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Turning wicked

Suspension isn’t enough; BCCI should get to the bottom of the IPL scandal

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Published: May 16, 2012 3:02:52 am

Suspension isn’t enough; BCCI should get to the bottom of the IPL scandal

Manish Pandey’s Mercedes often finds a mention when the Indian Premier League’s fringe players — those suffering from bouts of self-pity — indulge in bitter bickering. This happens to be a piece of trivia squeezed out of India TV’s sting operation that primarily focuses on the possibility of spot-fixing in the high-stakes league.

As the BCCI,after reviewing the candid-camera tapes,decided to suspend five players,it seems to have missed the more disturbing facts concealed in the small talk surrounding Pandey’s big car. For the chatter among the disgruntled seniors,who despised the talented 22-year-old’s luxury,can’t be dismissed as mere professional jealously. There are several layers to this seemingly everyday talk.

The spate of full tosses during the endless string of close games this season has seen the purists,the paranoid and even the punters casually talk about some seedy syndicates running the IPL show. But the slander has rarely been backed by hearty conviction or hard facts. The recent grainy frames of cricketers on television do make some headway in the pursuit of truth,but still they aren’t conclusive. The IPL equivalent of a Mohammad Amir still remains elusive.

What the exposé seems to succeed in catching on camera is the murky labyrinth of IPL finances and dubious deals that the players,agents and owners get into. It’s a bazaar of bizarre negotiations where lesser players haggle for astronomical amounts,which the owners oblige to for unknown reasons. The cricket-circuit grapevine was always rife with talk of a few deep-pockets franchise owners offering extra cash,cars,plush bungalows and jobs as perks to domestic players,who at best are officially entitled to a maximum of Rs 30 lakh per season. For many,the sting operation has put a stamp of conformity over what was just loose talk.

The brashness in their tone in the video while mentioning their unreasonable price tags and the revolting nonchalance when insisting on the blackness in their respective deals only show that the league’s players have mastered this shady money game. Here Pune Warriors batsman Mohnish Mishra,without an iota of anxiety,speaks about the Rs 1.15 crore he “earns” from his under-the-table deal. On the same note,Kings XI Punjab’s Shalabh Srivastava wants half his payment of Rs 1 crore,which the undercover reporters have held out as bait,in black. For the uninitiated,Mishra’s domestic T20 average is 21,while 30-year-old Srivastava is a certified has-been.

What makes the water muddier is the fact that the Great IPL Market continues to honour such exorbitant demands by insignificant players. The situation is puzzling since the franchise owners repeatedly make pleas to the board for concessions — blaming the escalating annual cost of running the team.

So the big question is: why is there a desperate demand for such spent forces? That’s what the IPL governing council should ask itself. Handing out penalties (suspensions from all forms of cricket) is only half the job done. Only action against owners,if they are found guilty,can clean the real mess.

In case the BCCI is keen to get its house in order,it should take the help of law-enforcement agencies and follow up on the sting. To begin with,the board’s committee that is set up to look into the scandal can check if Pandey actually has a Mercedes. If he does,then the next obvious step is to find out who paid for it. And in case the franchise footed the bill,it too should come under the purview of the probe. The checks and balances that the BCCI put in place have so far proved to be utterly ineffective. The salary cap system has become irrelevant.

The high-profile owners enjoy a distinct advantage since the IPL,as promised at its inception,doesn’t really provide a level-playing field. Player retention has been a prickly issue and that too needs to be more transparent. The close study of player-owner contracts shouldn’t just stop with the likes of Pandey,Srivastava or Mishra. Why not make the icon players’ salaries public as well?

But therein lies the problem. When the president of the BCCI himself owns an IPL franchise,lines blur and probes could run into walls.

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