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Money, sleaze take the sheen off imperious Chennai Super Kings

After successfully resisting any attempt of public scrutiny for years, the BCCI looked highly vulnerable on Wednesday, thanks to the betting-allegations against Board president and CSK owner N Srinivasan’s son-in-law

At least temporarily, the charges have forced the country’s richest and most boorish sports-creature into a clueless retreat.

National media on Wednesday reported that Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan who also heads the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), was in constant touch with actor Vindoo Dhara Singh, who was arrested by Mumbai police in connection with the betting-fixing scandal. Meiyappan reportedly had provided him with VIP access to the inner circles of the CSK.

Although the reports were guarded in naming Meyyappan early on Wednesday, by evening all guns were blazing against him. On Thursday, the firing turned more direct and intense even as Srinivasan and Meiyappan appeared elusive.

So what are Guru and Srini up to? Gurunath Meiyappan's Twitter account.

So what are Guru and Srini up to? Gurunath Meiyappan's Twitter account.

“WHY THE SILENCE MR SRINIVASAN?” asked a first-page three column-screamer in the Chennai edition of Deccan Chronicle. Its main argument was that when the spot-fixing scandal broke out with the arrest of the Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankhit Chavan, Srinivasan had said that a few rotten eggs couldn’t spoil the IPL. But now that the scandal has reached his doorstep, what does he have to say?

“No, this scandal is too close for comfort and the usual arbitrariness in defeating every public query by stonewalling and flagrant manipulation and manoeuvres were never going to work. The most morally upright action on the spot would have been to tender your resignation until the investigation had run its course. You could then have resumed your seat if your son-in-law were to be absolved of serious charges of gambling on IPL and cavorting with a Bollywood impresario who thinks nothing of manipulating the game and its players just for a few dirty bucks from bookies who have enriched themselves on the gambling instincts of the gullible,” the Deccan Chronicle said.

The newspaper spent nearly two-third of its front page on Srinivasan and Meiyappan. After rhetorically raising the issue with Srinivasan, a second article titled “IPL scam strikes at BCCI heart” focussed on the details of the alleged nvolvement of Meyyappan. It alleged that Meiyappan provided VIP passes to Vindoo that gave him considerable access to the CSK players. It was courtesy such access that he was once seen in the company of MS Dhoni’s wife and manager.

The report also alleged that Meiyappan’s Kollywood connections - he comes from the family of AVM, one of the oldest and most prominent film production houses in Chennai - “may have led to several stars and starlets getting close to the players”. What’s more scathing is the charge that the daughter of a bookie arrested in Chennai had been seen mixing with players in the after-parties of CSK.

“What makes the mired IPL scene even more intriguing is that in the unofficial after-parties of CSK several women have become very friendly with the players. A police source pointed out in particular that the daughter of a cricket bookie thought to be the mastermind of many betting operations in Chennai, Prashant has also been a regular in such hard partying in what is said to be an exclusive party circle.”

Apparently a Tamil magazine has published images of the girl with CSK players.

However, the most damaging charge of them all is the reported disclosure of Vindoo that Meiyappan had placed bets with him. Vindoo has apparently made back-to-back calls to Meiyappan, which are alternated by calls to bookies. Can the owner of the top IPL team and the son-in-law of the head of BCCI bet on cricket that is run by the criminal-underworld network. Or can he entertain bookies such as Vindoo.Was he passing on crucial information to Vindoo to maximise returns on his bets?

On Wednesday night, CNN IBN and Times Now TV channels also asked the same questions.

The Chronicle went on to give more salacious details with another half-page story titled “Guru of fun ‘n’ games.”

It said that CSK held exclusive parties that opened the door to several actresses. The report cited a particular instance in 2008 in which actress Lakshmi Rai (mostly seen in south Indian films) was even spotted riding pillion to Dhoni on his superbike. Subsequently, Rai became a regular fixture in the VIP box at the Chepauk stadium during the CSK matches.

During the current season, the report said, another CSK player, Suresh Raina, has been spotted with actress Shruti Haasan (daughter of actor Kamal Haasan) after she spent “a lot of time in the CSK camp.”

The reports seemed to suggest that CSK was not free from the parties, women and 'sleaze' that some other teams or players had been allegedly associated with.

The Chennai edition of Times of India reported that Mumbai police will question Meiyappan either by summoning him to Mumbai or by sending a team to Chennai. The report quoted police officials: "We have reached a stage where we cannot avoid an inquiry. We will either summon Meiyappan to Mumbai or send a team to Chennai to question him."

It raised the moral and ethical question of conflict-of-interest, which may also have legal implications.

“Even if no IPL team owner or CEO had knowledge of or involvement in spot/match fixing, the hint of any connection with bookies could have very serious consequences. A team owner/CEO is privy to information that bookies would pay big bucks for. In the corporate world, it is a criminal offence for a CEO, board member or senior executive to profit from privileged information or to pass it on to outsiders who then profit from it.”

The political context of the controversy in Tamil Nadu will be interesting. Srinivasan is known to be close to the DMK and hence is unlikely to get any sympathy from the AIADMK government. If there is any substance in the betting allegations against Meiyappan, it may not be too late before even the Tamil Nadu police knocks at his doors.

What’s intriguing is the continued silence of both Srinvasan and Meiyappan. Given the huge legal, moral and ethical stakes, the duo should have voluntarily clarified their position and should have offered to face an investigation.

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