Yesterday’s Supreme Court judgement ordering an investigation into the IPL (Indian Premier League) holds the promise of letting a ray of sunshine into the BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) corridors by chipping away at the board’s ability to control both the message and the outcome.
The BCCI stands true to its name: it loves to control cricket in India. These days, of course, it desires to control world cricket too, as the shenanigans over the South Africa tour; the election of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to the ICC player's committee and its stand on DRS make that abundantly clear.
Rajeev Shukla said it loudest and proudest just two days ago: "What the US is to the UN, the BCCI is to the International Cricket Council. The BCCI has earned its reputation and one should appreciate this, rather than criticise."
Essentially, the board sees itself as the only super power in the cricketing world, which logically puts every other cricket playing country beneath it.
The board currently requires players to get written permission from it before they can give interviews and demands commentators not talk about team selection, DRS or the board, as Ian Chappell revealed to the Hindustan Times. India may be a democracy, but the BCCI is no fan of free speech.
In its most recent annual report, neither BCCI president N Srinivasan nor secretary Sanjay Patil mentioned the IPL spot-fixing scandal by name.
Srinivasan didn't bother to mention it at all, writing that the, "IPL, in its sixth year, was a great success in terms of cricket content and attendance at all matches". Patel at least referred to a "crisis arising out of IPL-VI" but in the same breath claimed the board had already addressed it.
The board's mantra can be summed up as follows: See no evil and speak no evil. Since it has always claimed it is answerable to no one but itself, this is an attitude that has worked well.
The board tried to keep the court-ordered investigation into the IPL in house by suggesting it would appoint officials unconnected with the IPL. However, the Supreme Court not only appointed a three-member panel to investigate the 2013 IPL, but two members come from outside the board. The panel will also submit its report directly to the court and not the BCCI.
This is unprecedented in the history of cricket administration in India. Even in the dark days of the match-fixing allegations in 1999 and 2000, the BCCI was not beholden to any other institution. The CBI may have prepared its own report on match-fixing, but the report was not binding on the BCCI. The board did ban Mohammad Azharuddin and a handful of other players, but no charges were ever brought and the bans were overturned while the BCCI went on with business as usual.
They dusted off the same playbook after S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were arrested during the IPL's sixth season. The first two have already been banned for life, with Chandila likely to follow suit.
At the same time, the BCCI did its best to squash any action against Gurunath Meiyappan and the Chennai Super Kings. Public pressure may have forced N Srinivasan to step aside as board president and set up a panel to investigate the allegations of betting and spot-fixing, but the BCCI was quick to stack the deck. The two retired Madras High Court judges that made up the panel were barred from collecting evidence from any source other than the board.
After the Cricket Association of Bihar challenged the probe's finding, the BCCI was unable to explain to the Bombay High court who appointed the judges in the first place, moving the court to state the CAB "has made out a prima-facie case that respondent No. 2 (N Srinivasan) was involved in the formation of the commission".
At the very least, the judges said, the BCCI had failed to prove Srinivasan had nothing to do with it.
This time around, the Supreme Court may have allowed Srinivasan to take charge as BCCI president, but it has ordered him to stay away from the probe and all matters related to the IPL. It has also ordered the board not to interfere with the panel, holding up the promise that an actual investigation may take place.
Justice Mukul Mugdal, who heads the panel, is known as a man of integrity and has publicly said the probe won’t be an eyewash. The court has handed him the responsibility of upholding the interests of cricket fans all across the country, a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.
Much will depend on the terms of reference for the probe, which are yet to be declared. A narrow lens could handicap the investigation from the start, reducing the process to little more than an academic exercise.
For now though, there is hope that the BCCI won’t be able to sweep everything under the carpet. Aditya Verma, the secretary of the CAB, who filed the case, told Firstpost, "this is a very big victory. The court will uncover the rot in the BCCI and clear it out".
For the first time, that might actually be a possibility.