Thursday 23 May 2013

Perils of Indian Cricket Administration

Last week, Cricket made headlines (again) for illegal activities concerning spot-fixing. A two-time World Cup winner, a first-class cricketer and a club cricketer all playing for the same franchise Rajasthan Royals were accused, taken to custody, their contracts suspended, banned and the investigations are still on. Not so long ago, in 2000 this game discovered the term match-fixing being added to its glossary. Spot-fixing is the latest addition.
 Illegal by its widely accepted definition is “Prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules”. While the connotations and the usage are unparalleled in today’s world, illegal is also a situation where there is a degree of punishment when a personnel or a firm involved.

 A lot of noise is heard at the moment in India; with social media easily accessible to public, the news is viral and with each passing hour there are updates and more dirt being unearthed. What is the truth? I ask this question each time when such allegations threaten to disrupt a sport, let alone be cricket. Quel dommage!

 Individuals or a collection of individuals may be playing for the same team, but their personalities are different. Just as their skill sets are unique, their sociological background and their vision towards life are varied. This is what team sports are made up of – a bunch of idiosyncratic athletes coming together with a simple purpose and a common goal – to win. It is their profession and like any other profession, sport is no different. Win at all costs is the mantra; losing at all costs?

 Losing is a constant part of the game; if done deliberately you discredit the effort put in by your peers and opposition. Cricket like many other games evolved from being a recreational sport to the present day business establishment. There are contracts, employee agreements and commitments which is necessary to fulfill.

 The business over recreation in its modern avatar became very evident in cricket with the advent of T20 cricket and since the conception of Indian Premier League (IPL). Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) in partnership with International Management Group (IMG) drew the league structure for IPL in 2008.

 Currently, IPL is in its sixth edition and barring the first season; each season had its share of controversies. This is nothing new for the tournament that unites the best of international cricketers from around the world for a good part of ten weeks. The teams are owned by well-known business magnates and few of the famous Indian movie celebrities. State Associations of Cricket are involved in tandem with BCCI and team owners as they provide the playing facilities, while the sponsors who pump in money to these franchises also play an important role. Not to forget, amidst all this, there are local Indian cricketers and umpires who are given a platform of their lives to showcase their respective talents to the global audience.

 With deals in the tune of millions of dollars for TV rights, Mobile rights, League Sponsorship this is easily one of the top leagues in the world when it comes to money involved. So with a short introduction to IPL, the basic question remains unanswered or I might say skewed. What is the purpose of IPL - Is it to promote cricket? Money?  To showcase cricketer’s talents?  To remain in the limelight or is it a cocktail of all the above factors?

 BCCI’s objective is simple – To make money from cricket and to utilise that money to promote cricket across the country. What about other stake holders? Their involvement in IPL is simple too -Win matches, increase their presence in the social circles and add IPL as an extension to their well established businesses. While this is true for owners, a lot of companies utilise IPL to showcase their products through advertisements and sponsorship. IPL is not merely for cricket, it is entertainment, business, money and fame with cricket as its vital ingredient.

 With cricket as the vital ingredient, it is the onus on the governing body BCCI in the lead with ICC as a indirect partner to take the moral responsibility for the smooth running of the league. India as a political nation is divided by region, language and caste politics. Indian cricket has them all - BCCI is the only organisation that had and has representatives from all the major political parties across India consistently in its governing body. With such a powerful network, it is perhaps explained why this unity can fail and is deemed ineffective when it comes to tackling or checking illegal activities or resolving conflicts of interests. That is the flip side of being democratic in an organisation where the rules can be skewed and altered easily while none of it all is explained in lay man’s language.

 What can BCCI do? While the responsibility of integrity rests with the individual athletes, BCCI can consider this latest fiasco to lead by example and demonstrate its might to educate the upcoming cricketers, strengthen its laws, rewrite it such that there is no scope for misinterpretation and finally look beyond money and take care of Indian cricket that lays the golden eggs.

 BCCI with its increased reach, stronger and deeper than the Indian Olympic Committee can set examples to other athletes in matters related to match-fixing, spot-fixing, doping, mentoring and faking age in junior cricket. While many of the cricketers earn good money by playing cricket, the present generation needs monitoring and the future generations to come needs education on the ill-traps of sport. BCCI needs to control cricket from playing and administrative aspects such that there are clear, well defined laws and rules to tackle such aforementioned issues.

Will they? Time can only answer. 

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