Delhi Underbelly: A look at sorry state of affairs in the capital

Nihal Koshie traces the story of how, like the parent body, and many other units, the DDCA couldn't handle fame, fortune.

Written by Nihal Koshie | New Delhi | Updated: September 21, 2015 7:22 pm
DDCA, DDCA Ajay Jadeja, gautam gambhir, gambhir, ranji, delhi ranji captain, delhi ranji team, delhi ranji team captain, gautam gambhir ranji captain, gambhir ranji, gambhir ranji team, gautam gambhir ranji team, ranji trophy, Ajay Jadeja DDCA, Delhi Coach, Delhi Coach Ajay, Delhi ranji trophy, cricket news, cricket, sports news, cricket news, india cricket news Gautam Gambhir during Delhi’s ongoing Ranji Trophy camp. The India discard was unanimously appointed the skipper for the 2015-16 season last week. (Source: Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

While IPL brought the proverbial Midas touch to cricket in India turning everything to gold, the Midas curse was not far behind. There’s a lot of money in bank accounts, but little-to-nothing of much utility to cricket itself. As officials fight to control the over-flowing coffers, cricketers face uncertain futures. Express explores just how deep is the rot in the dysfunctional state cricket units. In the second of a three-part series, we look at Delhi’s sorry state of affairs.

Like all units, the DDCA gets about Rs 30 crore from the BCCI every year. But still its players started the new season facing battered balls at nets and getting a handful of water bottles as refreshments. The body flush with funds, suddenly, couldn’t even provide bare minimum facilities to its cricketers. How did it happen?

Corruption charges and infighting amongst officials resulted in the DDCA being probed by financial authorities. One of its accounts is frozen, another one does have a few crores. But still the officials dread signing cheques. They fear taint, some dread arrest. They aren’t being paranoid. Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has given a damning report against the DDCA. Earlier this year, Ministry of Corporate Affairs too came knocking and very recently the Sports Ministry asked the Delhi government to investigate the DDCA. For years sports bodies have complained about the lack of funds but Delhi shows how crores in banks can bring hundreds of problems.

Nihal Koshie traces the story of how, like the parent body, and many other units, the DDCA couldn’t handle fame, fortune.

* There are real fears within the BCCI that the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) might not be able to host the India-South Africa Test in December. The pre-series warm-up game, to be held later his month, has already been moved out from the Ferozshah Kotla, a Test venue, to the modest Palam ground. Reason: Financial mess. The DDCA hasn’t submitted balance sheets for two years, 2013-14 and 2014-15 because of on-going investigations into the validity of bills submitted and round-tripping of Rs 1.55 crores of DDCA money by its president Sneh Bansal. The BCCI has issued an advance of Rs 4 crore to the DDCA as part of their annual revenue share to make outstanding payments to players, umpires and scorers and clear tax bills. But DDCA officials are in a quandary – use the advance money to pay outstanding bills or save it for the Test match?

* Players, among them Gautam Gambhir, have assembled for the pre-season camp. Only once the fielding drills are over do officials realise that there are no cricket balls to practice with. The company which supplies Test-grade balls has refused to continue business with the DDCA till last year’s bills are cleared. Further embarrassment is avoided as a few balls from last season’s stock, used for junior matches, are found in the store room. The players are also told they might have to wear their old jerseys from last year. That’s because the kit supplier’s bills haven’t been cleared. The temperature is touching 35 but there is no water. It’s not that DDCA can’t afford these small costs but officials are scared to issue cheques. Being under the scanner of several investigators means signing a cheque could mean a long grilling session.

* According to the complaint filed with the IP Estate Police Station, payments worth Rs 1.55 crore to three companies, were approved and signed by DDCA president Bansal and general secretary Anil Khanna without the knowledge of the executive committee in January last year. A letter addressed to BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya in March this year, written by DDCA vice president Chetan Chauhan, states that: “a major portion of the money was re-transferred to M/S Rattan Industries, which is a family company of SP Bansal, who was also BCCI vice-president at that time.”

* Bansal says the money transferred into the various companies earned the DDCA an interest of 15 per cent, almost double of what fixed deposits in a bank earn. “I don’t think I have done anything wrong. In fact I ensured that a higher rate of interest was earned. Moreover, every single penny has been returned to the DDCA,” Bansal argues. However, there is more than what meets the eye going by what DDCA treasurer Ravinder Manchanda says: “The cheques submitted on behalf of the three companies to the DDCA last year did not go for collection to the bank but were shown in the books. Only on a later date was the money returned.”

* Chauhan, the former Test opener, has had to answer questions over conflict of interest. At an executive committee meeting, attended by him, it was decided to open an account with the Central Bank of India. However, his detractors point out that the account was opened and DDCA money transferred into it though one of the signatories didn’t sign on the account opening form. This, Chauhan’s critics say, was possible because Chauhan’s wife is a senior official with the bank. Chauhan defends himself by saying his wife is not posted in the same branch. “These allegations are being made to divert the attention from the real issue, which is embezzlement of DDCA money by its own president,” Chauhan says. What has made matters worse is that this particular DDCA account with the Central Bank of India, in which an approximate amount of Rs 7 crores has been deposited, was frozen by the bank in January this year because of lapses in the account opening procedure.

* DDCA vice-president CK Khanna is also the vice-president of the BCCI. It is a post in the Indian cricket board that was earlier occupied by Bansal. However, Delhi cricketers have not been paid their match fees for past two seasons because none of the officials have taken the effort to send a list of players and the number of matches they have played to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

* Unmukt Chand’s name was doing the rounds for skipper for the upcoming season though Gautam Gambhir was the frontrunner. The cricketing logic of naming the 22-year-old over Gambhir, 33, was that the former is one for the future. Or so it should be. But a section of the officials believe that it will be easier to get their way in terms of team selection if the younger man, who is not well-versed with the politics in the DDCA, is named skipper.

* The case of Delhi left-arm spinner Varun Sood who underwent surgery for a shoulder injury last year, after DDCA officials promised to reimburse his medical expenses, is one which highlights the indifference of officials. Sood has been knocking on the doors of his association but officials are turning a deaf ear to his plea for reimbursement of his medical expenses.

* During the third season of the Indian Premier League in 2010, the DDCA spends Rs 4.68 lakh for purchase of match tickets for 104 staff members. This inspite of ‘staff entry’ being free or through complimentary passes, observes an inspection report of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) carried out at the behest of the ministry of corporate affairs in 2013. A couple of weeks earlier, Rs 3,27,000 was spent on purchase of IPL tickets for staff.

* Ahead of two One-day Internationals hosted in Delhi in 2010 and 2012, the DDCA spends a total of Rs 37 lakh (according to the ledger of DDCA’s entertainment account) on tickets for matches to be hosted at the Feroz Shah Kotla. However, these purchases are made without supporting vouchers and there is no proof that money has actually been paid to a booking agency or through a bank for these tickets. What has come to light is that these tickets were to be distributed as complimentary ones.

* In 2009, the second season of the IPL which was conducted in South Africa, DDCA officials, including some of them with wives, travelled to the African nation to watch the T20 league. DDCA president Bansal is one of them. “I travelled with my son and wife to South Africa to watch the IPL. But I paid from my own pocket for my family. GMR, the Delhi Daredevils franchise owner didn’t pay for me or my family,” Bansal says. Manchanda, the DDCA treasurer, questions who paid for the trip of all the officials and their families. “Did these officials pay for this trip or did GMR pay? And what loss did the DDCA incur because of the South Africa visit by these officials. These are the questions being raised and there are demands for an inquiry too,” Manchanda says.

* In July, GMR, the franchise owner of Delhi Daredevils, writes a letter to the DDCA for ‘settlement of dues between DDCA and GMR Sports’. An amount of Rs 21.87 lakh was authorised by Bansal for purchase of IPL 2014 tickets. “The DDCA president Bansal was advised against purchasing tickets for the IPL matches. But he still went ahead and did it though it is not clear who authorised him to do so,” DDCA vice-president Chauhan says.

* Tickets sold for matches have time and again resulted in controversy and alleged misappropriation of money. Ahead of the India versus West Indies One-day International in October last year, bookmyshow.com was contacted for online ticket sales. The DDCA paid lakhs as part of entertainment tax but there was no agreement between the association and the ticket sales company. This resulted in losses as the DDCA could not procure a rebate.

* The auditors of the DDCA have also had to face charges of overlooking accounting malpractices and matters of conflict of interest issues have also been raised. Former all-rounder Kirti Azad highlights a disturbing issue. “Just look at the track record of DDCA’s audit firm. The auditor, till 2012 was a joint secretary in the DDCA. When members objected to this ‘double role’, he gave up his role as joint secretary and changed the name of his company but his wife was part of the firm and continued manipulating DDCA accounts,” Azad states. The auditor has been dragged to court. The SFIO investigation observed that the auditor has been paid ‘professional fees’ in addition to the ‘audit fees’ but the same were not disclosed.

* The SFIO inspection which highlighted over 20 irregularities, including those in accounting practices, for financial years 2008-09 to 2011-12, states that the investigating officer has observed that the main functional directors at that time were: SP Bansal (general secretary), CK Khanna (vice-president), NK Batra (treasurer) and Sunil Dev (sports secretary). The aforementioned officials, and Chauhan and Manchanda, have paid fines (compounding of offences) ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 85,000.

* The clamour to accommodate as many players as possible in age-group teams has resulted in jumbo squads travelling for matches to represent Delhi. Last season, 35 players in all represented the Under-14 team. The Under-19 team, at one point, had a strength of 22.

* The fight for spots in teams has also institutionalised age fraud. An FIR has been filed against a dozen players who are allegedly over-aged and the DDCA has been asked to provide ‘requisite information’ by the investigating officer into the case about the players. Bishen Singh Bedi — the former India skipper — who is part of the National Capital Territory Cricket Association, has raised objections about an allegedly overaged Under-14 skipper.

* When Virender Sehwag reached the landmark of 100 Tests for India a decision was taken at the DDCA executive committee three years ago to honour him with 100 gold coins. A gate or a stand was also to be named after him. Before the start of this season Sehwag asks for a No-Objection Certificate, which is issued, and he packs his bags and heads to play for Haryana. The Test-capped opener is yet to see the gold coins. Gautam Gambhir, the senior-most player in the Delhi team is now being wooed by a section of the office-bearers. One of them even pushes for a gate to be named after Gambhir by the end of this season.

* The results of the sports committee elections could not be declared for over a fortnight because of a dispute over the ownership of clubs. Each of the 111 clubs have a vote in the DDCA’s sports committee elections. Hence being a club secretary yields influence not only because one has a vote but because being aligned with the group which has a majority in the 10-member sports committee also means a say in selection of age-group teams. When one of the two judges — appointed to oversee the elections — demanded that minutes of the executive committee meetings, where the name change of clubs were approved, be presented, DDCA officials could not produce the same. Ultimately results of the elections were declared last week, but the votes of the nominees of disputed clubs were not considered.

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