Tuesday was a historic day for Indian cricket. In an order of far reaching consequences, the RM Lodha committee has suspended India Cements and Jaipur IPL, the owners of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals IPL teams, for a period of two years. The committee has also banned for life Gurunath Meiyappan, a former team official of Super Kings, and Raj Kundra, a former Royals co-owner, from any involvement in cricket matches. The order will have implications on the working of the BCCI, the Indian Premier League and when one considers that N Srinivasan is also the chairman of the International Cricket Council, on the world game as a whole. However most cricket fans will agree that however severe the order may be, this is a welcome development which can shake the foundations of the BCCI. It must be noted that the Supreme Court on January 22 had set up the committee comprising Justice Lodha, Justice Ashok Bhan (retired) and Justice R Raveendran (retired) to determine the quantum of punishment for Meiyappan, Kundra and their respective franchises. The committee was also asked to investigate the role of Sundar Raman, the Chief Operation Officer of the IPL and also suggests measures to improve the administration of the BCCI. The Committee is yet to disclose its findings with respect to the above two matters and will do so in the future.
On the face of it, the committee has merely applied the law and the BCCI and the IPL regulations. But cricket fans are relived since the law has actually been applied simply because it seemed that the BCCI and its hierarchy were reluctant to take any action. Ironically, had the BCCI themselves acted quickly against Meiyappan and Kundra, they have would have been saved from the censure of the Supreme Court and perhaps even the franchisee would have been saved from suspension. The Mudgal panel had found, and this was later confirmed by a the Supreme Court, that Meiyappan and Kundra, through their acts of betting, had violated the IPL’s Operational Rules, the IPL’s Anti-Corruption Code for Participants and the IPL’s Code of Conduct for Players and Team Officials.
The Lodha committee in its findings recorded that Gurunath Meiyappan was an integral member of the Chennai Super Kings and inspite of occupying a responsible position he had committed an offences like being in touch with bookies and placing bets on IPL matches. As per the committee these offences necessitated a life-ban. Further in respect of India Cements Limited, it was held the Company was vicariously liable for the acts of Mr. Meiyappan. Raj Kundra was considered to have committed the offence of betting as a result of which the image of the BCCI, the IPL and the game of cricket had been tarnished. The committee observed that players of Rajasthan Royals had been accused of spot fixing and by indulging in betting as an owner, Kundra was not providing a great example to his players. Jaipur IPL was guilty of not checking and acting on Kundra’s wrongdoings. Accordingly, under the terms of the IPL’s Operational Rules, both India Cements and Jaipur IPL were suspended as Franchisees.
It is still not clear as to what happens to the players. Also unclear is the status of the teams from Chennai and Jaipur in the event of the change of ownership. If India Cements divest its stake in the Chennai Super Kings, can the team take part in the next IPL? Likewise are Rajasthan Royals entitled to take part if they are controlled by new owners? Technically, India Cements and Jaipur IPL have won the rights with respect to the IPL teams from their respective cities. Both of these entities are well within their rights to accept the ban, wait for two years and then re- enters the IPL fold. Will the BCCI accept this? Will the IPL then be a six team event for the next two years? What will be status of the players under contract with both these entities? These are some of the questions that need to be clarified. It is being reported that the BCCI is mulling a fresh auction for the teams of Chennai and Jaipur. But that can only take place if the two entities in question do not appeal against the findings of the Lodha Committee and decide to terminate their relationship with the IPL.
There is still some work to do for the BCCI but the first steps taken yesterday thanks to the Lodha Committee promises a new beginning for cricket in India. Hopefully it is not a false dawn.