Showing posts with label IPL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IPL. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Clean Up the BCCI

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion.”
Abraham Lincoln 

While I do not want our Supreme Court to play judge, jury and executioner, they are also the last resort to save our sport from the cesspool it has been reduced to by the very men who were tasked with stewarding it. In this regard I am glad that the court has taken a rather dim view of the BCCI board’s actions, or lack thereof, in the illegal betting scandal that engulfed the last IPL.

The two Justices have shown public disdain for Mr. Srinivasan from the time they called his refusal to step aside “nauseating.” While it is easy to detest a man like Srinivasan, it would not bode well for the credibility of our legal system if we were to cast him aside purely on the grounds that he is not a likeable man or for his lack of honour and integrity. Additionally, as tempting as it may be for every Indian and cricket lover to see Mr. Srinivasan being bashed around and bullied by these Justices, in the end they must find substantive legal grounds to usher in his demise and to restore credibility to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Finding impropriety in the BCCI board’s actions and lack of governance should not be very hard for the court to do. The BCCI’s defense of Srinivasan has been laughable. I am no legal expert, but it seems there are already three very serious and clear violations of the board’s code of ethics that may also constitute legal grounds for some serious action by the court. 

1. Conflict of Interest
This is common sense and something that EVERY governing body in the world adheres to. Srinivasan’s ownership of the Chennai Super Kings would be the equivalent of American Football Commissioner Roger Goodell's owning the New England Patriots or another team. It is absolutely absurd. The fact that Srinivasan and the BCCI legal team are actually trying to defend his ownership of the Chennai Super Kings just demonstrates how deluded and absolutely corrupt their absolute power has made them. 

2. Perjury
Srinivasan and MS Dhoni both stated publicly and vehemently that Gurunath Meiyappan’s role in the Chennai Super Kings was nothing more than that of a cricket enthusiast. The court-appointed Mudgal investigation has concluded that Meiyappan was in fact a team official, and functioned more like their CEO. It would seem that both men lied. At worst they have perjured themselves; at best they were protecting a person whom they knew had been implicated in an illegal betting ring. Both should be held criminally culpable if they did willfully mislead the court appointed panel.

3. Board Governance & Credibility
After the allegations surfaced, the arrest made of Srinivasan’s son-in-law, and the fact that the team he owns was implicated in the IPL illegal match fixing scandal, the logical (and honourable) thing for him to do would have been to resign. Instead Srinivasan did the opposite and refused to budge. After much public pressure, he was forced to step aside while he personally appointed a committee that cleared him and his son-in-law of any wrongdoing.  It was not until the Supreme Court intervened that he truly stepped aside, although by all accounts he has continued to make all the major decisions, running the board remotely.

The net result of all this is that Srinivasan and this BCCI board have lost all credibility. No matter what actions the court demands, they can no longer be counted upon to conduct an unbiased or impartial investigation, or to implement the changes needed to restore credibility to cricket’s wealthiest and most powerful governing body.

So what can be done? We need to go back to the basic tenets of the BCCI’s mandate and in doing so bring back meaning to the emblem of the Order of the Star of India, India's highest order of chivalry during the British Raj. To this end, I hope the court can find sufficient legal grounds to not only publicly discredit the current board and all the administrators, making their continued tenure impossible, but also initiate legal proceedings against many of these men.

For cricket to have a future and for the BCCI to regain credibility, we must put in place new court-imposed rules and regulations. I do not believe any solution should involve a takeover or greater involvement from the government. That said, it is also not going to be sufficient to simply remove Srinivasan and his cronies; this would treat the symptom and not the cancer. The power vacuum left behind will quickly be filled by equally despotic men like Sharad Pawar or Lalit Modi. What we need is a complete overhaul of the BCCI’s functioning and structure, along with new blood to run it.

Here are my suggestions for our Supreme Court, on both the legal actions I hope they initiate and the functional changes they should mandate to truly reform the BCCI:

LEGAL ACTIONS:
1. N Srinivasan to be banned from holding any position in Indian cricket, for life.
2. Start a criminal investigation of M.S. Dhoni and N. Srinivasan for conflict of interest issues and misrepresenting CSK team management facts to court appointed panel
3. Disqualify Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from IPL, for 3-5 years
4. Tainted players to be suspended while being investigated; banned for life if found guilty
5. Owners of both teams to forfeit ownership and never be allowed to own an IPL team
6. Legalise sports betting
7. Bring BCCI under Right to Information Act (RTI) 

MANAGEMENT & STRUCTURAL REFORMS
1. Ban politicians (current & former) from being on board or part of management of BCCI or any regional/state cricket associations

2. Ensure strong conflict of interest rules added to BCCI constitution, i.e. no administrator or employee of BCCI should be allowed to own a stake in any of team, franchises or cricketing venture where they may financially benefit as a result of their position within BCCI.

