Just not cricket

Politics and questions of conduct are bound to follow the course of big money everywhere, including sports. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has great entertainment value and that has made it an investment destination also. The controversy over the Kochi IPL team and the conduct of the minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor and IPL commissioner Lalit Modi have exposed the seamy underbelly of the popular cricketing event. The conduct of both and the spat between them have given rise to suspicions of improper dealings, use of unaccounted money, backroom manoeuvres, manipulations and even use of threats in the IPL business. The mutual attacks have also become personal.

The Congress has asked Tharoor to explain himself and the BCCI has convened a meeting to discuss Modi’s conduct. Both are guilty of improprieties. Tharoor had claimed that his association with the consortium which won the Kochi IPL team for a whopping Rs 1,533 crore was as a well-wisher but now it has turned that a close female friend of the minister has a substantial stake in it. Modi has been accused of trying to undermine the consortium bid, allegedly to secure it for other interested parties, or to get an IPL team for Ahmedabad. Both sides have said the other had tried to put pressure on the process and wrongly influence decisions.

The BCCI has not taken kindly to Modi’s revelation of the shareholding details of the Kochi team’s consortium. If that can be made public, similar details about other IPL franchisees also need to be in the public domain. There have been questions, for example, about the shareholding pattern in the Jaipur IPL with which Lalit Modi is thought to be associated. Charges of proxy ownership are there in the case of other teams too. There have also been questions about the transparency of the IPL bidding process. The present controversy may give an opportunity to clean up the process, but it is unlikely to be seized, as big money and interests are involved. In any case, if Tharoor has acted wrongly and in a way unbecoming of his position, the party and the prime minister should take action against him. This is not the first time that he has created embarrassment for both. The BCCI should also ensure that Modi does not play his own games at the expense of cricket and does not become larger than his position.

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