Shashank Manohar, and this is where the humor really bites:

On the 30th of September 2015, the Committee interacted in New Delhi with Mr.Shashank Manohar, who had been the President of the BCCI when amendments were carried out to permit a conflict of interest, which action was eventually quashed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. On the day of the meeting, Mr.Manohar was widely tipped to be the consensus candidate to again be the President of the BCCI in elections to be held on the weekend. During the extensive discussions, the Committee put to Mr.Manohar the various concerns highlighted in the Questionnaire, particularly regarding the wide-ranging powers of the President, the lack of financial oversight over State bodies, the lack of transparency as far as BCCI regulations and processes were concerned, the lack of a Conflict of Interest policy and the need for an Ombudsman. Mr.Manohar fairly conceded that these needed to be addressed. We are again happy to note that that on being elected as President of BCCI within 4 days thereafter, Mr.Manohar, even without waiting for the Committee’s report, adopted and projected the Committee’s views as his roadmap for improving the functioning of the BCCI. He also implemented some of them, i.e. uploading of the Constitution and Bye-Laws on the BCCI website, creating a policy for Conflicts of Interest and appointment of an Ombudsman. While we believe that these proposals are in the right direction, we find that they are not comprehensive and substantive.

Check out the underlined bits.

Shorn of politeness, this bit translates thus: We met Manohar and told him of our chief areas of concern. Within a week of that meeting, Manohar — on whose watch the most egregious case of conflict of interest was rubber-stamped — trotted out a set of “reforms” as coming from himself, but which in reality were attempts to undercut the work of the committee. “He also implemented some of them,” the report says, leaving unsaid the corollary, that much more remained in the realm of ‘statements’.

“We are happy to note…”, the judges say, their expression of delight yielding to disappointment a couple of sentences later as the judges note that Manohar’s reforms were neither comprehensive nor substantive.

And so it goes.

The judges must have been seriously pissed, to call out — repeatedly — the BCCI’s attempts at preempting their report.

FWIW, I had scribbled random thoughts down while reading the report in full. Here is the “annotated” version.

PS: Did you read the full report? What thoughts struck you? What do you like? What do you dislike? Why? Comments in the box, please? Let’s start a dialogue — will be back tomorrow morning to look for your thoughts.

Dravid on spot-fixing and fear of consequences

Like I said, I can’t speak for other people but at a personal level if I were to doubt everything that happens in this game, it would take away the joy and the love of the game, from what it’s meant to be. It has been my life from the time I can remember, my first memories are of a ball and a cricket bat. So personally no, my first instinct is to trust and believe what is happening on a television screen. I hear, people do come to me, and you hear chat about this might have happened or look at that. But like I said, I’ve seen a lot of strange things on a cricket field and from people and players I would never doubt, I would bet my life on that fact.

Sambit Bal interviews Rahul Dravid on match/spot-fixing, and matters related. Nice, nuanced, and from the heart — typical Rahul. The money segment:

I think a two-pronged approach [is needed]. My personal belief is that education and counselling at a junior level is really important. As we’ve seen recently with these incidents, they aren’t only about international cricketers but we’ve seen with the sting operations last year, with what’s happened this year, is that a lot of these elements are targeting younger players, domestic players, first-class players. So obviously counselling and guidance has to go to the first-class level and junior level. So I think we’ve got to start early, we’ve got to start young but like I said earlier, in answer to your question, that part of it is already being done. I know that India has its own ACSU and even for Ranji Trophy teams this education is given. So I don’t think only education can work, [we have to] police it and have the right laws and ensure that people, when they indulge in these kind of activities, are actually punished.

People must see that there are consequences to your actions. That will create fear for people. For example, look back on the doping in cycling. Everyone knows it’s wrong and it’s frightening having read a little about it and the number of cyclists who were doing it. Surely everyone knows it’s wrong. [But] it was an exception not to do it. So the only people cyclists were scared of was not the testers, not the [cycling] authority, they were scared of the police. You read all the articles, the only guys they were scared of was the police and going to jail. So the only way that people are going to get that fear is if they know the consequences to these actions and the law that will come into play. It has got to be a criminal offence.

Srini to Jaggu: Cheers, mate!

In a private corner of a bar someplace, N Srinivasan and Jagmohan Dalmiya are likely sharing a single malt and laughing fit to bust; their laughter probably crescendoes with each new headline in the media, and each new talking head on TV, announcing that Srini’s bid to return as president has been stymied again.

The word the media wants is “facilitated”.

Going in to today’s meeting, there was only one outcome Srinivasan needed to avoid: that the IPL governing council, of which he is *not* a member (ex-officio, he calls himself — but that is in his capacity as BCCI president, from which post he has ‘stepped aside’ — so on date, he cannot be part of the governing council even ex-officio) would accept the Bombay High Court strictures, accept the inquiry committee report as invalid, and order a new probe.

*If* that had happened, Srinivasan was finished — because there is no way in hell a probe committee can be constituted, meet, examine evidence (no matter how superficially) and submit a report between now and September, when the BCCI general body meets to elect the president and other office bearers for next year.

If, therefore, a new probe had been constituted, Srini is de jure in no position to contest in September. And once a new president (along with new secretary, treasurer and assorted other busybodies) are elected, there is no immediate way for Srini to regain control of the reins.

So for Srini — and Jagmohan Dalmiya, who is temporarily in alliance with his one-time persecutor — that needed to be stopped. It was — by the simple expedient of crashing the meeting, grandly “recusing” himself from a meeting in which he had no locus standi anyway, then storming back in after a brief absence and creating a ruckus which ended with the council, shorn of options, agreeing to preserve status quo ante.

So Dalmiya remains ‘interim president’. Srini remains in charge. (Remember that Dalmiya has no legal standing to sign major, particularly bilateral and multilateral) agreements on behalf of the BCCI — that is the president’s remit, so Srini’s signature still has value).

And most importantly, Srini can now contest in September — which makes the result a foregone conclusion. His one potential stumbling block was Sharad Pawar, who had mounted a bid for a return to the Mumbai Cricket Association, and who as MCA president could have legitimately staked a claim in the upcoming election.

That was trumped by the simple expedient of delaying the MCA polls, originally slated for this month, to October — that is, after the BCCI polls. Various ‘reasons’ have been given by MCA; collectively, they are the equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework and I have to redo it all over again and need time so I can’t be bothered to be running elections just now’.

There is a possibility Pawar can still be a candidate if he can get enough other associations to nominate him as their representative — but that is an extremely unlikely possibility because a Pawar heading an association and thus in a position to do favors is a whole different kettle of fish from a Pawar out of cricketing power and thus in no position to offer carrots or wield sticks.

So who is left? Arun Jaitley is the pre-anointed next in line and it suits him just fine to sit out this year; there is a general election on the horizon and the last thing he needs is to have his name constantly in the limelight over the BCCI’s serial acts of corruption.

Rajiv Shukla is the other possibility — but besides having time on his hands, he is currently busy consolidating his own power base, playing his part in the Congress party’s back room machinations vis a vis the general elections, and snowballing the value of his various businesses. He has the IPL back in his hands; like Jaitley, the one thing he does not need is to be named in the same sentence as ‘BCCI’ and ‘corruption’. (In this context, it is interesting to note that when the fixing scandal broke over the IPL earlier this year, Shukla faced some internal ire at the highest levels of his own party, and had to resort to some fancy footwork to distance himself from the mess).

Jagmohan Dalmiya would have been a viable option — but the Bengal boss is content just now to consolidate his total rehabilitation, and cement new alliances; 2013 is a tad too early for him to try for another innings.

Net net, Srini is a shoo-in, in September — as long as his candidature could pass unquestioned. And now it can, since the IPL Governing Council did not — or more accurately, was not allowed to — accept the Bombay High Court strictures.

Of course, the appeal in the Supreme Court could go against the BCCI — but that is a long, long way away. Remember the AC Muthaiah-helmed case against Srinivasan’s various conflicts of interest, that is still awaiting final judgment from the SC? Given that, what chance is there that this one will be heard, and a judgment delivered, in time to trump Srini in September — even assuming the BCCI submits its appeal within the next few days? Srini will fancy his chances of re-election before the SC verdict comes in — and once installed in power again, all things are possible.

So guess who is laughing now, while we collectively celebrate how Srinivasan has been ‘stymied again’? ‘Well played,’ you can hear Srini and Jaggu telling each other, as they clink glasses.

‘BCCI tried to bribe me’. Indeed?

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

The man making the allegation is Aditya Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), whose PIL led to the Bombay High Court declaring the BCCI-appointed two-member inquiry committee “illegal”.

When reading this, bear in mind that the CAB was de-recognized by the BCCI over allegations of corruption, and this is now the subject of a prolonged court battle.  Prima facie, that would suggest that Verma and his association have a vested interest in throwing mud at the BCCI.

However, without suggesting that the CAB is a well-run state body (which state association actually is?), the BCCI taking action against one of its members over corruption is risible, to say the least. We are, after all, talking of the same body that filed a police case against Jagmohan Dalmiya for misappropriation of over Rs 46 crore, then when it became expedient wrote off that amount, and today has (illegally) installed him as interim president. (Details documented here).

That — and many other instances of state associations being allowed to get away with murder — leads to the inference that the BCCI uses the carrot and stick policy as part of its standard operating procedure; that it has institutionalized the use of bribery and/or threats to get its way (Read). And this in turn suggests that Verma’s allegation cannot be totally dismissed as muck-throwing by a disgruntled official.

Here is Verma in his own words:

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

He, however, refused to divulge the names of the people who tried to bribe him to withdraw the case, saying the matter was sub-judice. Then, Verma said, the lobby tried to intimidate him by telling him he was putting the career of his young cricketer son in jeopardy by fighting against the BCCI.

“They asked me. Why are you playing with the future of the career of your cricketer son?”. However, Verma, whose son plays under-19 cricket, refused to give up his fight. “I have been fighting single-handedly against the BCCI for the legitimate rights of the Bihar cricket for the past three years,” he said. “I am not one to give in to any kind of pressure.” Verma said this was the first time when the BCCI had tasted defeat in a court case.

The allegation is in and off itself serious; it is of a piece with how the BCCI has operated in the past. And it is because the BCCI has been allowed to get away with each individual act of corruption, extortion and general malfeasance that it has become increasingly emboldened; why each successive act has been more egregious than the last.

It is time (most would argue that it is way past time) that a line was drawn in the sand — and the way to do that, here, is by naming the people involved, by bringing it out in the open, and by seeking official/judicial intervention.

Verma refuses to divulge the names by saying the matter is sub-judice, but that cat won’t jump — if it is, if this combination of bribe and threat is part of his official case, then he shouldn’t be talking about it at all. Doing a tease, then refusing to go the whole hog, does everyone — the game, the fans — a disservice; it airs an allegation but does not substantiate it. Which is why I hope Verma, who now flies the flag for probity and has set himself up as the crusader against corruption, now does a full Monty, either through the legal mechanism or in public.

Now is as good a time as any to let sunlight into a body that has traditionally operated in deep shadow. There have been numerous opportunities in the past, and the game has paid, continues to pay, a heavy price for missing them. At the risk of being sententious, I really hope this latest allegation doesn’t turn out to be yet another one day sensation that is forgotten by tomorrow.