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By Veturi Srivatsa
New Delhi: May 3, 2014
Indian cricket is heading for heady times. Everyone’s calculations in the Indian cricket board, except the Supreme Court, hinges on the outcome on May 16, the day the results of the general election are out. But the members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have been speculating on endless possibilities. All permutations and combinations have left incumbent board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan out of their calculations, unless, of course, the apex court suddenly decides to give him a breather.
To complicate matters for Srinivasan and his cohorts in the board, the Supreme Court has decided to open on Tuesday the ballot box of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) election to announce a foregone result. The man sure to become RCA president is Srinivasan’s bête noire – the self-exiled Lalit Modi.
Srinivasan’s immediate concern is not his position in the BCCI, which, in any case, has to elect a new president in September and the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the case till after its summer vacation. He is more concerned whether the court will allow him to represent the board at the International Cricket Council (ICC), which had already decided to anoint him its new chairman, and to take over his responsibilities in July.
If the secretary of the Bihar Cricket Association, which has gone in appeal against spot-fixing and Srinivasan’s conflict of interest, and his advocate Nalini Chidambaram have their way, they will see to it that the board chief doesn’t represent the BCCI at the ICC.
The court has to announce its decision on the composition of the panel. It has asked Mukul Mudgal, chairman of the three-member inquiry committee that had gone into betting and spot-fixing in IPL-6 and presented its report. The committee has also attached an envelope wherein it has named Srinivasan and 12 others and clearly stated they need to be investigated further.
Over the years, the higher courts by and large took the line of least resistance when it came to cricket so that the game was not harmed. For the first time, an incumbent BCCI chief is being proceeded against for the unholy nexus between players, franchise owners and board officials. At the same time, it tried not to disturb the functional autonomy the BCCI enjoyed.
The court has to take into account one ticklish issue. Not many seem to have noticed a critical rider Mudgal posed before the court that he would take up the responsibility only if both the parties agree. The BCCI has already objected to his conducting the inquiry, only because he has heard three former board presidents – Inderjit Singh Bindra, Shashank Manohar and A.C. Muthiah – who Srinivasan says are inimical to him.
Unfortunately, the BCCI continues to think it is above everything and can get away by hiring big-time lawyers. Some board members took exception to Srinivasan’s corporate honchos giving briefs to the board’s lawyers.
Now that Srinivasan’s position is shaky in the board, at least three former presidents – Jagmohan Dalmiya, Muthiah and Manohar – are, or their supporters are keen, on gaining control of the BCCI using the amendment Srinivasan rammed down the throats of the board members to do away with the restriction on the president’s tenure.
The board is divided informally and much will not only depend on the BJP’s Narendra Modi coming to power but also whether Arun Jaitley will be able to pull it off from Amritsar against Capt. Amrinder Singh of the Congress.
Strange it may sound, but Jaitley will become the next board president only if he loses the election! If he wins he will not have time for cricket as he is likely to handle a major portfolio in the BJP-led NDA government. If Modi, president of the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), becomes the prime minister, he will also be out of the race, leaving it to someone like Amit Shah, the state association’s working president.
Whoever comes to power at the centre, Sharad Pawar is keen on playing a major role in the board. Though his groupies want him to take over the reins, he is backing Manohar to take charge so that a semblance of order is restored in cricket administration.
If the NDA comes to power, Jaitley will have five votes with him, including two government votes of the Services and the Railways, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh and will have to bargain with Jagmohan Dalmiya, who himself is keen on again presiding over the board.
Pawar can count on seven votes – Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Vidarbha, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and his own Mumbai and possibly an eighth in the Cricket Club of India (CCI).
The only former president who is not interested in returning is Bindra, a known critic of Srinivasan. And with his friend, the mercurial Lalit Modi, getting ready for a second innings, things can get unpredictably hot.
For Modi to come back, he has to get his life-ban overturned. Can he work it out after failing to muster just eight votes to stop Srinivasan and Manohar from expelling him for life?
Things can change fast in the board. There have been occasions when the board officials outwitted powerful union ministers. As for the equations, Jaitley can co-habit with Congressman Rajeev Shukla and even Pawar and Farooq Abdullah within the four walls of Cricket Centre, forgetting their political affiliations.
In the board anything and everything is possible.
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