Forgive me, Indian readers, but I only recently discovered N. Srinivasan and his octopus-like reach in Indian cricket. For those not in the know, Srinivasan has an unbelievable amount of power: the former Sheriff of Madras, he is currently the BCCI’s Treasurer (and Duncan Fletcher’s minder); co-owner of the Chennai Super Kings (he presented Dhoni the IPL trophy this weekend); president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association; member of the IPL governing council (and Lalit Modi scourge), and, just because he wants it, the president of the All India Chess Federation. (And he does a terrible job at it, apparently).
Prem Panicker has done a good job outlining why so much concentrated power is a bad thing (and why ‘conflict of interest’ laws need to be strengthened). Excerpt from a characteristically thorough and pungent post:
First, [franchise officials] point out, [Srinivasan] almost single-handedly rammed in the player retention clause when, besides CSK and Mumbai, all other franchises were against it. ‘If the IPL is democratically run, how come decisions are taken just because it suits one or two franchises?,’ one person closely connected with an under-rated franchise asked on phone. Further, Srinivasan set the norms for the auction, decided which player would go in which category, and when each name would come up for auction — which is just dandy since, as a team-owner, he could in advance plan the CSK strategy, then tailor the auction process to suit his team.
Sharda Ugra also spelled out the problems with the current set-up and how it affected Gautam Gambhir’s treatment:
Through the saga of Gambhir – and, before him, the similar case of Virender Sehwag – the simplest question is this: which of the three parties in this case could have made the most-objective decision? The player, for whom the financial benefit – his contract with Kolkata Knight Riders was worth $2.4 million a season – of playing 64 hours of cricket over six weeks is far too lucrative to ignore? The franchise, whose most expensive auction pick was turning out to be its most valuable one? Or the BCCI, the IPL’s owners, whose essential job is to ensure the health and welfare of that entity called “Indian cricket?”
I don’t know much about sports administration, and I frequently lament coverage of Indian cricket in India, which naturally tends to focus much more on the sport than who runs it. I remain disturbed that Sharad Pawar, another wearer of many hats, thinks he can run both Indian agriculture and Indian cricket at the same time (to say nothing about Maharasthra, one of India’s biggest and most complicated states). I now realize that Fletcher’s praise of the BCCI as more “modern” may have been mere flattery.
The general hope is that a scandal — financial or otherwise — will lead to a more streamlined and objective administration. I’m increasingly skeptical. We see now, as Panicker notes, that the usual mode is that a scandal merely displaces one set of elite interests for another (from Dalmiya to Pawar; from Modi to Srinivasan). My requests to bloggers: do you know any reporter who covers the BCCI/state associations? And do you know what an IPL cricket players association would look like?