Pritish Nandy has a major grouse against those who seem to be spending a lot of time in unearthing the rot that has set into the Indian Premier League (IPL). Or so he points out in a blog titled Three idiots and a scam that won’t die.
He feels that this attention to the cricket’s biggest money spinner is undue and is taking away attention from other important issues that plague the country. He also feels that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter because Indians will still watch cricket, match fixing or not.
As he writes “The day news channels were chasing Gurunath Meiyappan all the way from Kodaikanal to Madurai to Mumbai to the Crime Branch at midnight, millions were happily sitting in front of their TVs watching Mumbai Indians battling Rajasthan Royals at the Eden Gardens, proving yet again that there are two Indias with their own sets of concerns and priorities. I confess I was among those watching the game, rooting for Rahul Dravid whose team lost with a ball to spare.”
This is a rather specious argument to make. A lot of people watched the match Nandy is talking about (including this writer). And among those who watched a significant portion must have been rooting for Rahul Dravid and Rajasthan Royals(including this writer). Now that does not mean that people are not bothered about the rot that has set into the IPL and wouldn’t want the dirt to come out. In fact, I can make a similar generalisation and say that a lot of people that I know stopped watching IPL after the spot fixing allegations came out. Also, people were interested in the match to see how Dravid and Rajasthan Royals perform after three of their cricketers were arrested for spot fixing. Truth, as is always the case, is mutli-layered.
Nandy feels that N Srinivasan should be allowed to continue as the President of the the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). Srinivasan is also the Vice Chairman of India Cements, the company which owns Chennai Super Kings (CSK), the best performing team in the IPL. The logic that Nandy offers is that “a father-in-law is the last person to know what his son-in-law is up to. Allowing him to stay in his holiday home in Kodaikanal is not the same as endorsing his petty vices or (as yet unsubstantiated) attempts to fix IPL matches.” That is a fair point when viewed in isolation.
But how does Nandy explain the zeal with which Srinivasan has gone about disassociating himself and CSK from his son in law Gurunath Meiyappan? The people of this country have even been told that Meiyappan was just an enthusiastic supporter of CSK and nothing more. This despite the fact that there is a lot of evidence in the public domain to the contrary. Gurunath Meiyappan’s Twitter account clearly said he was the Team Principal of the CSK. So did his visiting cards.
As the old adage goes Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion which is clearly not the case here. At least till the various investigations into spot fixing are over, Srinivasan should stay away from the BCCI. And anyway there is a huge conflict of interest with Srinivasan being the BCCI president as well as the Vice Chairman of the company which owns CSK.
As the India Today points out “Srinivasan’s team (CSK) is under the jurisdiction of the tournament’s governing council, which in turn is under his own jurisdiction as the board’s all powerful boss.”
Nandy gives further reasons in support of Srinivasan and calls for the status quo to be maintained. As he writes “But I really think we are all playing into the hands of those who have much more to hide than these dolts. Srinivasan’s enemies (and heaven knows, he has far too many of them) are having a field day. But ask yourself, do you really care whether he heads the BCCI or Sharad Pawar. Or Rajiv Shukla.”
This is a statement which has fallen victim to the fallacy of relevance “two wrongs make a right”. What Nandy is basically saying here is that I know Srinivisan is the wrong man for the job, but then so are Sharad Pawar and Rajeev Shukla, and given that Srinivasan should continue. But since when have two wrongs started to make a right?
Nandy also rues the fact that so much attention has been given to the spot fixing in IPL that the retirement of Vinod Rai, India’s bravest Comptroller and Auditor General has gone unnoticed. As he writes “What bothers me is the carpet bombing scam coverage that ensured there were no goodbyes for the man who with evangelical zeal exposed the sleazy underbelly of Indian politics over the past 5 years, and did his best to set it right. Worse, there was no debate over who his successor ought to be. So the Government sneaked in its own nominee, clearly to undo some of the outstanding work Vinod Rai, India’s bravest Comptroller and Auditor General did in his own low key style.”
In case Nandy does read India’s largest selling English newspaper, The Times of India (Nandy’s blog is published on the newspaper’s website) he would have realised that on May 20, 2013, a full page interview with Rai was published. Now when was the last time you saw a mainstream newspaper carry a full page interview with a retiring bureaucrat? Forget that, when was the last time you saw a mainstream newspaper carry a full page interview with a politician?
Rai’s retirement was well covered by other newspapers as well. Hence, holding IPL responsible for Vinod Rai not getting a proper send off from the media doesn’t really hold. And more than that the media played a huge role in publicising a lot of what was written in the CAG reports on the various scam. Rai admitted to as much in the interview when he said “The other factor that worked in our favour was you – the media, the 24×7 channels. Media has become so alert and it knows what needs to be highlighted. From our report, the media picked up only substantial issues.”
Nandy feels that all the attention that IPL has drawn is putting other issues on the backburner. “Several other crucial issues that were being debated in the public space, like China’s incursions in Ladakh, the Vadera land deals, Muslim youth arrested and held for years on trumped up terrorist charges and now being released and, above all, the Supreme Court demanding the freeing of the CBI from the Government’s unholy clutches are now on the backburner. Even the Ranbaxy issue, where intrepid whistle blower Dinesh Thakur exposed the grave misdemeanours of one of India’s leading pharma companies and the dangers implicit in those for millions of us who buy its products, have been largely ignore,” he writes.
Let’s take the Ranbaxy issue here first. The company has to pay a fine of $500 million for selling adulterated drugs in the United States. This is big news, which was covered on the front pages of most English newspapers. But is this piece of news bigger than spot fixing in the IPL? The answer is no, simply because more readers would want to read about spot fixing than Ranbaxy. And a newspaper has to cater to that basic need.
This will happen anywhere in the world. The readability of any piece of news is likely to decide how much it is played up in comparison to other news. Let me give an example here to elaborate. Lets say baseball or basketball in the United States faces fixing allegations. At the same time some big drug company (lets say Pfizer) is fined for selling adulterated drugs. Which piece of news is going to get more coverage in general American newspapers? Of course the fixing scandal. A business newspaper on the other hand may concentrate more on the drug company. Most Indian business newspapers have covered the Ranbaxy story in great detail.
Also, if any newspaper were to concentrate more on the Ranbaxy issue and not on spot fixing in the IPL, it would lose readers, given that other newspapers wouldn’t be doing the same. Nandy having been an editor in the past, should surely understand this rather basic point.
As far as the other issues like freeing the CBI from clutches of the government is concerned, a lot has been written by newspapers, magazines and websites. And as and when some new information comes out they will surely get back to it.
Nandy concludes his piece by saying “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn.” There are number of reasons that the spot fixing issue needs to be sorted out through and through. In the year 2000, a certain Mohammed Azharuddin was accused of match fixing. A lot of evidence was put forward. But ultimately other than a life ban nothing really happened. Azharuddin is now a Congress MP. Another accused Ajay Jadeja, is now a cricket expert on television. It is important that those responsible for the spot fixing in IPL be punished enough so as to ensure that they don’t come back to public life again.
India is a country starved of heroes. Our politicians are corrupt. Our bureaucrats are corrupt. And our businessmen are corrupt. Its the cricketers who are our roles models. And if these role models also turn out to be corrupt, who will we look up to? Given this, the mess in the IPL needs to be sorted out.
Let me conclude with the oft used cliché. Cricket is not just a sport in this country, it’s a religion. And when you mess around with religion, people are bound to be angry.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on May 30,2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)