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By Saj Sadiq
Best known as being the Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Chairman of the Champions League between 2008 and 2010, the outspoken and flamboyant Lalit Modi has had the unique distinction of being portrayed as a pioneer and villain in the race to capture the hearts and minds of the cricketing world.
Now, a vocal critic of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the International Cricket Council (ICC), Modi spoke exclusively with PakPassion.net about the issue of corruption in the IPL, cricketing ties between India and Pakistan and the detrimental impact of the ‘Big Three’ on the governance of the sport.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): Is there a lesson to be learnt for authorities around the world in the way the IPL scandal has been dealt with?
Lalit Modi (LM): Yes, there should be no tolerance of conflicts of interest. But the cricketing world won’t listen, they won’t even realise it because the world game is run by N Srinivasan. Who runs the BCCI? Who runs Chennai Super Kings (CSK)? Who runs India Cements? Other sports should take note of course. Cricket is an example, a brilliant example, of how to run a sport to the detriment of the fans and the grass roots of the game.
PP: Is BCCI President Srinivasan good for Indian cricket?
LM: Very bad. He is running Indian cricket as his own personal fiefdom. There is no transparency and there is no democracy. He makes all the decisions and his cronies are just rubber stamps. No one is asking to himself ‘if we do this, is this good for the game?’ Why? Because they want to all keep their cushy jobs. It’s all self-interest. It’s an old boys club.
PP: Do you believe the worst of the corruption in Indian cricket may not have been uncovered as yet?
LM: I think we are on the cusp of a house of cards moment. It could all come crashing down. That would be painful to see and if you look at the history of match-fixing, this is how these things start. The last house of cards moment was Hansie Cronje. I believe we will see something similar in the next year. It will hurt but that is what the game needs, it needs to be cleansed.
PP: How widespread do you think fixing is in the IPL?
LM: It’s a menace and I believe spot-fixing is taking place in a lot of games. It is something which is almost impossible to prove and very easy to organise. The amount of money which can be made is astronomical. It works just like insider trading does in the business world and I think the authorities are slow to recognise that.
PP: How can the IPL clean up its act?
LM: Chennai should be thrown out of the IPL. That’s a start. In the franchise agreement, it clearly states that if a team brings the tournament into disrepute, they are gone. There should be no coming back from this.
PP: Has the IPL evolved in the way that you had wanted it to?
LM: We thought the IPL would give back to the game, back to the players. But it’s actually going the other way. The bookmakers and administrators are all making money out of it, which is everything I didn’t want it to be.
It should be the greatest tournament in the world and all the reasons to keep it alive are being used wrongly by the BCCI to bully, arm-twist and bring disrepute to the game. In five years, the IPL will still exist, but nothing else will. All players will play in the IPL.
PP: How big do you think the IPL will get?
LM: The way the current regime is running or planning to run the global game, there will only be the IPL in years to come.
PP: If the reports about fixing in the IPL are correct and a number of high-profile Indian players are going to be named, what impact do you think it will have?
LM: Television revenue will be down, ticket sales will be down. So, Srinivasan would have ruined what was a wonderful business model.
PP: Do you feel the IPL is missing out by not allowing Pakistan’s participation?
LM: It’s all politics. I would have hoped by now the Pakistani players would be part of it. But it’s all politics now.
PP: Is there a genuine desire within the BCCI to play Pakistan, if the political shackles were removed? Is it purely politics preventing the BCCI accepting a Pakistan versus India series?
LM: No, I don’t think the powers that are running the BCCI will allow these games until the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) tow Srinivasan’s line.
PP: What do you think it will take for a Pakistan versus India series to be held, and how important are these games for the subcontinent?
LM: As you know, I was a champion of these games. Remember the ‘Friendship’ series? It is a great occasion, the fans love the contests and they are always played in the right spirit. What will it take? Well, the BCCI will use bully boy tactics to stage the matches on their grounds and Pakistan’s cricket will be the loser. That is clear from the proposals drafted and rubber stamped for the dissection of the ICC. Countries like Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka — they will be worse off because they’ll be getting a smaller piece of the pie than before. And worst of all, they are supposed to be grateful for being chucked scraps from the top table where the BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board [ECB] and Cricket Australia [CA] sit, gorging themselves.
PP: What were your thoughts when you read the original white paper concocted by the ECB, BCCI and CA in particular, the anti-competitive non-relegation clause?
LM: I was disgusted. I was fearful, because I believe it threatens the world game. I said it was the final nail in the coffin for world cricket. Remember the ICC’s mission statement was to take cricket to the world? What a joke. Everything about it from the clause you mentioned ensures the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Well, the poor will wither and die and then the world game won’t exist.
PP: Given the ‘Big Three’s new-found power in the ICC, how should Pakistan proceed in it’s dealings with the three boards?
LM: They will be walking on eggshells I suspect.
PP: If you were the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PCB what would you do?
LM: That’s a good question. Maybe, and I’m being mischievous here, the PCB, Sri Lanka Cricket [SLC], Cricket South Africa [CSA], New Zealand Cricket [NZC], West Indies Cricket Board [WICB] and company should turn the tables and break away from the others. They should play amongst themselves and cut the cloth accordingly.
Maybe they could freeze out the ‘Big Three’. That would be brave, possibly foolish. But for a delicious moment they would have stood up to the bully and the bully will have no choice but to compromise. That’s what I believe would be the right thing to do.
PP: Do you think, given Pakistan’s stance at the ICC meeting, the cricketing future for Pakistan looks bleak?
LM: Yes I do. You only have to look at how the South Africans were treated and [Haroon] Lorgat in particular, when he tried to stand up to Srinivasan. I fear for Pakistan, I really do. They need to be playing India because they need the money to keep the sport alive. I can see the BCCI reacting badly and trying to punish them so that in future the PCB will play ball and do as they’re told.
PP: Were you for or against the proposals by the ‘Big Three’ proposals? Do you feel they will have a positive impact on cricket?
LM: Completely against it. It will destroy cricket.
PP: What do you think the cricketing universe will look like in 20 years?
LM: India, Australia and England playing each other only and they will send their ‘B’ teams to the other nations because the standard would have dropped to an alarming level.
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