By passing an interim order on the Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting scandal last week, the Supreme Court took a small but strong step forward to cleanse a corrupt system that runs the high-stakes T20 tournament. What began as a spot-fixing scandal involving a handful of players during Indian Premier League 2013 has snow-balled into a monster that threatens to destroy Indian cricket.
The most appalling issue of the entire saga has been the phenomenon called 'conflict of interest.' BCCI president N. Srinivasan is sitting at the top of it as managing Director of the company (India Cements) that owns Chennai Super Kings. To add to the misery of the Indian cricket supporters, one of their biggest heroes of the modern game, MS Dhoni, has been linked with dubious activities in IPL 2013. (Also read: Is Srinivasan's dreams of future in ICC also under doubt?)
Even though BCCI's counsel vehemently denied the petitioner's lawyer Harish Salve's accusation that Dhoni testified in favour of Gurunath Meiyappan (Srinivasan's son-in-law), there is a strong apprehension of 'lying under duress', given Captain Col's close association with Srinivasan. Dhoni is a vice-president in India Cements. Yet another case of conflict of interest.
Conspiracy theorists are busy churning out scripts that say Srinivasan was the man who saved Dhoni from being sacked after India's tumultuous tours of England and Australia in 2011-12 and this was just Dhoni's way of saying 'thank you.' For once these theories don't seem as outlandish as they most often do.
At a juncture where the situation looks a lot murkier than one can fathom, Supreme Court's intent to keep Srinivasan away from the game needs to be viewed as a positive move. It is true that Gavaskar's appointment as interim chief may not absolve the IPL of its follies overnight and neither does Shivlal Yadav have a sparkling clean CV to overturn the game's off-field misery in India right away. Yet, the decision brings some respite and offers a shimmer of hope that the apex body will only move forward in a bid to help Indian cricket when they come out with their final verdict on April 16.
From what has transpired since Thursday's suggestions and Friday's interim order, one can say that the court's single-point agenda is to rid cricket of the problem of conflict of interest and distancing Srinivasan and all employees of India Cements is perhaps the best possible start. (Related: Srinivasan's 'exit' will see new equations in fluid BCCI)
Despite deferring the case on multiple occasions in the past, the court proved that they meant serious business as the BCCI had to remove five of their officials - all linked with India Cements or its associate companies - associated with the Board. This process began with withdrawing MA Satish, Team India's logistic manager, from Bangladesh and the list also included Prasanna Kannan, the chief financial officer of the Indian Premier League since its inaugural season in 2008.
Recent history suggests profile and clout are of little significance as far as the highest judicial forum in the country is concerned. Sahara Pariwar owner Subrata Roy, one of the most influential industrialists of the country, is the best man to reiterate this fact. Roy was arrested for his company's failure to refund deposits of Rs 24,000 crores to its investors. Srinivasan may have arm-twisted his way out of a lot of past dealings but he could well be in for a shocker this time.
The BCCI may put up a brave face and express satisfaction at the court's order, but the writing could be on the wall for the Chennai-based administrator as the Supreme Court has fired the opening salvo. Whether the judges manage to consolidate and land the knockout punch remains to be seen.