3. Bring in caretaker board and administration for one year while reforms are being implemented. The idea is to completely revamp the current management structure to prevent future abuse and corruption:
  • Create a governing board consisting of two ex-cricketers, two retired judges, two individuals from private sector. Each person would serve a one-time term of three years
  • Divide the current President position into two offices;
    • President (appointed by governing panel) would oversee all cricketing affairs and retain all other current roles and responsibilities with exception of the business/financial side i.e. sponsorships, advertising, media rights negotiations, etc.
    • Add a non-elected CEO position, also hired by the governing panel to run the BCCI for a term of two years. CEO would be hired from the private sector
    • Both positions would have two-term limit with each term being limited to two years
  • Change status of BCCI to a corporation that is for profit but also for benefit to society, akin to a B Corporation in the USA
  • Officials holding positions in state cricketing bodies cannot simultaneously hold positions within the BCCI administration or its various committees
  • All monies dispensed to state associations must be accounted for at the end of the fiscal year by an external and independent auditor; this includes the BCCI financials
  • All monies spent by state associations should be used to further the cause of and promote cricket in their respective states
  • All infrastructure projects must follow an online blind bidding process with final bid award being made under supervision of CEO and board for projects above certain amount
These are some of the things that I believe will help provide much-needed transparency and accountability to the BCCI and help restore its credibility with the fans. Granted they are a private body and should remain one, but since their mission has always been about growing the sport in the public interest, there always needs to be a balance between the their autonomy and the oversight required. 

ALSO READ: Open Letter to N. Srinivasan, BCCI President

Friday, April 4, 2014

Open Letter to Narayanaswami Srinivasan, former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)


“As he was valiant, I honour him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.”
William Shakespeare 

Dear Mr. Srinivasan,

The tragedy in this saga is the fact that the sport that you were meant to champion and steward has been the greatest victim of your hubris. We realise that money can buy many things; votes, support from local, regional and even international cricketing boards but what you have never understood is that it cannot buy you the one thing you covet most – respect. 

Granted money also buys you the illusion of power, and make no mistake that it is nothing more than an illusion, because it is based entirely on surrounding yourself with spineless sycophants who will march to your tune, follow your orders and fill you with hot air – as long as you keep lining their greedy and sweaty palms and not a moment longer. You see it is only your money that these people respect, and not you. If this type of power is all you seek, then I feel sorry that you will never know what it feels like to truly earn the respect of people, based on your deeds and your actions; the only real and lasting respect in this life.

The respect to which I refer could have been earned by building a true legacy for the BCCI, by furthering the cause of cricket and doing right by it. This honour is earned by putting your country and our sport first. It is an honour reserved for men who are willing take on the greatest mandate the BCCI has ever had in its history, and use it to put India and Indian cricket on the world stage. For years global cricket was dominated by a small minority of overlords in England and Australia because they had the financial muscle to call all the shots. Even though it was the contribution of many other teams and boards that enabled the growth of cricket, the power structure remained unchanged. 

Then came an era of explosive economic growth in BRICs which helped open the floodgates of fan support in Asia. Along with the tide of fans came a tidal wave of advertisers and marketers falling over themselves to write large cheques to the BCCI for a small share of the billion plus Indian eyeballs and wallets. It is easy to discount another very important reason for this cricket frenzy and that is the men who wore the Indian blues with great élan on and off the field during the same time. I am talking not of our current young Turks who earn six figure paydays for IPL matches but of the men who played this sport because it was their passion; Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tedulkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh to name a few, can be credited with lifting India on their able shoulders; their dedication, integrity and hard work took Indian cricket to its zenith, thus giving the BCCI a mandate that a single cricket board will likely never again have. 

However, under your stewardship the BCCI chose to exercise this authority not by showcasing our largesse as a nation or by commanding the world’s respect based on our actions but by embarking on a small minded, medieval and myopic grab for power. Your BCCI focused all its efforts on gaining control over cricket’s governing body, the ICC, fought for more revenues (BCCI already has more money than they know what to do with), threatened meeker boards to submit to your whims and fancies, and bullied everyone into allowing you to be crowned Chair of ICC.

For years the BCCI opined about how poorly all the non-white teams were treated; about how the sub-continental boards were underrepresented and never given a voice. For years we complained about the fact that there were no TV cameras at the World Cup we went on to win, when India and Kapil Dev outplayed Zimbabwe, as it was not considered an important match for the ICC to waste precious resources on. Under your stewardship of the BCCI, India had a chance to shine by presenting ourselves as a beacon of fairness and integrity. We had a chance to lead by example and show the world that when the tables turned and we had the decree to lead, we did not spend our time trying to even old scores or by seeking revenge. But that we showed our one-time oppressors how everybody deserves to be treated - based on their contribution to the sport and not based on the colour of their skin or the thickness of their accent. 

