IPL: Glum end against a dreary backdrop

By Ant Sims 27 May 2013

The IPL came to an end on Sunday in a rather average match, played in front of a full house. The cricket itself was rather dull, but the goings-on off the field kept getting murkier. By ANT SIMS.

Against the backdrop of a massive fixing scandal – where nothing has been proved yet, but lots has been alleged – the final of the Indian Premier League took place on Sunday.

Chennai Super Kings had a rather epic meltdown, failing to chase down 149 – which was posted by Mumbai Indians, thanks largely to Kieron Pollard blasting 60 off 32. It all ended rather mechanically and the handover of the silverware went on as if programmed.

But off the field, the action keeps on coming.

With three Rajasthan Royals players arrested last week, police are insisting more cricketers are involved; yet nothing is coming to the fore. For a moment it seemed as if the boat had settled, even. Not so. That leaky and disintegrating boat was rocked again on Friday when Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested for his alleged involvement in the whole saga. Spot fixing has not been mentioned by anyone, simply that Meiyappan is involved in betting – something which is illegal in India, barring betting on horse racing. Police had said that allegedly there were “bets of large amounts placed on IPL matches” by Meiyappan.

Meiyappan was questioned by Mumbai Police on Friday before it was decided that there was enough evidence to implicate him in “the offence which the Mumbai police are investigating”. Many might shrug their shoulders and say: ‘Oh, well,’ but Meiyappan isn’t just another potentially dodgy guy. He’s the son-in-law of N Srinivasan, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

That might be enough to make one sit up, but the tangled web doesn’t stop there. Meiyappan is also associated with the Chennai Super Kings, a franchise owned by India Cements. Srinivasan is, of course, Vice-chairman and Managing Director of India Cements, making him de facto owner of CSK.

Meiyappan was at one stage known as “the team principle” of the Chennai Super Kings. He was the team owners’ representative in the dugout, was often there taking pictures and sharing trophies and the team, as well as some players, have referred to him as “team principle” or even “boss”. He’s also the man who lifted the paddle at the auctions and has often spoken about the auction strategy. It’s safe to say Meiyappan was rather intricately involved with CSK (of that there is no doubt) but that didn’t stop the franchise form severing their ties with him.

Since Meiyappan’s arrest, CSK have disassociated themselves from him faster Julian Assange can squeal “vendetta”. A statement was released by the franchise, stating: “Meiyappan is neither owner, nor CEO or Team Principal of IPL Franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Gurunath is only one of the Members [Honorary] of the Management Team of Chennai Super Kings.

“India Cements follows [a] zero tolerance policy and if anyone is proved guilty, strict action will be taken immediately. India Cements assures full co-operation with BCCI and the law enforcement authorities.”

This was issued by India Cements Executive President TS Raghupathy and while, on the surface, it might seem like a noble thing to do, it’s quite the opposite. The IPL’s rulebook states that the a franchise can be terminated if the owner acts in any way that has an adverse effect on the IPL’s reputation – and if Meiyappan is involved in the way it is alleged he is, it’s no good for the IPL’s reputation.

Tweets from the official CSK account had previously named Meiyappan as team principal, and his accreditation stating that he was the team owner. Even the man in question was quick to change his official bio on Twitter to sever all ties with the IPL franchise. (Whether this was under instruction or simply using his own logic nobody will ever know, but it is a curious move.)

Srinivasan promised a fair investigation will take place, but shied away from further explaining Meiyappan’s role at CSK.

“We have appointed a commission and in my statement I said the commission would determine this aspect also. He [Gurunath] has been travelling with the team, he’s been enthusiastic, fine,” Srinivasan said. “What his role was, whether it transcended any rule … I have already read in a statement saying that the commission that is appointed will also deal with it. So I don’t want to say anything because there is an inquiry commission that will go into it. I am not going to sit and explain to you what his role was. India Cements, I understand, has already issued a statement on what his role was and what his role was not … So I don’t think it is necessary for me to go further on this.”

When questioned again on Gurunath’s involvement with the Super Kings, Srinivasan said: “He [Gurunath] did not have any role at all. In fact, he never visited the office of the CSK. But he would go, he was enthusiastic. Let the commission find out. You asked me a question, I gave you a reply.”

It’s important to note that nothing has been proven yet and whatever Meiyappan got up to doesn’t seem to be directly linked to the dirty “f-word”. Police have made many claims since the initial arrests and while a number of bookies have been arrested since then, their claims of cricketers and additional matches being under the scanner are yet to materialise.

The police have acted cautiously and effectively up until now, and if there are any other investigations going on, perhaps they want to first ensure they have all their ducks in a row instead of becoming a sitting duck.

Two of the three arrested cricketers, Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan, have applied for bail. Their case will be heard on Tuesday.

As a certain infamous commentator would say: one gets the feeling this isn’t over. DM

Photo: Activists from the All India Democratic Youth Organisation set fire to the cardboard replica of a cricket bat during a protest against the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament and spot fixing in Kolkata May 26, 2013. Mumbai Police apprehended Gurunath Meiyappan, a key official of the IPL’s Chennai franchise, late on Friday in connection with a spot-fixing scandal that has also led to the arrest of three cricketers. Former India test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two other local cricketers were arrested last week on suspicion of taking money to concede a fixed number of runs and police have intensified investigations to discover the extent of the scandal. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri


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