Chennai Super Kings players during an IPL game (file photo: PTI)
Reality caught up with Indian cricket on Tuesday when the Justice RM Lodha committee announced a two-year ban on two of the top Indian Premier League clubs and a life ban on two club officials. Former champions Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were suspended after the committee ruled that the clubs had to accept responsibility for the actions of their officials, Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra respectively, who were found betting on IPL games or being in contact with illegal gamblers.
It was widely believed that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was shielding these officials after its own disciplinary committee had cleared them of wrongdoing. It was only after the Cricket Association of Bihar took legal action that the matter came before the Supreme Court. The apex court then mandated a committee led by Justice Mukul Mudgal to investigate corruption in the IPL and the Lodha committee was subsequently formed to determine the appropriate punishment.
It’s clear to most observers that Indian cricket is rotten. After all, Kundra was co-owner of Rajasthan Royals and was involved in betting. Worse, Meiyappan’s father-in-law N. Srinivasan not only owns the Chennai Super Kings, he also happens to be the chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and one of the biggest players in Indian cricket's administrative politics.
According to Scroll.in, looking into Srinivasan would involve examining the entire cozy structure of the BCCI, from Lalit Modi to Arun Jaitley. It may therefore take a lot more than one verdict to clean up the mess in Indian cricket.
The Board, meanwhile, has weightier matters on its mind, like protecting its cash-rich league that has just lost two of its richest clubs.
The BCCI has now called an emergency meeting on Sunday. It is reportedly keen to ensure that the IPL remains an eight-team tournament as its contract with the broadcasters, Multi Screen Media, was based on a 60-match schedule.
According to the Associated Press, reducing the league from eight clubs to six would decrease the number of matches in the six-week season from 60 to 34 – that would entail re-negotiating contracts with the broadcasters and the remaining franchises because the tournament is based on a revenue sharing model.
A top BCCI official said they were considering two options to keep the IPL an eight-team event.
“The BCCI can run the two teams for two years and the original owners can come back after the ban period is over. The other option is to invite fresh bids for two new teams since many corporates have expressed an interest in buying an IPL team,” he told PTI.
The problem is that two new teams would later increase the number of teams to 10 when CSK and RR return after their ban.
Despite this, there are a few members of the BCCI who are reportedly keen to invite fresh bids since this would generate even more money for the league.
Sadly, the bottom line for cricket in India remains money, not restoring the credibility of the game itself.