x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Harsh penalties and the truth required to restore IPL's credibility

For years, Chennai were the model IPL side, with a settled squad and sense of continuity that was refreshing compared to the hire-fire tactics adopted by others. This latest debacle is a huge blow, and even N Srinivasan's Teflon exterior cannot hide that.

Even with the ever-popular MS Dhoni in their line-up, Chennai Super Kings, and the IPL in general, cannot hide from their recent problems.
Even with the ever-popular MS Dhoni in their line-up, Chennai Super Kings, and the IPL in general, cannot hide from their recent problems.

Only one quote was needed to sum up the mood of Narainswamy Srinivasan, the president of the BCCI, when he addressed the media before the Indian Premier League final in Kolkata.

When asked how he would respond to Lalit Modi's assertion that Chennai Super Kings - Srinivasan is managing director of India Cements, which owns the team - had spoilt the sport, he said: "I don't reply to fugitives."

It was a spunky performance from someone who has been under enormous pressure for more than a week. The spot-fixing scandal was damaging enough for the board and the IPL, but the subsequent arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan, his son-in-law, on suspicion of having links with India's vast illegal bookie network, had pushed Srinivasan into a corner.

In Delhi, other ambitious board officials met and even briefed TV channels about their intentions of staging a coup. That it did not happen tells you a lot about how well Srinivasan has consolidated power, and also about the fear and respect he commands. When Modi's stock fell, after a social-media slanging match with a government minister, he quickly found himself isolated. The same men who had delighted in the millions that he made for them were almost indecently eager to see the back of him.

Whether Srinivasan serves out the remaining months of his term or not, the developments involving Gurunath cast a very long shadow over the IPL final at Eden Gardens.

Until his arrest on Friday, Gurunath was a fixture in the Chennai dugout.

It was he that held the bidding paddle at player auctions, he who was referred to as "Team Principal" on his verified Twitter profile.

The India Cements' version of damage control was as clumsy as a toddler trying to hide a chocolate smear. First, they released a statement saying that Gurunath was neither team principal nor chief executive. Then, realising that Gurunath's Twitter feed contradicted that, they changed it, but not before hundreds had taken screenshots that illustrated their stupidity. It must be stressed at this stage that Gurunath is being investigated by the Mumbai Police, whose focus is on bookie syndicates and not on the spot-fixing incidents that are being probed by their counterparts in Delhi.

As of now, information given to the media suggests that Gurunath is being probed for betting large sums - up to 10 million Rupees (Dh 658,000) - on matches and for possibly providing team information to the bookies. Pete Rose, known as Charlie Hustle to his fans, was railroaded out of Major League Baseball for betting on Cincinnati Reds teams that he managed. If Gurunath is found guilty, what he did would be the sporting equivalent of insider trading. The three-member commission that the board has appointed - Srinivasan promised that one of them would be an outsider - owes it to the sport to dig up the truth in coordination with the police force.

For years, Chennai were the model IPL side, with a settled squad and sense of continuity that was refreshing compared to the hire-fire tactics adopted by others.

This latest debacle is a huge blow, and even Srinivasan's Teflon exterior cannot hide that.

sports@thenation al.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE