Long before boos rang at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on a muggy March evening, Narayanaswami Srinivasan had become one of the most unpopular men in world cricket. It was the World Cup final presentation ceremony. Srinivasan was persona non grata in the Indian board after the Supreme Court had barred from holding any post in the BCCI over his conflict of interest issue. But he was still wielding enormous clout in world cricket by virtue of being the ICC chairman. He wasn’t there because he was well-liked. He was there because he had an insatiable appetite for power and was ruthless in his pursuit of it.
Seven months later, he is left without any. On Monday in Mumbai, as the BCCI under Shashank Manohar decided to scrap his stint as the ICC chairman during its 86th Annual General Meeting (AGM), Srinivasan became a virtual non-entity in cricket administration. “It is a prerogative of the BCCI president if he wants to go to the ICC. I wish him all the best,” Srinivasan told The Indian Express, refusing to discuss the issue any further.
Bottom line is that for the first time since 2005, he’s without a post in the BCCI or the ICC. The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) presidentship remains his tenuous link to the game, but for an administrator of his stature, it has been a mighty fall. To rub it in, he’s probably the first top official in the history of the ICC to be ousted by his own cricket board.
Srinivasan became the TNCA president in 2002. About a decade down the line, via his stints as the BCCI treasurer in 2005 and secretary three years later, he took over the reins of Indian cricket. It was the start of a period of complete dominance until his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan’s involvement in IPL betting upset the apple cart. Meiyappan was a top official in Chennai Super Kings, a franchise that was owned by Srinivasan’s India Cements.
But the latter refused to budge, ignoring the court’s advice to do so in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal. “Unless the BCCI president steps down, there won’t be a fair inquiry. The man at the top must go. Why are you sticking to the post? It is nauseating,” the Supreme Court had observed in June last year.
Srinivasan eventually had to step aside for a few months, but he continued to pull the strings from behind the scenes because he had the numbers in the BCCI. But his luck ran out when the court raised the conflict of interest issue. “No one who has any commercial interest in BCCI events, including Srinivasan, shall be eligible for contesting the elections for any post whatsoever,” the apex court said in its January 22 verdict as it struck down the amendment to the BCCI constitution’s clause 6.2.4 that allowed board officials to own IPL franchises.
It was a blow but Srinivasan then tried to play the role of a kingmaker, nominating the late Jagmohan Dalmiya as his candidate for the BCCI presidentship at the March 2 AGM in Chennai. Dalmiya, assisted by secretary Anurag Thakur, however, started to drift away as soon as he took charge. Then, a sudden turn of events brought Manohar at the forefront after Dalmiya’s demise. And once the Vidarbha-based lawyer became the BCCI president on October 4, Srinivasan’s fate was sealed.
“Srinivasan is an autocrat and wants all the power for himself. A person who cannot defend his family member has no right to say he will take responsibility of the board. If you had the slightest of conscience, self-esteem and care for the board, you ought to have put in your papers the moment your son-in-law was arrested,” Manohar had said in October 2013. After becoming the BCCI president for a second term, he promised to keep political vendetta at an arm’s length, but that would have been going against the trend. The cricket board’s set-up doesn’t allow any room for the vanquished. Dalmiya was humiliated after he lost the elections in 2005. Lalit Modi remains a pariah after his fall from grace. Manohar himself had been made peripheral after he left the board in 2011. Srinivasan’s removal as the ICC chairman came along the expected lines.
The big irony
This development would certainly excite the likes of Ehsan Mani, former ICC president, who never approved the structural overhaul of the world body. “I’ve nothing personal against Mr Srinivasan, but he ostensibly put his personal interests above the game. The irony is that he’s the ICC chairman and Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are supporting him. Someone, whom the Supreme Court of India declared not fit to run the BCCI, is running world cricket,” Mani told this paper last month.
Srinivasan, along with the CA’s Wally Edwards and ECB’s Giles Clarke turned the ICC into an oligarchy. Yes, the transformation benefited the BCCI as it saw an increase in its revenue distribution to 23 per cent. But in a cozy club of ‘big three’, equality was compromised. Srinivasan didn’t care. When the tables turned, he tried everything in his power, including a one-on-one meeting with Pawar, to safeguard his position. The moves didn’t work. He lost the numbers and became isolated. Eventually, he became a victim of his own arrogance and lust for power.