“A metropolis beyond imagination”

The cavalier attitude to doing due diligence ahead of the selection process (time was, it was mandatory for players to produce fitness certificates ahead of selections; players in time found tame doctors to produce the necessary certification; over time, the charade was given up altogether; in circa Srikkanth, the practice is to pick the team and, in the addendum, add pious hopes that various players sporting various niggles will recover in time to save the selectors’ blushes) seems set to cost the Indian team — per most recent reports, Praveen Kumar’s injury has not responded to treatment as rapidly as was hoped for, and the bowler will now rush to England for additional treatment. Whether he will or will not be able to play is still unknown.

That aside, will leave you with a lovely piece by Suresh Menon on the tragedy of Eden Gardens. An edited excerpt:

Few, however, have been able to capture the sheer passion of the Kolkata fan. The illogicality of his obsession, the thoroughness of his preparation, the amount of hardship he is willing to put himself through for the pleasure of seeing Tendulkar bat or Sourav Ganguly adjust his sweater.

And it is this constituency that Jagmohan Dalmiya and his band have let down. The fan asks for nothing more than a good match – and an India-England tie had the potential to be just that in the World Cup – but whether it was the arrogance of the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal or his stupidity that has denied them this, it is not good for either Kolkata or India, or indeed cricket….

The Board of Control for Cricket in India must take some of the responsibility too, for although the World Cup is an ICC event, the national board has obviously to ensure that venues are ready and the shopping list of do’s and don’ts adhered to. It might have suited the current dispensation in the Board to blacken Dalmiya’s face for political reasons, but as usual in the petty politics played out by petty men, the larger picture is missed. Hang national pride, who cares about how a nation about to sup at the high table appears to the rest of the world.

Suresh ends his piece with the thought that this fiasco could be the end of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Not a hope (even the writer doesn’t believe it). The functional illiterates that comprise the BCCI may not know Sun Tzu from Chop Suey, but “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is the number one tenet in the Board playbook.

For the first two years after the regime change, the Board spent considerable energy trying to “finish off” Dalmiya, with Modi leading the charge and at one point claiming that Dalmiya would be sent to jail.

What followed was hilarious, if you like your comedy like your coffee — black.

The BCCI trotted out charges of misappropriation of funds relating to PILCOM, the Pakistan-India-Sri Lanka joint committee that conducted the 1996 World Cup. In December 2006, he was expelled from the board and all its member associations.

Dalmiya went to court — and in June 2007, got a stay from the Calcutta High Court of his expulsion. And then the real fun began — Dalmiya moved a counter case charging Board officials including Sharad Pawar, Niranjan Shah, Shashank Manohar and Chirayu Amin with perjury.

Thing was, the board based its suspension on an amendment to the rules governing disciplinary action that had, as per usual, written after the fact (remember recent imbroglios about last minute amendments to auction rules, and the other one relating to conflict of interest where a convenient amendment was inserted after the fact? SOP for the BCCI, this habit of writing its rules on water).

Worse, the BCCI honchos had forgotten that for a rule or amendment to be legal, it had to be duly registered. Since they had casually pencilled in a convenient amendment to justify their proceeding against Dalmiya and pre-dated it, it was not possible for them to register the clause, as the discrepancy in dates would then show up. They hoped no one would notice. Dalmiya, who during his tenure had developed enviable expertise in exploiting the rule book to his own personal ends, did.

To really put the lid on it, the officials while appearing in Calcutta High Court in response to Dalmiya’s legal challenge, placed the hastily written amendment before the court and swore that it was in fact official; when queried about the fact that it had not been registered, the officials further claimed that the Board had sought and received permission from the appropriate body to register the amendment at a later date.

Both were lies (arrogance is bad enough — when you add ignorance and chronic idiocy to it, the mix becomes combustible, and that is the real problem with the lot currently running cricket affairs in the country). The amendment as presented in court was dated September 2000 (the intention being to make it appear as if it had been written when Dalmiya was still in charge), but the application for its registration was made only in late 2006, after action had been taken on its basis against Dalmiya.

Faced with the prospect of criminal charges pertaining to falsification of documents and perjury, the Board decided on discretion as the better part of revenge, and allowed action against Dalmiya to lapse. It then proactively worked to bring Dalmiya back into the fold, first facilitating his re-election to the CAB as president by failing to appeal the court verdict, then tossing him several sops. (Ironically, thanks to the BCCI’s tendency to over-reach itself, the upshot was that the real issue — misappropriation of funds — had to be given a quiet burial).

All of this was based on the belief that a Dalmiya within the BCCI family was less of a danger than a vengeful Dalmiya floating around on the outside — more so when the prospect loomed that he might join forces with Lalit Modi. (Imagine the havoc those two, who know where more bodies are buried than your average cemetery attendant, could have caused had they worked in tandem against the board.)

Given this, fat chance Dalmiya and his administration will pay for the gross negligence, that has deprived the Calcutta crowd of a chance to watch the national team play in the World Cup in the unrivaled atmosphere of the Gardens.

