More than anything, these words encapsulate the reaction to any procedure that the BCCI may adopt in this matter. Earlier in the week, the board's Working Committee met in Chennai and certain declarations have been made. That 'the board and its anti-corruption units cannot police bookies', that 'more vigilance will be adopted in the future', that 'measures will be taken after police investigation is submitted to the board and their internal committee submits findings based on that submission', and that 'the board will not cover for any elements'.
Statements of intent are all very fine. They are nothing new. But these aforementioned ones make for some wonderment, whether the BCCI is boasts of even an iota of morality today.
You have to start with the man who made all these statements on behalf of the board. No one knows in what capacity N Srinivasan sat on the Working Committee this past day. Was he the president of the BCCI, solely? Or was he representing the franchises, for he is also the owner of Chennai Super Kings?
Time and again, he has refused to answer questions on this issue of 'conflict of interest'. At the time of writing, reports have emerged that his son-in-law will be questioned about this matter.
When he steps out to represent the Board in any matter, Srinivasan is always donning two hats. Anything he does, whether it is nominating a candidate for a harmless ICC committee or signing contracts for commentators, or giving out a press release against fixing, has to be seen from a doubtful point of view. There is no one who can look at him in his different roles and say that this man is right in his standpoint. The question to be asked here though is, if there are people working in different committees of the board who are beginning to see him in this light?
The answer to this question is very important. For, it will bring the term 'conflict of interest' in sharp consideration and perhaps some sanity will prevail. Why is this important? Simply because the Indian Premier League today has been reduced to a scripted drama, wherein financial gain is of utmost importance.
You cannot assume that these three cricketers alone are responsible for the muck that has been thrown on the tournament this year. It begins elsewhere, when Chennai Super Kings are given undue advantage in auction matters. When certain franchises are investigated for financial irregularities while others escape, while some other franchises complain of BCCI's 'unsporting behaviour' in treating with them.
How was Srinivasan sitting on the IPL panel while the 2011 auctions were going on? How could the order of player auctions be changed at the last moment? How were Chennai able to retain most of their players? Moreover, why were Chennai the loudest voice in player retention and the move was passed despite majority franchises opposing it? Can it ever be imagined that Chennai/India Cements could have possibly suffered the same fate as Pune Warriors/Sahara? What if Chennai had been bought for a staggering sum, promised for 94 matches and then the BCCI refused to bring it down because only 76 matches are played in an IPL season?
If the BCCI wants to start cleaning up the mess that the IPL has become, it needs a good look at its hierarchy and then realize the need to start weeding out such conflicts. It is very apparent that the IPL is their most prized possession and not Indian cricket as a whole. And so they need to realise that this tournament needs to be clean, almost as much as international cricket. Perhaps a disambiguation between the BCCI and IPL governance is now necessary, but that can only happen if the powers that be are made to let go off their conflicting interests.
Until that happens, cricketers as the ones that have been caught will continue to be small fry. And really, it is a little too much to expect them to stay clean when the top brass governing the game is corrupt itself. Whether in a corporate job or a sport, the institution matters and currently the BCCI is a scheming pot. It is not to justify what they did, no cricket lover can.
For these cricketers, once the charges have been proved, there is only one punishment: life ban. They should never ever be allowed near any element of the game that has given them so much and received so little in return. It should be the only punishment whether the guilty is a youngster like Mohammad Amir or a seasoned professional like Sreesanth, whether it is a domestic cricketer like Ajit Chandila or an international captain like Salman Butt.
Ever since the Hansie Cronje fiasco at the turn of the millennium, no cricketer is a novice anymore, to not understand what any form of fixing entails.
Even so, trust the BCCI to turn this punishment process into a farce as well. Some time ago, the life ban on Mohammad Azharuddin was over-turned and the forever-tainted former Indian captain now walks across cricket grounds with aplomb. What was the reasoning for this turn-around? As far as it is known, the charges against him still stand proven. Furthermore, if the BCCI repealed Azhar's life-ban, what moral right does it have to dish out life-bans against these three cricketers?
The Delhi and Mumbai Police will follow their own procedures in this latest matter. But, if the BCCI wants a semblance of a chance to weed out this threat to Indian cricket (and IPL therein), it needs to admonish its immoral practices and start afresh, from within.
First Published: May 23, 2013, 9:47 AM IST