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The Delhi cricket mess, and why it may cost capital the India-SA Test

Last week, the Arvind Kejriwal government set up a panel to probe allegations of financial irregularities at DDCA.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi | Published: November 16, 2015 1:32:30 am
Will the Ferozeshah Kotla lose the fourth Test to Pune? Will the Ferozeshah Kotla lose the fourth Test to Pune?

These are eventful times for the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA). The state unit has been under the scanner of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and its president Sneh Bansal has got the boot for corruption. Last week, the Arvind Kejriwal government set up a panel to probe allegations of financial irregularities at DDCA. And it has until Tuesday to furnish clearances to BCCI if it wants to host the fourth India-South Africa Test match. What is going on at DDCA?

How serious is the financial mess?
Every affiliated unit gets an annual grant of around Rs 30 crore from BCCI. But the Delhi body got no money this year because they had failed to file balance sheets for the last two years. The probe against DDCA president Sneh Bansal — who faced allegations of round-tripping Rs 1.55 crore of DDCA funds — didn’t allow the Association to get its papers in order. A DDCA account was frozen, which sent ripples of fear among officials, none of whom was any longer willing to sign cheques. DDCA’s old suppliers refused to give credit because of outstanding dues. In bizarre events ahead of the Ranji season, players were forced to carry drinking water to the stadium for net sessions, and play with old balls. Delhi players hadn’t been paid match fees for a couple of years, and seniors such as Virender Sehwag, Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia had moved to other states.

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How does the administrative mismanagement play out?
The DDCA is an exclusive club in which a coterie allegedly exercises power, and officials are often puppets controlled by powerful politicians. A dubious system of “proxies” allows a few influential members to have written undertakings from hundreds of clubs on whose behalf they can vote. The thick cushion of “proxies” has allowed many members to sit comfortably for years. DDCA elections are widely seen as a farce. Stories of age fraud, bias and political pressure in selection, and administrative blunders regularly emerge from Ferozeshah Kotla. FIRs have been lodged about fudged birth certificates against junior players. Government nominees appointed to keep an eye on the working of DDCA don’t always have their way. Ajay Jadeja was replaced within days as Ranji coach by Vijay Dahiya, the choice of the executive.

When did doubts about Kotla not being able to host the Test match arise?
Plagued by administrative issues and an acute funds crunch, DDCA opted out of hosting the T20 warm-up game against South Africa in September. The match was eventually held at the Air Force Ground, and doubts were expressed over Kotla’s ability to host the fourth Test. Six years ago, an ODI featuring India and Sri Lanka had to be abandoned because of the unsafe pitch at Kotla. In August, BCCI had released Rs 4 crore after the DDCA said it had no money to pay umpires, players and scorers — but the Association can either use it to clear bills or save it for the Test match.

How has Kejriwal entered the picture?
For some time now, former India captain Bishen Singh Bedi and Kirti Azad, BJP MP and a key member of India’s 1983 World Cup winning squad, have been running a campaign against the DDCA. Bedi had met Kejriwal along with a group of former cricketers before he became Chief Minister, and asked him for help to sort out the mess. Bedi and Co. met Kejriwal again recently, seeking the government’s intervention. Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir too met Kejriwal. In an interview to The Indian Express, Gambhir said, “[If Delhi were to win the Ranji Trophy this year] that will be a massive slap in the face for a lot of people who haven’t done anything for cricket and yet have been on top posts in the DDCA.”

What has the Delhi government done in the matter so far?
The government has appointed a three-member panel to probe allegations of corruption in DDCA. The panel, which has the Secretaries of the Sports and Urban Development departments on it, was given an early deadline to submit its findings. Earlier, at its AGM in Mumbai, the BCCI gave DDCA time till November 17 to get all necessary clearances for hosting the Test. There is another complication too: DDCA believes it was exempt from entertainment tax from 2008 to 2012, but the Delhi government has slapped a Rs 24.5 crore bill on it for the tax arrears and interest.

What happens if Kotla fails to meet the November 17 deadline?
The venue will be shifted to Pune, which will host its maiden Test match, scheduled to take place from December 3 to 7.

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