Court again points to the crisis cricket isn’t facing up to, as the stakeholders maintain their silence.
The extent of the crisis engulfing Indian cricket became yet more clear on Wednesday. The Supreme Court turned down N. Srinivasan’s appeal that he be reinstated as the BCCI chief by disclosing that he was on the list of 13 individuals against whom the IPL investigation had cited serious allegations. Revealing that the other 12 on the list, submitted under sealed cover by the Justice Mudgal committee, are also “very important personalities in cricket”, the court indicated that it wanted the charges to be investigated in a manner that does not undermine the “institutional authority” of the BCCI. It added that “reputations of cricketers and great names are at stake”.
It is not evident what course of action the court will recommend, in light of its recent record of micromanaging the BCCI. But given that there can be no doubt any more that India’s cricket administration is at its most discredited ever, the silence of the stakeholders in the sport is mystifying. Where are the IPL franchisees who have so much at stake? Why are former cricketers so silent? How is it that usually voluble commentators are keeping by appearances of business as usual?
To understand this silence, one has to consider how the whole system has been manipulated — even made complicit — by the cricket administration. As Indian cricket became more popular and profitable, spoken and unspoken rules have been put in place to hush criticism from within. The tent has been made progressively more capacious, with so much place for administrators, commentators and players that the costs of squealing are that much more. There is no place inside the tent for anybody inclined to find fault with the state of affairs. Conflicts of interest abound. Commentators are contracted by the board, and have no freedom to speak freely.
Administrators and selectors can keep their posts even if they offer their services to IPL teams. The India captain is on the rolls of a company owned by the BCCI chief. The list goes on. Capping it all is the BCCI chief, beneficiary of an outrageous rule change to allow him to hold an IPL franchise.
In such a laissez faire arrangement, malpractices like match-fixing are waiting to happen. But that alone is not the problem. Cricket cannot keep up the appearance of being a sport if the conflicts of interest that bind it ever more strongly — and that defy the simplest business best practices — continue. They need to be reversed, each one of them.