Spot-fixing at Chennai: 'Chanakya’ Srinivasan beats the odds and expectations to win battle of wits

Jagmohan Dalmiya (left) and N Srinivasan: East is East and South is South, and the twain shall meet, when it’s mutually suitable © AFP and PTI

The Working Committee of the BCCI that met at Chennai on Sunday did not pull wool over the eyes of the cricket fans; it pulled an entire sheep, so to say. The custodians of the game who are supposed to protect the game from fixers themselves turned into fixers to pursue and protect their narrow vested interest at the cost of Indian cricket and Indian cricket fans, writes H Natarajan.
 
Never before in the history of Indian sports has an administrator been hounded, humiliated and forced to tender his resignation the way N Srinivasan has been. The man has run the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) like his personal fiefdom, with utter contempt for protocol and norms. He bulldozed his way against all oppositions — within and outside the country.

Wearing an aura of invincibility, Srinivasan not only myopically resorted to covering the greased tracks of his disgraced son-in-law with a concoction of lies and deceit while speaking to the national media but, worse, blamed the media for the avalanche of troubles he was buried in. He remained defiant and arrogant. The national media now turned on the heat to launch a sensational broadside against the man in their unconcealed bid to topple him from his perch. Srinivasan became the public enemy No 1 as his face was seen on every television channel in the country round the clock and on the front pages of every newspaper.

Even as his machinations were getting exposed in public, he chose to ignore the voice of reason and refused to step down. Two of Srinivasan’s trusted and credible lieutenants in the Board resigned, but he was unmoved. His turbulent tenure as the despotic President of the BCCI was expected to come to an unceremonious end on Sunday in his very backyard at Chennai. The nation expected the cancer that was eating Indian cricket away to be surgically removed by the BCCI Working Committee and thrown out like any malignant growth would be. Alas, the nation had underestimated the wily Chanakya that Srinivasan has unambiguously proved he is.

Srinivasan remained unrepentant. In fact, he had the audacity and moral vacuousness to lay four ridiculous terms for relinquishing his post a day before the meeting. The conditions reeked of naked ambition and vengeful attitude. He not only wanted to keep out men of integrity but had the temerity to ask for a remote control to rule Indian cricket!

1. Naked ambition: He will represent India at the International Cricket Council (ICC). What cheek for a man who was not only facing a raging storm but someone who had given the ICC enough grief.

2. Controlling BCCI with remote control: He will elect his own secretary and treasurer!

3. Prevent Shashank Manohar from taking over: He did not want the new President from outside the BCCI board.

4. Vengeful attitude: Ajay Shirke and Sanjay Jagdale should not be allowed to return into the BCCI.

Chanakya metamorphoses into Shakuni!

How brilliantly Srinivasan plays his cards were evident on Sunday. He had done all that was needed to be done to stay in power in the lead-up to Sunday’s meeting while the world was given to believe that it was going to quit. He arrived three and half hours before the start of the Working Committee meeting to meet his cohorts and ensure the deals went as per his plans. While the world outside believed that virtually everybody in the BCCI were anti-Srinivasan, the happenings inside were stunning. Inderjit Singh Bindra apart, everybody were aligned with Srinivasan! (Sanjay Jagdale was not present at the meeting, while Ajay Shirke had stormed out at the turn of events).

In what seemed like a play of semantics, Srinivasan “stepped aside” — not resigned, mind you — and a man that he wanted (Jagmohan Dalmiya) came in as head of the “working group”.  So, there was no Shashank Manohar, nor Ajay Shirke nor Sanjay Jagdale. He also ensured that his nemesis Sharad Pawar — in the form of his supporters — was kept out of the power equations in the realignment. In that respect, he found an able allay in Dalmiya, who shares his hate for the Maratha strongman. It’s not often that a non-politician outsmarts Pawar, but this one of those rare days.
 
The Working Committee meeting itself was unconstitutional as it was held without a three-day notice, which the BCCI constitution necessitates. There is also no provision in the constitution to appoint a “Working Group”. So, technically, Srinivasan continues to remain the President, will be signing all relevant papers in the BCCI and represent the apex body for cricket in India at the International Cricket Council — he got all that he had wanted!

As one of the members inside the committee said, “it was a deal”. Sunday’s closed-door happenings proved that the BCCI is indeed a cosy club that is there to protect each other’s vested interests. The administrators who are the guardians against match-fixing and spot-fixing had themselves become fixers!

As someone aptly said, the old was replaced by archive. Srinivasan was once on Lalit Modi’s side against Dalmiya. Now Modi is Srinivasan’s enemy No 1 while Dalmiya was his savior. There are no permanent friends and permanent enemies in the BCCI, where administrators’ lust for power is more than their love for the game. The shenanigans triumphed yet again, while cricket was yet again the loser as the man who was dismissed by the very people for alleged misappropriation of funds allocated for the 1996 World Cup was conveniently brought back to suit their personal interest. To hell with cricket, and to hell with cricket fans. And to hell with the army of media persons outside waiting to be addressed by the BCCI honchos after Sunday’s Working Committee meeting.

What can you expect from administrators who lie brazenly? Both Srinivasan and Dalmiya came outside and told some TV channels that nobody pressed for the former’s resignation, when the fact is that Bindra had clearly raised the voice of revolt. Bindra told the media that both Srinivasan and Dalmiya were lying — something that was endorsed by Shirke as well.

The credibility of the BCCI took further beating on Sunday. It was nothing short of the gangrape of Indian cricket. The culpability of those who shielded Srinivasan — one man who held Indian cricket to ransom for his personal interest — was certainly not acting in national interest.
 
“We now know it wasn’t a few bad apples but a whole rotten orchard,” says P Sainath in a different context about the BCCI. The brevity of that statement best sums up the mandarins of the BCCI.

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(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at twitter/hnatarajan)