Intro: What the cricket today requires is not so much a Band-Aid, which the Lodha Committee actually proffers. It requires Surgery if it is to save itself.
Irrespective of what happens in the Supreme Court judgement confirming the findings of the Mudgal Committee as confirmed by the Lodha Committee the question starts is what has gone wrong with Indian cricket?
Cricket today in India has stopped resembling a sport and has started resembling a circus. It has its color wearing players and its thinly clad cheerleaders. It has after match parties where sports persons and actors and actresses from Bollywood lend glamour. The change from being a sport to becoming a spectacle has also led to the obvious change from a game which was largely amateur in outlook to a contrived show which resembles the false and fake World Wrestling Federation with its myriad characters and fixed wrestling matches. An outsider would clearly be of the view that Indian Premier League (IPL) today resembles World Wrestling Federation (WWF) more than cricket.
There are those who can still get shocked by match fixing and betting in cricket and IPL. To most of us they seem to be inseparable. The fact that match fixing went to the very top is apparent by how Chennai Super Kings, one of the top teams of the IPL owned by Indian Cements which is in turn owned by the former BCCI President has been found to be completely immersed in arranging games. The fact that the Supreme Court appointed Lodha Committee seems to think that the chief fixer of the entire scandal was the son-in-law of the President of the BCCI does not seem to bother us anymore simply because we have stopped knowing where theatre ends and reality begins in the IPL.
IPL itself had very dubious beginnings. As everybody knows the idea of a grand Twenty20 cricket format was pioneered by Zee television who wanted to start an Indian Cricket league, which was sabotaged and effectively destroyed by the BCCI who stole the idea and set up its own Cricket league. The way the BCCI treated one of the greatest players of Indian cricket Kapil Dev for being merely associated with the Cricket league pioneered by Zee television would be a lesson for those who expect anything better from BCCI or the IPL.
The league itself was promoted and formatted by Lalit Modi. Mr Modi created a carnival which mixed cricket and Bollywood, two of the greatest pastimes of the country and thereby created a cocktail, which was perfect for television. In the process of creating this extravaganza, rules were given a go bye and laws were openly flouted.
The problem with cricket today is that it has been injected with too much money for its own good. It has therefore created a large number of vested interests who are interested not in the game but to exploit its fans for the purposes of commerce. The fact that some of India’s top industrialists have also been neck deep in running IPL teams shows that everybody was involved in this project. It is very well known that the same industrialists who could not pay dues of their employees were willing to splurge huge amounts of money on their IPL teams and after match parties.
There are rumours floating around on the Internet as to how the Mafia is involved in IPL. Rumours are also heard that the IPL is a method for laundering money of the rich and powerful in the country. The truth as to why so many vested interests are part of one project, being the IPL does not seem to have been exposed by either the Mudgal Committee or the Lodha Committee. The Supreme Court also does not seem to have concentrated on digging deeper on the issues. The objective of the honourable Supreme Court in its various judgement seems to have been to restore the credibility of Cricket in India, rather than investigate what was clearly and apparently a very dodgy enterprise. It is apparent that the IPL was tainted by criminality from the very top. It also seems that this is not the end of the scandals which will surround the IPL. A lot of people apprehend that the very big fishes seem to have got away. The fact that in spite of so much evidence, against the former president of the BCCI, Srinivasan, the latest committee does not obviously jump the last step against him, shows that the committee obviously was more interested in ensuring transparency than uncovering illegality or criminality.
Sports in India has suffered a lot because of IPL. In fact there has been a rush to replicate the IPL model in various different sports in the country, whether it be in hockey or in football. The objective of creating this franchisee based model where different industrial houses owned teams compete against each other to generate television viewership and generate revenue by commercialising sport. In many ways the business model pioneered by IPL in India seems to be the dominant idea which television
channels and corporate sponsors who channel money into sports, are propagating for every sport in India.
What this has resulted in is a complete degradation of the concept of sport. While accepting no doubt, that sports need to be profitable and sports persons deserve to be well paid, we have to be careful that sports are not commercialised to the extent where it becomes theatre. Today IPL is an example of what can go horribly wrong when unlimited commercialisation and crass crony capitalism get injected into sports. Easy money and dodgy finances have been the basis as well as the bane of IPL.
What the game today requires is not so much a Band-Aid, which the Lodha Committee actually proffers. The game of cricket today requires surgery if it is to save itself. The gangrene which has set in, in the shape of IPL needs to be removed if the game of cricket has to retain any credibility before its followers. It is time for all right thinking people to put pressure on the government of India to start a criminal investigation into the IPL.
This investigation into the working of the IPL should be wide-ranging and it should involve the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. This investigation should investigate each and every personage who are involved in IPL. It should be able to trace out all the linkages and financing which go to the making of the tournament. After this investigation, the guilty should be brought to book however high they may be. Any examination of the IPL without any criminal investigation by agencies equipped to criminally investigate cannot be a solution. The honourable Supreme Court has chosen its route, which is completely inadequate. It is time that this government which is known for being a transparent government should gather up the courage to initiate
a widescale and wide-ranging criminal investigation
into the IPL.
It is also suggested that while this investigation is on, it would be necessary that the IPL be stopped from functioning till investigation is complete. If we don’t have the IPL for a number of years, it maybe possible that it would also result in cleaning of the Augean stables and getting rid of the vested interests which have now completely hijacked Indian cricket. It would be an example where a bitter pill would have to be swallowed for the patient to get better.
Satyananda (The writer is eminent lawyer practising in Supreme Court)