Responsibility, propriety and moral fibre are hollow words in the context of Indian cricket today. It came out of the shadows of anonymity in the 70s to depose the traditional powerhouses and then bathe under the shower of capitalism. But money is no certification of a well-administered sport. Good governance is. Unfortunately, it took India 13 years to realise that, with embarrassment at either end of that timeframe.
Indian cricket fell on the floor during the mad dash of its administrators. It was being run over in a rush for money, power and more money. But no one bothered, as long as it was alive and remained fit enough to earn. It was only time before the careless approach took its toll on the game - in the year 2000.
'Fixing' wasn't new to the world of sports, considering the Chicago White Sox 'threw' the American baseball championship in 1919. But it was something unheard of in cricket until that report by the Indian probe agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It found then captain Mohammad Azharuddin guilty of fixing matches with a bookmaker, Mukesh Gupta. The net widened, footage became more explicit and names bigger. Former South Africa skipper Hansie Cronje, who was at the centre of it, faced a trail and later admitted his felony amid tears. He was banned for life before dying in a plane crash.
Players were falling for easy money despite fat cheques and agencies lined up to sign them. It was time to nip in the bud, but who in the BCCI had time for it? Measures taken were at best a smokescreen. The rot continued and got so deep that now, 13 years later, it's in the system so to speak - with Test players interrogated, jailed and banned.
India unfortunately hasn't learned and is now facing the brunt. The BCCI has failed to civilize its baby named IPL. At six years old, it is already corrupt, ill mannered and has all the wrong friends. The current IPL scandal - with player-bookie nexus and the BCCI exposed - is the biggest crisis in Indian cricket. Every game in the IPL is played under the shade of heavy money exchange. Since the Azharuddin episode, the involvement of money has only increased. But with reports suggesting that the BCCI has a role to play, it's as much an administrative failure as it is a crime committed by greedy players.
If we bring the 2000 and 2013 episodes on the table, the game is being threatened manifold now. If the caretakers were trying to take corrective measures in 2000, a different set of them are now partners in crime.
The BCCI president alters the board's constitution to facilitate his ownership of an IPL franchise. The president heads the company that owns the franchise and still says there's no conflict of interest. The president's son-in-law, a co-owner of the franchise, bids at the players' auction, sits in the team dugout and then is arrested for betting. The president orders erasing his son-in-law's name from every document of the franchise and the company that owns it, but still claims he wasn't in the know about his links with bookies. These brazen lies, after weakening the foundation of Indian cricket establishment, are now hurting the soul of the game itself. Much more serious than what happened in 2000. If the players guilty then and now have been ejected, then why not the administrators? Why is Mr. Srinivasan so shamelessly adamant to not quit his post?
It's time for 'Operation Clean-up'. Make the BCCI and other sports bodies in India run by former players of the sport, not the politicians. Union Ministers and leaders of the Opposition are sitting on top posts in the BCCI - most of who never held a bat or ball properly and have no experience of sports administration. The accountability also lies with the ex-cricketers, who it seems are more comfortable sitting in the air-conditioned commentary boxes and TV studios. They need to break the BCCI shackles and stand up as the game's warden.
The structure of the governing body needs a sea change. It should stand on the solid grounds of accountability and transparency, with the game's fans aware of how earnestly the game is being run. A weak foundation is always a threat to credibility. Most importantly, the fans' interest has to be taken care of. It will be foolish to test their patience. If they can fill up stadiums despite a question mark on the game's credibility, they can dump it too.
If this doesn't wake up Indian cricket, nothing ever will.
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