PS: This habit of sneaking in last minute clauses into the rule book is about to get the Board into trouble on a different front. News reports indicate that there is a clause stating that 20 per cent of match fees will be deducted from capped players in the event their team fails to make it to the Champions’ League. Not surprisingly, players are up in arms and have already registered their protest, on the grounds that they had no prior line of sight into this clause, which was sprung on them at the last minute. Said players might want to consider another aspect to this: 10 teams, only three CL slots. In other words, the clause is tailor-made to save seven franchises considerable sums of money. Wonder who pencilled this dilly into the contract at the last minute.

So you think you can dance

Like a meticulously choreographed, rigorously rehearsed dance, the IPL imbroglio is finally heading towards a pre-scripted, dramatic finale.

It started out with the board wanting to use the excuse of governmental investigations into the IPL’s functioning to trim Modi to size, clip his wings a little, put a layer of oversight [that is to say, a governing council in something more than name, one that functions not merely as a rubber stamp] on the functioning of the commissioner (suspended), and get back to business as usual.

Modi’s combative responses to the series of show cause notices [one, and two] and, more crucially, his determined effort to fling mud helter skelter [his claim that Manohar and Srinivasan were dirty and hence could not sit in judgment over him] changed the choreography of the dance: the BCCI at that point figured that he was more trouble than he was worth, and that it could not work with him even in a curtailed role.

At that point, the Board put into motion a series of moves aimed at a predestined conclusion. Step one was the BCCI laundromat kicking into life, with Manohar giving a clean chit to Amin — very necessary, as Amin had been designated as the next head of the IPL with Bharat Patel as his ‘advisor’. Having exercised his authority, Manohar then grandly recused himself from the disciplinary committee that will hear Modi’s case — in one shot, fulfilling half of Modi’s demand while prima facie injecting an appearance of impartiality into the further proceedings.

Srinivasan, who was named with Manohar as an interested party and hence in no position to sit in judgment on Modi, had earlier covered his particular base by saying he had taken then BCCI president Sharad Pawar’s permission to be part of an IPL bid: in other words, the BCCI secretary had sought, from his immediate superior who was himself heavily conflicted, permission to be similarly conflicted — a proceeding possible only in the looking glass world of the BCCI. Besides, he is in any case not a member of the disciplinary committee, so Modi’s strictures against him sitting in judgment are meaningless.

All of that was part of the set up — the BCCI then got into the climactic part of its performance today, with Srinivasan’s ‘rejection’ of Modi’s responses. I so totally love this bit, don’t you?:

“Since Mr Lalit Modi has accused me of being biased against him, after a thorough and careful reading of his explanation against the charges, I have passed an order that it was not acceptable.”

Laugh-out-loud funny, that bit: the first part of the sentence, regarding the accusation of bias, has no bearing on the second half of the sentence, which is Srinivasan’s determination. In other words: Modi says I am biased; let me, in totally unbiased fashion, say he is full of bull. Right.

The final steps of this dance have already been choreographed. Tomorrow, Amin will meet with the franchise holders and, irrespective of an agenda that includes, among other things, rationalizing the norms on player retention, discussing the revised schedule for IPL4 when two new teams enter the mix, and similar issues, the unstated agenda is to clearly signal the changing of the guard, to finally acquaint the franchises with the fact that the Modi era is over, and that they now have a new dispensation to deal with.

Fast forward to July 3. At the Special General Body Meeting, Srinivasan’s ‘rejection’ of the charges against Modi will be taken up. The SGM will ‘determine’ that there is prima facie cause to refer the issue to the disciplinary committee. The SGM will also nominate someone to take Manohar’s place in that committee, and to join Chirayu Amin [see why Manohar had to clear Amin’s name? Else, the same objection Modi raised against Manohar, of bias, would apply] and Arun Jaitley in determining the nature of action.

Irrespective of who the third wheel is, that committee will determine that Modi is in gross violation of BCCI guidelines, that a pattern of irresponsible behavior exists, and that therefore he should be stripped of all powers and either retained in the Board as an ordinary member, or expelled altogether — that final determination depending on how Modi acts from here on. Fling more mud, and it is finito; pull in your horns and lie low, and we’ll leave you with some sort of role within the board.

What I don’t understand is this: why stagger this drama out? All the decisions have already been taken. [If Modi’s position as IPL commissioner were still in doubt, Amin — who is one of the troika who will render judgment — wouldn’t be actively stepping into the IPL boss’s role with his meeting tomorrow, would he? There is nothing so pressing that it couldn’t wait till after the June 3 meeting, and a final determination of Modi’s fate].

So why this drawn out charade? For whose benefit is this drama being played out?

PS: Noticed some folks asking about posts relating to the whatever-cup played out in Sri Lanka, where yesterday they played the final before the final. Sorry, folks — haven’t been watching. Largely because I am swamped with some stuff I need to finish before the half yearly deadline, and partly because I found the whole thing immensely boring, and largely pointless. I’ll pass; am off to Chennai on some urgent personal work tomorrow, and will be back at work, and on blog, Monday. Be well, meantimes…