ICC chairman N. Srinivasan during inauguration
Supreme Court has barred Srinivasan from contesting in the upcoming presidential elections IANS

The Supreme Court of India on Thursday barred N Srinivasan from contesting in the over-due elections of arguably cricket’s most powerful governing body. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will have to hold the elections in the next six weeks, and the overall verdict certainly promises new lease of life to the sport in India after spate of controversies, says Devarchit Varma.

“I can’t be bulldozed or railroaded into resigning,” came out a defiant, adamant and shockingly confident Narayanswami Srinivasan, when the spot-fixing controversy of the Indian Premier League (IPL) broke sometime in May 2013. The game of cricket has profound depth in India, and the incident that brought shame and humiliation would have certainly rocked the strongest of minds. But Srinivasan, with his huge army and power, not to forget his staggering resilience (or brazenness, depending on your take), remained stubborn that he had not done any wrong. He might not have, but what transpired as he presided over the BCCI cannot be brushed aside either.

The row started with a member of India’s 2011 ICC World Cup-winning squad being named among those who brought the shame to the game, but as time passed, it turned out even more murky. Big names came to the fore. Among them were the ‘team principal’ of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of Srinivasan. Srinivasan, head of India Cements and owner of the CSK, persistently maintained over the years that he cannot be held accountable for others’ actions. Fair enough. But what about the malice that spread throughout his tenure?

BCCI demanded a whopping $800,000 from Sky TV, who had the UK rights to telecast England’s four-Test series in India, to cover the series. Sky TV did not cough up the money the BCCI demanded, and instead commentated from live television feed in the United Kingdom. Mike Atherton famously reported the events from India, standing in a nearby car park.

BBC did cover the series — from the grounds after reaching some kind of agreement with the mighty BCCI — but the terms and conditions of the agreement remain unknown. This was perhaps the incident that showed Srinivasan-ruled BCCI’s intent — the intent to take ‘cricket’ ahead.

While cricket fans and critics kept rambling about BCCI’s money-mindedness, the Indian cricket board remained unfazed even when the leading news agencies such as AFP (both text and photo), Getty Images and Action Images boycotted the India-England series in 2012-13, and presumably still continue to boycott any international cricket organised by the BCCI. In fact, The Telegraph came up with stick diagrams in protest when the agencies were charged extravagant amounts — amounts they refused to pay.

Apart from the way BCCI under Srinivasan went about the cricket, there have been other controversies as well. Haroon Lorgat, former CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC) still remains clueless on why BCCI is angry with him, as his appointment as CEO of Cricket South Africa (CSA) resulted in an incredibly shortened Indian tour to South Africa in late 2013. Lorgat even offered personal apologies in case BCCI conveyed him the exact matter, which unfortunately, never happened. Lorgat remains the head of CSA, but is not the man who can have any participation in cricketing talks with India.

The revamp of ICC was perhaps another black chapter for cricket fans from India, England and Australia: the three powerhouses discarded the ICC Future Tours Program and amidst hundreds of changes came along the fact that Srinivasan would be the first chairman of the ICC.

How ironical was this? While Srinivasan was on his way to ICC chairman’s seat, the Supreme Court was terming his presence in Indian cricket ‘nauseating’!

Suddenly, India saw a point in playing Test cricket with Bangladesh and even reviving cricketing ties with Pakistan, with whom they have not played a complete series since the 26/11 terror attacks at Mumbai in 2008. India certainly gets the biggest share revenue for ICC and to those it plays bilateral cricket with, but none in the world liked the way India headed the campaign with the support from Cricket Australia (CA) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Zimbabwe were nearly moved to tears back in 2013 when India cited ‘fatigue’ and tried opting out of the tour, which certainly would have filled their coffers with money. Yes, you read it right. Indian cricketers fatigued — right after IPL 2013, which had record 77 matches spilled over two months. Nevertheless, India agreed and it was certainly a rare sight to see an international cricket captain thanking the other nation’s cricket board. Brendan Taylor’s account is not verified, but no one would perhaps gain anything by impersonating him.

 

Srinivasan’s tenure as BCCI president began at a time when India were doing all right on the field. But today, as the court bars him from further taking part in the much-awaited elections, India is reeling at No. 7 in Test cricket. India are No. 2 in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), but there is no guarantee it will successfully defend the World Cup title, what with back-to-back defeats in the ongoing tournament in Australia. BCCI may have all the money and might, but they don’t yet have a bowling attack that could be seen with respect.

Supreme Court’s interference in BCCI’s matters was certainly a sign that all was not well with Indian cricket, and the men who were at the helm were not in control. But with the judgement coming out and happily accepted by many fans and critics all over the country, it can be expected that Indian cricket only rises from here.

The world is aware of India’s financial might in cricket, but if it is supported with results all over, India can actually hold its head high. But for now, there is work to be done. A lot of water has flown under the bridge and the image of a cricket-mad nation has been tarnished. One can only hope for a better future with the new set-up coming in.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)