For five consecutive IPL seasons, the Chennai Super Kings franchise has proved itself to be the pre-eminent team of the T20 cricket carnival, largely on the strength of its on-field prowess. Critics may have cavilled - with merit - that the rigidity of the auction format amounted to an unsporting shifting of the goalpost to the advantage of the team that was organically linked to the BCCI president. And, yes, the egregious conflict of interest of N Srinivasan wearing two hats - as cricket administrator as well as owner (through his India Cements holdings) of a team - certainly rankled, even with ardent supporters (such as I).
But so long as the yellow flannels of the CSK players - and the hands of the team management - remained spotlessly clean, it was possible to join in the #whistlepodu campaign without a pang of guilt or remorse.
All that has changed in the past few days. Most strikingly, following the late-night arrest on Friday of - let's not kid ourselves - the Chennai Super Kings principal Gurunath Meiyappan, who is also Srinivasan's son-in-law, on possible charges - which will be made out in court later today - of illegal betting and perhaps even spot-fixing, those yellow jerseys - and the hands at the till - have been irremediably stained.
The artless attempt on Friday by the Chennai Super Kings owners and managers to ringfence the franchise from the taint of Meiyappan's conduct was, ironically, the most damning 'admission' of guilt. The operation to delete all references (on the Chennai Super Kings' website and on social media platforms) to Meiyappan as the "owner" or the "principal" betrays a colossal failure to understand that online caches have far longer memories. And in any case there is enough documentary evidence - in the form of television footage of IPL auctions - to establish that Meiyappan was, in many ways, the playmaker of the Chennai Super Kings.
Meiyappan's arrest, therefore, directly tarnishes the reputation of the CSK franchise and, in a larger sense, the larger IPL carnival. Under the terms of the Franchise Agreement, that sets Chennai Super Kings up for possible disqualification. But since it's Meiyappan's father-in-law who is the Prime Mover of the BCCI, and since Srinivasan shamelessly insists on clinging on to his chair even after t he arrest of his son-in-law on Friday, no such redemptive action - or even just the feeblest attempt to conduct an impartial investigation - can be expected from him.
Indeed, when television news anchor Rahul Kanwal got through to Srinivasan and asked him about Meiyappan's arrest, the BCCI president acted with thuggish belligerence.
Spoke to N Srinivasan about arrest of son-in-law. 'Shut up, just shut up. I will fix the whole lot of you.'
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) May 24, 2013
It's amusing, of course, that "fixing" appears to be uppermost on Srinivasan's mind even at this stage. But, seriously, the man is in abject denial about his son-in-law's evident culpability.
Which is why Srinivasan should be forced to step down - and be made to take the CSK team with him.
The usual arguments will be made that the CSK players, who have played their hearts out and have qualified for the final against the Mumbai Indians team in Kolkata on Sunday, shouldn't be made to pay the price. But if the CSK cricketers have any sense of fair play, they ought to be the first to acknowledge that when their team principal, for all the management's feckless attempts at covering up his association, has been caught with his hands in the till and has been betting on their cricketing fortunes, even victory on Sunday will bring no glory.
If anything, it will irremediably taint all of the team's glorious achievements in the previous outings.
The stain on the yellow jerseys can be washed away only with a ritual 'sacrifice' - and if it means breaking the hearts of the CSK players and the team's supporters, it isn't too high a price.
This IPL series has shown up the carnival to be a can of worms and India's cricket administration to be rotten at its core. As a first step towards fixing it over the long haul, Srinivasan and his political patron and IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla should be made to resign, and the Chennai Super Kings team disqualified.
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Updated Date: May 25, 2013 06:57:36 IST