We had a chance to demonstrate that we can take the high road, the path less traveled and carry even those who once exploited us, showing them a better way forward. You could have brought the minnows of cricket in from the cold and leveled the playing field forever. After accomplishing all this you would have likely won the ICC chair on merit and based on overwhelming support from every cricket board in the world. 

Then you could have focused the ICC’s energies along with the BCCI’s financial muscle on spreading cricket fever into the untapped meccas of football. From Europe to South America, you could have recruited the game’s greatest ambassadors and dispatched them to spread the cricketing gospel; through IPL style exhibitions games designed to light a spark in young impressionable minds the world over; at a time when many are losing faith in the religion of football based on their sports own recent scandals. 

This, Mr. Srinivasan, could have been your legacy for the BCCI, for Indian cricket and for India. And it is for squandering this opportunity that you owe your countrymen an apology before you go quietly into the night.

Yours Sincerely,
A Cricket Fan

READ Cricket's Obituary: Demise of a Gentleman’s Sport

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Open Letter to Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo

“This above all, to thine own self be true.”
William Shakespeare

Dear Ms. Nooyi,

Among corporate leaders today, I believe you are among only a handful that have had the courage to stand up to both shareholders and Wall Street. Rather than bow to quarterly results pressures you have orchestrated a corporate strategy that embraces a long-term vision for your company. One that will no doubt help Pepsi become a more responsible corporate citizen as it re-balances its products and portfolio to have a greater focus on health. Rather than push for short-term profits, you have taken the harder road and the one less travelled. For this I have a great deal of respect for you and it is in large part the reason I am sending this open letter to you.

I believe integrity, honour and doing the right things are important to you, and that these are values you hold more dearly than those of simply pursuing and delivering bottom-line results, at all costs. Under your stewardship, PepsiCo’s corporate philosophy seems to be more than words on your website: “we believe acting ethically and responsibly is not only the right thing to do, but also the right thing to do for our business.” 

PepsiCo recently became the main sponsor of the Indian Premier League (IPL), reportedly signing a Rupees 396.8 crore deal for a five year sponsorship of the IPL (source: Wikipedia). The IPL and its owners, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are currently engulfed in a massive illegal betting and match fixing scandal that has tainted this tournament, the sport and distressed its loyal fan base. Worse than the unfolding scandal has been the spineless response to the crisis from its governing body, the BCCI. The President has refused to resign unconditionally, even though his son-in-law (CEO of one of the main IPL teams) has been directly implicated. The farce that is currently being orchestrated is not only shameful but blatantly unethical. And it is now clear that there will be no “real” attempt made by the BCCI to get to the bottom of the scandal or cleanse this great sport. Instead, they seem to believe that by trying to pull the wool over our eyes they will be able to keep their purse strings intact and continue to fill their coffers. This without any consideration for the reputation of the sport they are charged with stewarding or any shred of respect for the fans that fill those coffers.

This is why I am reaching out to you, to implore you to do the right thing and disassociate your company and this great brand and sever all ties with Indian cricket. PepsiCo should terminate its IPL sponsorship immediately and unconditionally; until such time as there is has been an unbiased, fully transparent and ethically conducted investigation into the improprieties and an effort made to rid the sport of this cancer. Show us that PepsiCo is willing to stand by its stated corporate values, ethics, and integrity and do the socially responsible thing in India. Show us that even when the financial stakes are high for the company that you will follow your own guiding principle that states: “Speak with truth and candor: We tell the whole story, not just what's convenient to our individual goals.” 

Like most Indians, cricket has been a religion for me also. Ever since I could walk I have adored the game, revered its players and most of all admired the gentlemanly values that the game embodies. Today, I ask you to help me save this game from the powerful few who have hijacked it and turned it into a corrupt racket. To save it from those who believe they can run it like a personal fiefdom with scant regard for the sport or for the one billion people who cherish it.

You have the power to send a message to the BCCI and IPL in the only way that will matter to them. Today, I ask you to help us take the first step in giving cricket back to the people of India and the world.

Sincerely,
Mr. Vaish 

NOTE: Here is the text of the response I got from PepsiCo. Sadly, it feels like standard form letter. However, I am still hopeful we will see some action by their senior management.

Dear Mr. Vaish,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at PepsiCo. Your letter to Ms. Nooyi was shared with me for response.

We appreciate the time you took to share your sincere feelings regarding this topic and for the constructive spirit in which they were offered.

Please know that I've shared your concerns with our senior management team to be sure that they fully understand your position.

Sincerely,
Consumer Relations Associate Supervisor 
  

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Can cricket save India?

