Given his amazing mental strength to brave the odds, N. Srinivasan’s never-say-die attitude is keeping his adversaries in Indian cricket administration on tenterhooks. In a digital age where hot breaking news travels faster than sound, several top cricket administrators and players have kept mum, choosing to comment “only when they have seen the entire 138-page Supreme Court order” that bars the Tamil Nadu business tycoon from seeking a second full term as Board of Control for Cricket in India president. This is a standard delaying strategy to avoid comment.
Over the last one-and-a-half-years, Srinivasan has shown tremendous grit to defend allegations of corruption against him. On Thursday, he stood partially vindicated after the court said “charges against him, at best, be regarded as suspicion.” The Supreme Court also lifted charges of “cover-up” although Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, a frontline Chennai Super Kings official till 2013, was indicted for betting. Feeling ‘clean’, Srinivasan will draw new strength to fight his battles from these significant conclusions. A winner always tends to find positives in moments of despair.
It is not a surprise that most BCCI ‘active’ members have adopted a wait-and-watch policy. India’s top cricket batsmen would have been better off if they had taken a similar path while handling seam and swing on English and Australian Test pitches. Given Srinivasan’s tenacity to emerge from this morass of corruption, he will do everything to emerge spotless in the world of complex and forever fluid cricket politics.
In interviews to NDTV, three former BCCI presidents – I.S. Bindra, Sharad Pawar and A.C. Muthiah – have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to bar Srinivasan from contesting Board elections till such time he has stakes in Chennai Super Kings. Interviews in media really don’t matter to people determined to beat the odds.
The Supreme Court has taken strong exception to the controversial 6.2.4 clause that enables Board members to have commercial interests in IPL and Champions League T20. The clause was amended when Pawar was at helm of cricket administration and Bindra (as Punjab cricket chief) and his favourite Lalit Modi were getting IPL off the blocks in 2008. It has taken Bindra and Pawar six seasons to realise the consequences of ratifying a rule that would underscore the purity of competition. The question is: Why did they agree to the amendment of the clause ahead of the first IPL? Srinivasan obviously had better ‘vision.’
While media speculates who will be next BCCI president – as per Super Court order the twice-postponed elections must be held inside six weeks – Srinivasan’s loyalists are not giving up. At least three members from East, the zone that will propose the president, are backing Srinivasan to “work out his legal obstacles” and announce his candidature by obeying the Court’s order against conflict of interest. Srinivasan is in a time squeeze and his lawyers are working overtime in the background. To expect a riposte from the Srinivasan camp in the next few days won’t be a surprise.
“We expect Srinivasan to give up Chennai Super King stakes. It will be a tough decision but for the sake of Indian cricket and his image, it is something that we expect him to do,” said a high-profile East Zone official, whose vote will count for giving Srinivasan another full term as Board boss. “It’s premature to write him off. It’s a technical issue that is not impossible to sort,” the official said.
Srinivasan has played his cards well. Mumbai (Pawar), Punjab (Bindra), Saurashtra (Niranjan Shah), Maharashtra (Ajay Shirke) and Vidarbha (Shashank Manohar) have never been on Srinivasan’s side. But in a 31-member BCCI, where power equations continually change, Srinivasan has ensured his supporters remain happy. This can be seen from the appointment of managers for overseas tours. Arshad Ayub (president, Hyderabad) and Biswarup Dey (treasurer, Bengal) were named managers for the Test and tri-nation ODI series in Australia, respectively. To offer plum positions and foreign tours have always been a winning formula for all BCCI bosses.
The BCCI has already welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to appoint a high-profile committee to review its constitution. This will not stop Srinivasan from contesting if he can quickly get his house in order. Three names — Rajeev Shukla, Sharad Pawar and Jagmohan Dalmiya — have surfaced as possible BCCI president. It was during Shukla’s tenure as IPL chairman when the betting and spot-fixing scandal broke. Pawar has been out of active cricket administration for some time and Dalmiya has been on the wrong side of age. Plus, Dalmiya has his ‘rivals’ in East Zone and may not be an automatic choice. Dalmiya is hoping “things will be clearer in the next few days.”
He may be temple hopping in South India, but Srinivasan will not be entirely relying on divine intervention. Wisdom comes from prayers and the 70-year-old, like his favourite MS Dhoni, is known to hold his nerves in chasing difficult targets. Srinivasan’s recent meetings with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are no secret. They certainly didn’t discuss BCCI’s solid finances. During the court hearings, the Board lawyers had dropped Jaitley’s name much to the chagrin of the judges. But it won’t be a surprise if Srinivasan has already called up Jaitley in Davos. If it comes to a crunch, Srinivasan will desperately bank on at least eight votes that Jaitley (read BJP) controls in Indian cricket politics.
It’s all set for a fascinating endgame.
This piece was also published by the author on ndtv.com/cricket