The IPL Witch-Hunt: BCCI knocks out Kings XI and Royals


Shashank Manohar, President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), speaks as BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan (L) looks on during a news conference after a governing council meeting of Indian Premier League (IPL) in Mumbai April 26, 2010. The IPL governing council suspended Lalit Modi as the chairman and commissioner of IPL and appointed Chirayu Amin as the interim chairman of IPL. REUTERS/Arko Datta (INDIA - Tags: SPORT CRICKET)

The IPL witch-hunt is truly on!

The scrapping of two franchises Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, the 2008 champions, has been swift and clinical.

The BCCI terminated their contracts making it clear that irregularities were not to be tolerated any more. If this signals a move to a more professional setup, the move is welcome.

But if it is seen as another move to further isolate Modi and his supporters, it will be just another instance of intense politicking and jockeying for power  in the richest sports body in the country.

The Kochi franchise lives on – for now. It has a ten-day reprieve. And with the reduction in the number of franchises, the Pune and Kerala-based franchises may be profitable sooner than later.

Shilpa Shetty, Raj Kundra,Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia will seek legal counsel and redress in the Indian judicial system. But they cannot act surprised that the BCCI move came as a complete surprise to them. The discrepancies in their ownership and shareholding patterns had already been exposed by the IT department earlier.

Naivety cannot be a defence in business and make no mistake the IPL is big biz. The fine print is to be read and re-read.

The IPL is now a proven cash-cow. It took a Lalit Modi to bring it to fruition. But now that the tourney can be milked for all its worth, the BCCI have decided to unleash its hounds on the prey.

The high-handedness exhibited by Modi and his cronies and a toothless governing council that appeared to cosy up  to King Modi was in no way going to reassure the BCCI big-wigs who were under intense pressure by the Indian government once the row between Tharoor and Modi hit the parliament floor.

The BCCI had no choice to take action once the government warned them that they would have a role to play otherwise.

Oct 24, 2008; London, ENGLAND; Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi during The Global Sport Summit Innovation vs.tradition: The quest for growth at The Landmark. Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

The resignation of Tharoor set in motion a chain of events with a snow-ball effect – the result of which was the suspension of Modi as IPL commissioner.

The can of worms had been opened. Modi’s relatives were discovered to  have stakes with the two defunct franchises. This was obviously a clear case of conflict of interest.

BCCI’s Srinivasan has similar charges laid against him. Modi has made it a point of honour to lay bare his foes’ follies. He has rolled up his sleeves and decided to go out swinging.

Every charge laid by the BCCI is not answered by justifications or explanations but by counter-charges. It is now a free-for-all.

The consequences have not been kind to Modi; it is reported that he now fears for his safety.

What concerns the cricket aficionado is whether the sport will suffer. Will Indian sport see the demise of a mega brand?

As an aside, the return of Jagmohan Dalmiya adds another dimension to the BCCI move. Will Dalmiya, the man who first raked in the mega-bucks for the BCCI , have a role to play in the ‘new’ IPL?

Another point to be noted is that the only man still standing in Modi’s corner, is IS Bindra, a sworn Dalmiya antagonist. And for all his faults, Bindra is a man of integrity.  He has always had the interests of the cricketers at heart.

So what gives there? Perhaps it’s true that politics and business make for strange bed-fellows.

The BCCI has a lot to answer for. Due diligence was evidently the least of the concerns  in the bidding war for franchises.

The witch-hunt is on! Just how many witches will the BCCI burn? More importantly, what will be the collateral damage – to the game, to the fans, to the image of Indian sport?

Just when we thought that the performance of Indian athletes at the Commonwealth games would cover the inadequacies in the organization of the event, the IPL imbroglio comes as another whammy from Indian officialdom! May their tribe increase!

Quote of the day:
Maturity is only a short break in adolescence. – Jules Feiffer
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