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Cricket board sharpens knife

April 15: Till the other day, Lalit Modi appeared merely isolated within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). After this evening’s income-tax “inquiry”, his position seems to have become untenable.

By and large, the BCCI is a fairly conservative body and, so, somebody as controversial as Modi won’t be tolerated beyond a point.

Modi is the chairman and commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which comes under the BCCI’s umbrella, and is also a vice-president of the parent organisation.

While the vice-president bit will be settled later in the year, before the AGM in September, the IPL issue is going to be taken up within 10 days.

Indeed, a move has begun to create the post of a co-chairman and to place the BCCI’s upright president, legal eagle Shashank Manohar, in that position.

Even if Modi somehow manages to survive, for now, a co-chairman would, at one stroke, end his free (often reckless) run.

The IPL has a vice-chairman, Niranjan Shah, but he isn’t the type to question Modi, who has made it a one-man show.

“Look, the income-tax department is calling it an inquiry, but the world sees it as a raid.… It’s a shameful first, thanks to Modi, and this could be absolutely the last straw,” a top BCCI source told The Telegraph.

Clearly, more knives are out for Modi, who has caused a furore with his indiscreet tweets on the ownership of Team Kochi, picked up by a consortium in last month’s auction for the two new IPL franchises.

Rookie Union minister Shashi Tharoor, Kochi’s mentor, is at the centre of the storm. While Tharoor may not have many admirers in his own party, the Modi tweets have embarrassed the Manmohan Singh government and, so, there’s much anger directed at the tweeter.

If the income-tax inquiry was intended to send a message, quite a few within the BCCI appear to have quickly taken note. It does seem, then, that the high-flying Modi cannot continue.

Having said that, T20 cricket produces surprises.

The role of senior Union minister Sharad Pawar will be watched with much interest. It’s no secret that, despite differences, he’d given Modi a free hand in building the IPL.

Tonight, Pawar (a former BCCI president and the next head of the International Cricket Council) defended Modi on the Team Kochi controversy.

Modi's appointment is for five years from 2007-08 and he can only be removed by the BCCI’s general body, with a two-thirds majority.

In any case, because of proximity to a former BJP chief minister, Modi is viewed as being close to the country’s principal Opposition party.

With the Congress calling the shots at the Centre, the BJP is the wrong party to be “affiliated” with.

Another well-placed source fears that a probe into the shareholding pattern of all the franchises may throw up an underworld link.

With so much muck flying around, the IPL could do without that.

Modi, ironically, has already shifted all the attention from on the field to off it. Today, more than batting/bowling performances, the biggest headlines are on allegations and denials.

Hardly cricket, is it?

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