So the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals have been suspended for two years, to be replaced, no doubt, by two other grotesquely named franchises. A six-team IPL just won’t do, so brace yourself for the Madurai Marauders or the Ahmedabad Swayamsevaks (alliteration, here, being harder than with most places). There is money to be made from T20 cricket and the BCCI will make it, grubby hand over sordid fist.
The BCCI — the Board of Charlatans and Carpetbaggers in India — is a multimillion-dollar embarrassment, a phenomenally profitable affront to cricket. Its officials have hides so thick that a bull rhino would gasp with envy. Behold the blithe manner in which the body that controls cricket in India has reacted to the verdicts of the Justice R M Lodha-led panel, which ruled that Gurunath Meiyappan of the Super Kings and Raj Kundra of the Royals be suspended for life from any cricket-related activity, and also that their respective franchises be voided until 2017. Judging by its reaction, you would think the BCCI inhabits a different planet from the Meiyappans and Kundras, rather than being the governing body that enabled their corruption.
As that peerless commentator on cricket, Prem Panicker, has written in The Wire, the BCCI could have taken precisely the same action — “of its own volition” —as the Lodha panel ordered last week.
And it could have done so, Panicker writes, “on May 16, 2013, or any day after that”. (That was the date on which the Delhi Police arrested cricketers S Sreesanth, Ankit Chauhan, Ajit Chandila, and 11 bookies, on charges of spot-fixing.) The BCCI did nothing, on that day or any other. The ruling of the Lodha panel is a massive slap on the BCCI’s face, and yet…the board and its officials are spinning it as a “foreign” matter confined to two venal individuals and franchises.
As a cricket-lover, I have a finely honed loathing for the BCCI. There are thousands — perhaps millions — of people worldwide who share my sentiments. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has poisoned the game. It has abetted the destruction of Test cricket in India, with damaging consequences for Test cricket in every other Test-playing nation but England. The IPL has drained cricket — and cricketers — of integrity and patriotism. It has wreaked havoc with scheduled tours and domestic cricket seasons and warped professional values.
Why would an Indian youngster with any talent toil away at the Ranji Trophy — another example of the BCCI’s criminal treatment of the game in India — when he can make monstrous amounts of money bowling four-over spells in coloured clothing while underdressed white women gyrate in front of packed stands? The havoc isn’t purely domestic. What the BCCI has done to Caribbean cricket is tragic. The West Indies, already plummeting as a cricket force, have been decimated by the IPL, its best players making themselves unavailable for Test match duty as they cash in at the Knight Riders or the Mumbai Indians.
In an ideal world, the other Test-playing nations — or at least the two grown-ups, England and Australia — would get together to undo the reorganisation of world cricket engineered by the BCCI. Cricket cannot be in hock to a body as conscienceless, unethical, unprincipled, tainted and mercenary as the BCCI, run by men with no love for the game, no knowledge of the game, and no experience of ever having played it at any distinguished level. They are politicians and profiteers who treat cricket like a bottomless sea of cash.
The BCCI has a net worth of nearly $300 million. Where does that money go? Not into India’s cricket stadiums, which are the worst in the world when it comes to even the most basic facilities for spectators. (Have you tried to take a pee at the Kotla in Delhi, in the “cattle-class” stands?) Not into training world-class umpires, either. It is shocking that India has only ever had two umpires on the elite ICC panel, the second being elevated only this year, probably to make the BCCI look good. For this, and for everything else that stinks in Indian cricket, I blame the BCCI.
Tunku Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution