Mr Srinivasan, step down, or get tripped like Dalmiya and Modi

In December 2006, Jagmohan Dalmiya (left) was dismissed by the BCCI, for misappropriation of funds allocated for the 1996 World Cup. Lalit Modi (right) was suspended as Chairman and Commissioner of the IPL in April 2010. Will N Srinivasan be voted out of the office, if he doesn t resign, gracefully? © Getty Images and PTI

If it’s true that a subject under attack would be reluctant to let go, it’s equally true that the other stakeholders are wary of upsetting the status-quoist applecart. Unless they just have to. In which case, Srinivasan will interest only cricket historians, writes Shantanu Datta.

Barring the cantankerous debates, noisy debaters and raucous anchors, not a lot has happened in the world of Indian cricket — either on or off the pitch — since the arrests of Sreesanth and the two other cricketers suspected of involvement in spot-fixing and former Chennai Super Kings ‘team principal’ Gurunath Meiyappan. While many, including the debaters and television show anchors, would have you believe that Indian democracy and the “one billion” people who purportedly rally for and behind it are threatened as much by bloodthirsty Maoist insurgents as they are by the shenanigans, smugness and obstinacy of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), its officials and its president, respectively.

“When will N Srinivasan go?” has almost become a national war cry.

Barring the odd day or two, when the Maoist bloodbath in Bastar remained top news, the media has narrated without fail all that is wrong with the country, its democracy, and hindrance on the path to progress — the BCCI — and the crimes and misdemeanours of public enemy No 1 — Srinivasan — and reasons why a country is failing to find its foot even after gaining senior citizen status since Independence: the lack of spine in its politicians and sundry BCCI officials to make the board president go.

But is it such a big deal?

Presumably yes, we are told. The reason why none of the biggies of Indian politics with a stake in cricket boards in their respective states kept quiet initially.

Really so? What makes Srinivasan so powerful that everyone and his uncle would shudder to ask him to go?

If Narendra Modi, only for example’s sake, can ask Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to go, of course in not as many words, and slam them in public day in and day out, what stops him from asking the same of Srinivasan? One possibility: he just does not care; there are more pressing issues at stake and BCCI’s internal tamasha and spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament are not exactly issues that would make voters line up before him in droves.

The other possibility, as we are told by many ‘experts’, is that Srinivasan is so big that even Modi, arguably the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s and its architects’ critic No 1, is scared of taking him on.

Without getting into internal kinship between different office-bearers of the cricket board, that could be called horse excreta.

Is Srinivasan the first big man with a bloated ego and influence to hold the BCCI president’s office? What about Jagmohan Dalmiya? Ever since India hosted the Reliance World Cup in 1987, and especially in the 90s and beginning of the new millennium, when big bucks started pouring into cricket, was Dalmiya not the man held as the key figure in making cricket, and Indian cricket in particular, a colossal business? Was he not the man who took the first steps in cutting the Anglo-Caribbean-Australian hegemony of the game and raising India’s voice and pitch by gathering the subcontinental and African teams to bat as one?

And was he not picked up like a fish bone and thrown aside when he became too big for his boots, and over a trillion other complications that no one but a cricket historian would be interested?

On a smaller scale, was Lalit Modi not held as the man who made IPL bigger than international cricket, well almost? And was he not thought of as invincible for the first few years since the league begun?
And was he not swept aside like dust on a deserted road?

So what makes Srinivasan any more invincible than these two? Votes among the state cricket associations and assorted clubs who form the working committee? Come now, sir, they can be ‘convinced’ and ‘managed’ if and when the need comes.

The money he gets from his India Cement and IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK)? Oh come on, the money will roll in any which way and the moneybags self-invite themselves as long as cricket is televised in India.

The influence he holds among both UPA and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders? Jokes apart, give us a better one. If the buzz is to be believed, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already been let loose — the agency might call Srinivasan for interrogation in Hyderabad soon. No, not over IPL and fixing/betting but in the Jaganmohan Reddy disproportionate assets case; though merely setting CBI after you, howsoever powerful you are, is enough gunpowder in the keg to worry you. Even the uber-brazen ones like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati would much rather do without it; Srinivasan is a small fry in such company.

Besides, recall how the Congress MPs in the cricket board are already making polite ‘requests’, asking Srinivasan to step aside/down. The likes of Jyotiraditya Scindia would not even have opened their mouth, let alone ask Srinivasan to go, if the scales were tilted so high in the latter’s favour.

So why is everyone playing this game so honestly, the actors playing their part as if eyeing the next national awards? Because, in the end, it’s all a tamasha. If it’s true that a subject under attack would be reluctant to let go, it’s equally true that the other stakeholders are wary of upsetting the applecart. Unless they just have to. In which case, Srinivasan will soon interest only cricket historians and scribes looking for quotes from a former board chief.

So, Mr Srinivasan, step out, aside, or down — whichever step you prefer. Or you’ll be stepped over and tripped down — like Dalmiya and Modi were.
(Shantanu Datta is a Senior Editor with Governance Now)