The two-judge Supreme Court bench, hearing the Indian Premier League betting and spot-fixing scandal, made some telling decisions in its interim order on Friday. While the bench ensured that brand IPL would not be hurt, it sent a strong signal that people with a propensity to manipulate and sully the image of the gentleman's game should not be allowed to queer the pitch. (Complete IPL spot-fixing timeline)
By appointing Sunil Gavaskar as 'caretaker' president of the IPL, the Supreme Court has indicated that former players, who are respected by the public and players, should have a say in the administration of the game. Although it is not guaranteed that top players will make good administrators, Gavaskar's appointment should be taken as a pointer, nothing more. Gavaskar is better off doing the things he loves to do. A lot of live cricket commentary, a few games of badminton and of course, constantly writing about the game. It is extremely unlikely that in the long run, Gavaskar will sacrifice his career as a commentator/columnist and partake in Board politics that can be more vicious than a rank turner or seaming green-top. (Also read: Sunil Gavaskar ready for the challenge!)
But there are very clear signals in the Supreme Court's order. Men like N. Srinivasan, who has allegedly utilized his position and power to manipulate the way cricket is played in India (and now the world), should not be allowed to cement their position in sports administration. The interim order says very clearly: "N. Srinivasan is removed as BCCI president and debarred from taking part in any affairs of the Board till a final decision." The order goes on to say: "Other than players and commentators, no other employee of India Cements or its subsidiary or associate companies will participate in any BCCI duty." (Read: Nauseating that Srinivasan is still BCCI chief: Supreme Court)
Srinivasan is the Managing Director of India Cements that owns Chennai Super Kings. The company employs India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and former player-turned-commentator, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. A Supreme Court-appointed committee has charged Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan for betting in IPL last year. Srinivasan is alleged to have manipulated a BCCI probe committee to give Meiyappan a clean chit and even hide his real identity in the Chennai team.
On Friday, the BCCI counsel once again prayed to the Supreme Court judges to let Srinivasan function as executives of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and the ICC. The bench gave no relief and made no order. The fact that the bench will reopen the hearing of the case on April 16, only makes it clear that Srinivasan is unlikely to get any Supreme Court nod in a hurry.
Former BCCI legal head Usha Nath Banerjee feels, the court may or may not give a final order on April 16. "It has let the IPL continue. Effectively, cricket or the players are not harmed. On Srinivasan, there may not be such 'softness.' It is clear that the court wants to weed out the root of all problems," Banerjee told NDTV.com.
Justice AK Patnaik, one of the two judges, is going to retire on June 2. Banerjee feels the bench can either ask the CBI or an independent judge to do an inquiry. "This will make the April 16 hearing very critical," he said, adding: "The BCCI's lawyers will try their best to salvage Srinivasan's sports future." (Also read: BCCI representatives defend MS Dhoni)
The court breaks for summer vacation from May 9 and will reopen on June 30. The Justice Mukul Mudgal committee took four months to submit its report on February 10. Any standard inquiry that deals with corruption usually takes that amount of time. Sometimes, even longer. If the bench doesn't give Srinivasan any relief before May 9, the Tamil Nadu strongman will continue to languish on the sidelines. BCCI (read Srinivasan) wields tremendous amount of clout in the ICC. In the absence of a court nod, Srinivasan's future looks gloomy.
Srinivasan's future in Indian cricket is also bleak. If the court maintains status quo until the investigations are over and a final decision made, he will not be able to stand for any election. Srinivasan had won a year's extension after his two-year stint as BCCI president came to an end last September. Although it is East Zone's turn to nominate a president this September, Srinivasan was making the right moves to stand again and stretch his innings by at least a couple of years. As of now, the Court is definitely playing spoilsport for him.
On Thursday, former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya made a pertinent remark. "This is the right time to clean up BCCI," he told reporters in Kolkata. "Paradise is not lost yet. Collectively, we can still save the situation," Dalmiya added. Members of the BCCI have always worked 'collectively' to suit their own needs. The right to stage international matches, foreign trips, plum positions in important committees, the fun of enjoying seven-star comforts during meetings have all translated into votes. Almost 75 per cent of the current India team's support staff in from the Srinivasan camp. That includes Dr Baba, the media manager.
Supreme Court clearly wants a change at the top. But can BCCI's members ever break free from the 'routine? The 'cosy' club culture is too good to give up, anyway.