Enough is enough — face the music now. That's the stern message the Supreme Court is sending out to the BCCI and its bullheaded president N Srinivasan.
Utterly convinced that the cricket board is not serious about cleaning up the IPL mess, the highest court of the land on Thursday proposed far-reaching changes, including replacing Srinivasan with legendary batsman and former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar or any other "seasoned or respected cricketer", as BCCI chief. It also recommended that Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) — two franchises whose owners/officials/players were arrested for spot-fixing/betting-related activities — be suspended from participating in the upcoming edition of the league, scheduled to begin in the UAE next month. What's more, the SC also proposed that no employee of India Cements Ltd — owned by Srinivasan — should be part of the BCCI set-up.
India skipper MS Dhoni's name was also dragged into the court. Senior lawyer Harish Salve, who represented the petitioner, Cricket Association of Bihar, slammed Dhoni for lying to the justice Mukul Mudgal committee. "Mr MS Dhoni, Mr N Srinivasan and officials of India Cements took the stand that Mr (Gurunath) Meiyappan had nothing to do with the cricketing affairs of Chennai Super Kings and was a mere cricket enthusiast supporting Super Kings," Salve said, quoting the report. He also said Dhoni was pressurised into lying by Srinivasan. Dhoni is senior vice-president in India Cements Ltd.
"We are not removing anybody now. In place of the present BCCI president, any expert in cricket may function till we deliver the judgment. We propose the name of Sunil Gavaskar," the bench, comprising justices AK Patnaik and FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, said. It also made it amply clear that the detailed "interim" order will be passed on Friday. The final order is expected to be passed on April 16, the day the IPL is set to kick-off.
However, there are serious doubts over the league's credibility and a section of the board — especially the high-flying politicians who are busy with the general elections — does not want the league to take place this year. Some reckon that the IPL be reduced to a six-team affair, sans CSK and RR. The rest, who swear by Srinivasan, are hoping that the BCCI's battery of lawyers manage to convince the court to spare the erring franchises as their suspension could sound the death knell for the league.
The question is do we really need a league mired in corruption to satisfy our collective entertainment quotient in the peak of summer every year? From CSK to RR, from Sahara Pune Warriors to Kochi Tuskers Kerala (both scrapped), from fixing to betting, the IPL gives us reasons to doubt its credibility every season. It's less about cricket and cricketers, and more about muck and money, much of it through illegal ways and means. Yes, it's a money-spinner and a source of livelihood to hundreds playing in and thousands dependent on it, but lest we forget, filth and falsity is fundamental to the IPL. Wonder why they even have a 'Fairplay Award'?
Kirti Azad, a staunch critic of the IPL, seconded dna's opinion. "While I am all for having a clean IPL, I feel that there should not be any second thought about scrapping the IPL in the current form. Any form of cricket which compromises with integrity and discipline should not be allowed to continue. While it is an excellent idea to allow cricketers to make enough money by participating in a league like the IPL, the tournament itself should not make money by corrupt means," the cricketer-turned-politician said.
Meanwhile, the BCCI and Cricket Association of Bihar were asked to respond to the court's propositions by Friday. Salve contended emphatically on the colossal 'conflict of interest' allegation against Srinivasan, who did all he could to defend his son-in-law, Meiyappan. Salve, who is the son of former BCCI president NKP Salve, suggested the names of Gavaskar and another former captain, Bishan Singh Bedi, to replace Srinivasan.
At the beginning of the hearing, BCCI counsel Ariama Sundaram handed over a proposal, saying the board will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the persons named in the justice Mukul Mudgal committee report. He said Srinivasan was ready to 'step aside' (not 'step down') and that any other BCCI functionary could handle the day-to-day affairs till disciplinary proceedings were completed.
Asking Salve to place his submissions, justice Patnaik said: "We will have to think very hard whatever is in the interest of cricket," adding the court would consider the BCCI's proposals later. Commencing his arguments, Salve submitted that the Mudgal committee' report clearly proved the conflict of interest allegation against Srinivasan and that there was sufficient evidence to remove him from the post.