New Delhi, March 27: Indian cricket went to bed tonight under an unfamiliar and unforgiving Damocles’ bat, unsure who will survive unscathed once the blade comes down, who will run its affairs after tomorrow and whether IPL VII will be held this season.
The Supreme Court today said it would prefer to keep out the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals from this year’s IPL and appoint former India captain Sunil Gavaskar as interim national cricket chief in place of Narayanswamy Srinivasan.
If the apex court formalises the same proposals through an order tomorrow, the cricket board will have to take a decision whether to go ahead with the Indian Premier League, which was to start on April 16 and which is already affected by the election schedule.
Srinivasan had this morning offered to step aside temporarily as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president. He had been sucked into the spot-fixing scandal after son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested on IPL betting charges last May.
Srinivasan “will not carry out the functions of the BCCI until the inquiry is complete,” his counsel T.R. Andhiarujina told the court.
Around 1pm, just before the court rose for lunch, the judges delivered the series of proposals that stunned the cricket establishment.
Questions may be raised whether the highest court of the land should spare time to decide which specific individual should be the interim chief of a sports body. But public reaction appeared to be heavily in favour of the Supreme Court, reflecting the revulsion among fans at the goings-on in the sport and a perception that the BCCI was trying to brazen it out despite being given several chances to redeem itself.
The bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Ibrahim Kalifulla said it would pass its orders tomorrow after hearing the lawyers representing the cricket board, the Royals and Srinivasan, whose company India Cements owns the Super Kings.
“Yes, we will hear you all but only for 10 minutes each,” the bench told senior counsel A. Sundaram (board), Andhiarujina and former additional solicitor-general Vikas Singh (Royals).
After mentioning the court’s plans on Gavaskar, Justice Patnaik asked Sundaram whether the move could trigger another “conflict of interest, because he is said to be doing some commentator’s job for the BCCI”.
Sundaram promised a response tomorrow.
The bench then wondered why the apex court-appointed Mukul Mudgal probe panel had cited Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman as role models to guide younger cricketers and not Gavaskar. The panel probably had in mind those who had retired recently. “Why has the panel not named Sunil Gavaskar? Gavaskar has got impeachable integrity, isn’t it?” the bench asked.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner and Bihar cricket official Aditya Verma, replied: “I don’t know. There are a good number of others like (former Test players) Bishan Singh Bedi and Farokh Engineer.”
He added: “I have seen Engineer on TV recently — he is still the same feisty person that he was as a player.”
Salve ripped into India captain M.S. Dhoni, Srinivasan and Gurunath, accusing them of directly or indirectly engaging in “corrupt practices” in the betting and spot-fixing racket. Salve accused Dhoni of indulging in a “cover-up”. (See chart below)
Dhoni skippers the Super Kings.
The bench asked: “Is it true that M.S. Dhoni is the vice-president of India Cements and captain of Chennai Super Kings?” There was no response from Sundaram or Andhiarujina.
Justice Patnaik asked: “Has it come on record that M.S. Dhoni is an employee of the CSK?”
Again, no reply.
Salve said that Super Kings players “Suresh Raina and Ravinder Jadeja are also employed with India Cements”.
The bench asked Salve: “By your submissions, you mean to say Meiyappan is a benami owner of CSK?”
“Yes, he is a benami owner,” Salve said.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for a petitioner, told the court that Chennai Super Kings captain M.S. Dhoni was also the vice-president of India Cements, which is controlled by BCCI president N. Srinivasan and owns the IPL team.
He said besides Dhoni, the chief financial officer of India Cements and its internal auditor were working for the BCCI as its financial officer and internal auditor, indicating that there was a conflict of interest.
Salve went on to say that “the captain of the Indian team is guilty of corrupt practices.
He appears with Mr Srinivasan before the committee (Mudgal) and says Meiyappan has nothing to do with the CSK. It is a false statement to get him off the hook. He indulged in a cover-up, which is a corrupt act. Nobody has suggested that any of these findings are incorrect. The statement by Dhoni has been found to be false on the basis of the evidence before the committee,” Salve said.