“The price of greatness is responsibility. 
Winston Churchill

Cricket is still considered a gentleman’s game. It is one of the oldest and largest global sports still steeped in tradition and old fashioned sporting values; derived from its 16th century origins in Southern England (source: Wikipedia). Ironically, cricket’s dominance and governing power structure have also mirrored the shifting balance of global economic power from the West to the East. Today, India’s Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the most powerful cricket governing body in the world based on its financial clout. It is single-handedly able to make the rules about how and where the game is played.  Much like India vies to become a Superpower on the world stage, the BCCI in many ways already has become one. However, with great power comes great responsibility and this is a lesson that like India, the BCCI have yet to learn.

The BBCI is currently embroiled in a massive image tarnishing illegal betting scandal that involves spot and match fixing where players were paid to underperform to produce outcomes in Indian Premier League (IPL) matches. That there is illegal gambling in cricket is not a surprise to anyone, but the extent and sheer audacity of this latest scandal is greater and farther reaching than any we have witnessed in the past. International and Indian cricket players have been caught, fined and banned in the past, but beyond that absolutely nothing has been done to cleanse the sport of this plague. In fact, since the last time there was evidence of illegal activities, instead of becoming more transparent and creating a zero-tolerance policy for ridding the sport of this cancer, it feels like the BCCI closed ranks, brought more politicians onto their board and created a smaller circle of elite Indians to protect their nexus and corruption. Thus far the fans have been content to look the other way as long as they were entertained and a few heads rolled, every time there was a scandal. This time it feels very different and the public outrage seems to be growing.

The IPL betting scandal not only involves top Indian players but also movie stars, bookies, the underworld, business and cricketing officials, and politicians; Bollywood could not have come up with a richer cast of characters or more intriguing storyline. To fully understand the far reaching ramifications of this current scandal, let’s start with the fact that the current head of the BCCI is a businessman named N. Srinivasan who also happens to be the owner one of the most successful teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL) - Chennai Super Kings. That alone should have been sufficient ground to disqualify him from holding the posts he does as President of BCCI and the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, anywhere else in the world. But this type of cronyism is nothing new in India. That fact aside, one of the revelations from the still unfolding scandal is that Mr. Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, (supposedly CEO of the Chennai Super Kings franchise) has been implicated in the illegal betting, by one of the prime accused. Naturally, this makes Mr. Srinivasan’s position untenable and one would expect him to immediately tender his resignation. It would not only be the honourable thing to do as head of the tainted sport, but also necessary because of the clear impropriety involved in any BCCI investigation into the matter, as it involves his family member. Instead of resigning, Mr. Srinivasan has chosen to go on the offensive. He says he did nothing wrong, and has even suggested that it is the media who is responsible for sullying his reputation and integrity. So drunk on power and deluded is Mr. Srinivasan that he has the tenacity to claim that he can proceed in an unbiased manner. So he has personally appointed a panel (consisting also of two BCCI board members) to investigate the matter and bring all the culprits to justice. It is a sad testament to what those in power have reduced honour and responsibility to in India. 

Cricket is a religion in India. We hold cricketers in higher esteem than movie stars and Gods. So while the stakes are high with this scandal at home, because the BCCI is a $200 million business, it now has global tentacles and an image that goes well beyond domestic cricket. So I believe that the way we handle this latest scandal will have far reaching consequences that will define how India is seen and respected on the world stage. This time we cannot hide from or pretend that it will be swept under the rug like every other political scandal that the world could not care less about. Not only are the eyes of the cricketing world fixed on this scandal, but given the vast sums of money and global commercial interests, it will be the cynosure of all eyes. The BCCI also mirrors all that is wrong with India; the business-political nexus with two of its board members being a senior member from each of the main political parties. Even one of the most controversial and vociferous future prime ministerial candidates, Narendra Modi (Gujarat’s Chief Minister) who happens to head the Gujarat Cricket Association has stayed uncharacteristically silent on the issue thus far. So far the BCCI board has also shown no signs of developing a spine and calling for Mr. Srinivasan’s removal. Nor have any senior well-respected cricketers, who are on BCCI’s payroll.

The future of India hangs in the balance because we have a real chance to show the world that we can be taken seriously by stepping up to the plate and cleaning up cricket. We should introduce transparency, fairness and rules that apply to all, just like on the cricket field. We can break both the underworld and business nexus with politics that is also prevalent in guiding every aspect of decision-making in commerce and public policy in India, today. And we can show the world that there are still gentlemen left in Indian cricket; who have honour, integrity and the courage to stand up and do the right thing for the good of the sport, its adoring fans and an entire nation and world that reveres cricket. India can lead and set the example, and the moral standard, for the world to follow; the way a Superpower should. Or we can once again all look the other way, as an investigation drags on for years and finally exonerates all those involved and we remain a banana republic where anyone can be bought for a price. I hope we choose wisely.

UPDATE: Read my Open Letter to PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi


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