A Supreme Court hearing on the Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scandal will dominate a day when the seventh edition of the world's richest and strongest T20 league is scheduled to make a rousing start far away in the Emirates. Defending champions Mumbai Indians will play Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night, but the real spotlight will be on what the apex court says after the lawyers of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) aim to resurrect the image of a tainted tournament and some of its big honchos, including its ousted chief, N. Srinivasan. (Check the full IPL schedule here)
Never in the history of the IPL - it began in 2008 - have court cases left the game in its wake. As teams battle sweltering heat to prepare for day games in the desert kingdom, the BCCI's embattled president Srinivasan is fighting a grim battle to win back his lost throne.
The Supreme Court, through an interim order on March 28, has already ousted Srinivasan as Board chief. On the basis of a probe report submitted by former justice Mukul Mudgal and his team on February 10, a two-judge bench suspended Srinivasan till the IPL scam was solved and culprits punished. Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan has been charged for betting and sharing team information. Meiyappan was a member of Chennai Super Kings, a team owned by India Cements. Srinivasan is the Managing Director of India Cements.
On Tuesday, Srinivasan filed an affidavit challenging the Supreme Court's interim order that axed him and appointed former India Test players Sunil Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav as interim heads of the BCCI. Srinivasan has listed several points in his application with the central message that he was being singled out for no fault of his. Srinivasan has urged the court to review its interim order and reinstate him as BCCI chief till his tenure was over in September this year.
In a bid to regain his position, Srinivasan has defended himself against charges of "conflict of interest" and that he used his position of power to scuttle a probe by the Tamil Nadu police to save Chennai officials who were linked with the betting scam. Indian and CSK captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's name has also been linked with the scandal. Srinivasan says all charges are "unsubstantiated."
It's certainly going to be a busy day at the Supreme Court. Suspended IPS officer, G. Sampath Kumar, who was among the first in the Tamil Nadu crime branch to investigate allegations of betting, has also filed a petition. Kumar has alleged that powerful people were using their clout to cover-up the scam. The IPS officer, who was first transferred and then suspended, has clearly hinted at the 69-year-old Srinivasan.
Srinivasan's reply to the Supreme Court has also brought to focus the contents of a sealed envelope that the Mudgal committee submitted to the judges on February 10. Does it really contain anything incriminating that could ruin the careers of a few officials and players?
According to Srinivasan's affidavit, the so-called tapes containing conversation between bookies and Meiyappan may not actually exist. Srinivasan says: "To the best of my knowledge, there are no audio tapes of conversations between Mr. Vindoo Dara Singh and Mr. Gurunath Meiyappan available in public domain. The report of the Probe Committee has not enclosed any such audio tapes. I am not aware if the sealed envelope submitted to this Hon'ble Court by the Probe Committee contains such material but I am advised that such recordings would be part of the charge-sheet filed by Mumbai Police in the court of Additional metropolitan Magistrate, 37thCourt Esplanade Mumbai. Therefore, there is absolutely no possibility of anyone being in possession of such audio recording, much less the petitioner."
This is clearly turning out to be a cat-and-mouse affair with several twists and turns. Srinivasan is certainly firing on all cylinders to defend himself. After all, he is going to be the first chairman of the new-look ICC from July this year. Will the court steal his thunder? Although the court may not arrive at a final decision on Wednesday, this one is no less a cliff-hanger. (Also read: Srinivasan has hijacked BCCI, says Aditya Verma)