An embattled N. Srinivasan is banking on an archaic rule and a complex number game to stretch his innings as Board of Control for Cricket in India president. According to well-placed Board sources, Srinivasan is in pole position to extend his stay as BCCI boss, at least for a year. He is completing his normal two-year reign this month. Srinivasan's detractors, however, are banking on a court 'yorker' and a dithering South Zone Board member, Andhra Pradesh, to stop the 68-year-old in his tracks. (Srinivasan to seek re-elections)
BCCI elections have always been a complex number game and although N. Srinivasan's one-year extension was a foregone conclusion earlier this year, the Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal involving his son-in-law and Chennai Super Kings member Gurunath Meiyappan changed all equations in the last four months. (Probe clears Meiyappan)
Under pressure to ensure a free and fair probe on those charged in the IPL corruption case, N. Srinivasan stepped aside as BCCI president in June. But after the Bombay High Court rejected the findings of a Board panel that gave Meiyappan and other IPL parties a clean chit, Srinivasan was caught on a sticky wicket. And with the Supreme Court in no hurry to dispose of the IPL case, time seemed to be running out on a desperate president-in-exile.
But Srinivasan is not one to lie low. Known to be intelligent and shrewd, he has exploited a much-applied BCCI clause to ensure that he will remain the man to beat in case of an election. As per Board constitution, a presidential candidate must be nominated by two units from the incumbent's home association - South Zone in Srinivasan's case. And this is exactly where Srinivasan is playing his cards very well.
Senior BCCI sources tell sports.NDTV.com that the Chennai-based industrialist has succeeded in wooing five (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Hyderabad and Andhra) of the six Board members from South Zone to vote for him. Goa is the only unit to 'oppose' Srinivasan.
While Srinivasan has made his intentions clear by saying he "will contest", the likely candidate to challenge him is former president and Nagpur lawyer, Shashank Manohar. But unlike Srinivasan, Manohar has not made his intentions public. A man who has the blessings of a political heavyweight like Sharad Pawar, Manohar has a clean image and matches the stature of a Srinivasan. But does Manohar, who comes from Central Zone, have the required numbers to put himself in fray?
If Manohar has to contest, his name must be "proposed" and "seconded" by separate South Zone members. As per current equation, Goa remain the only South Zone unit who could propose Manohar's name. So who can be the second unit from South to back a Srinivasan opponent?
According to reports, Andhra Pradesh is a 'weak' link in the Srinivasan camp and for controversial reasons. It is learnt that Andhra secretary Ganga Raju has pledged his support to both the Srinivasan and Manohar camps. Raju is now being branded as a "turncoat" by the anti-Srinivasan lobby.
Raju's apparent 'double-cross' has shown the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association in poor light. Who authorized Raju to side with Srinivasan? Sources say the "final call" on whom to back lies with ACA president DV Subba Rao. Both Rao and Raju were not available for comments. ACA media manager C. Mohan told sports.NDTV.com on Friday: "I am under instruction not to share their numbers with the media. I am sorry Mr Raju and Mr Rao will not be available to speak on BCCI election matters."
Even as the anti-Srinivasan lobby sees a glimmer of 'hope' in ACA to put up a candidate against the Tamil Nadu business tycoon, well-placed BCCI sources say "it is impossible to get the better of Srinivasan this time". And Srinivasan is already planning to play a "good and generous" host after the special general meeting in Chennai on September 25.
Reports say N. Srinivasan has 'offered' several Board members to stay back in Chennai and enjoy his hospitality till the AGM on September 29. A senior BCCI functionary said: "There are always BCCI members who love to be pampered. They will certainly enjoy the hospitality." Apart from airfare and five-star accommodation, the BCCI pays its members a daily pocket allowance of a minimum of Rs 10,000 to attend meetings. "If someone is giving you a paid holiday in a nice South India resort - it could be Mahabalipuram - how many will decline the offer?" said the BCCI member.
The power of money talks and the BCCI elections, like many high-profile sports body polls, are headed in a similar direction. Can the court stop Srinivasan now? The Cricket Association of Bihar, whose PIL in the Bombay High Court in July spoiled Srinivasan's juggernaut, is in no mood to let the BCCI chief have a free run.
CAB secretary Aditya Verma told sports.NDTV.com that Srinivasan has thrown caution to the winds by attending the BCCI disciplinary and marketing committee meetings in the last week or so. "It's an open act of defiance when the case against BCCI is subjudice," Verma said. There could be more trouble for Srinivasan if the Mumbai Police presses charges of betting against Meiyappan.
N. Srinivasan's body language is oozing confidence but the next few days will surely see more 'action' as a section of the BCCI makes a desperate attempt to drum up support possibly for Manohar. The role of the Andhra cricket bosses, the power of the law and of course the corridors of pugnacious political lobbies will all combine to decide the future of the world's richest cricket association.