“BCCI must ensure institutional integrity in the conduct of game considering the expectations of millions of viewers.” —The Supreme Court of India while delivering a judgement on IPL spot-fixing scandal.
Lalit Modi scandal and his relations with various politicians in India resurrected in last few days. It was not sudden. “Indian cricket needs cleansing and as far as I am concerned I am going to go after them. Till now they were colleagues. Time has now come to take everything out of the box and put it in (the) public domain,” Lalit Modi declared when he was banned from holding any official position in Indian cricket in September 2013. Much before that in 1990s, the murky match fixing scandal involving many cricketers like Hansie Cronje and Mohd Azharuddin, had shocked the cricket world about the real game behind the game. We have inherited the game as one of the colonial legacies. Though it has caught popular imagination of Indian minds more than any other sports, it was never commercialised the way it happened through the business experiment of Indian Premier League. Now when the Lalit Modi case has opened up and unsettled the calm within the richest Cricket administering body of the world, there are larger questions we need to address about the integrity in sports rather than taking up on certain individuals.
Since colonial days, Cricket thrived with the patronage of rulers, Colonial, Princely or democratically elected and there is nothing wrong in that. The issues pertaining to a particular sport need to be addressed by sportsman and authorities should be just a guiding force for them. By and large, this was the case with Indian sports authorities also. It is in the late 1980s and 1990s, the real change started taking place with the commercialisation of the sport with growing revenues through television broadcasting rights. Since then, all the sports managers including payers tried to extract maximum out of emotional appeal of the sports. The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is a conglomeration of Cricket Associations in India and it has to be clear whether it should be run as a business venture or a charitable organisation.
The creation of Indian Cricket League (ICL) by the Zee group and subsequent idea of mooting Indian Premier League (IPL) by the BCCI to kill the emergence of ICL as a rival group. It was Modi who built the business model of IPL. NBA of the US and Football leagues of Europe were role models for it. In 2008 when the first edition of IPL was played, then itself it was obvious that it is something beyond Cricket. The tournament with high entertainment value and glamour obviously attracted lot of money through various means. In the process, equity of stakes for franchise was not ensured as in the case of NBA. That resulted into unfair means being used by buying teams, players or telecast rights. For instance, why broadcasting rights were shifted from Sony to Nimbus, was it just a business consideration or something else, is still not clear. This demands for thorough investigation in the business transactions held in the name of IPL.
The recent revelations demand more explanations from the UPA Government rather than the present one as the main scandal took place under the previous regime. It is also surprising that the key names involved in the creation of IPL like Sharad Pawar and N Srinivasan are not mentioned in the discussion. This resurfacing of Modigate has provided golden opportunity for all the political parties to clean the mess in cricket once and for all. The functioning of BCCI should be transparent by using all the possible measures. If we miss on this the taints will be on everybody, and ultimately, it will be the cricket that will lose its credibility. Then there will be neither the game nor the business.