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Greed And Sleaze May Taint Ipl


Follow the money - was the advice given by Deep Throat, the secret informant who helped two intrepid Washington Post journalists unravel the Watergate scandal, forcing Richard Nixon to resign as US president.

As the tax raid on the offices of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Mumbai showed, a similar trail might be followed to ascertain whether the transactions relating to various IPL teams have all been above board.

Considering that the T-20 IPL games of 2008 and 2009 had passed off without any allegations of financial irregularities, it was believed that cricket's reputation as the gentleman's game had survived the unprecedented multi-million dollar auctioning of teams and players. If there was any controversy, it was a mild one about the introduction of cheer girls beyond the boundary to add a previously unknown touch of glamour to the game.

It was apparently the huge success of IPLs I and II which might have prepared the ground for the scandals now surrounding IPL III. An element of greed was undoubtedly responsible for the decision to expand the format with the induction of two more teams for IPL IV next year, bringing the total to 10 and the number of matches to 90. With so much money floating around, more franchisees evidently wanted a share of the pie, a "free hit", to use a phrase denoting an IPL innovation where a batsman can hit a ball without fear of being caught or bowled.

As may be expected, where there is greed, there is bound to be sleaze. Hence, the intervention of the tax officials. But if malfeasance was presumed to be unavoidable in a situation where the distinction between a game and a business had been blurred, an extra dose of titillation had been added by the involvement of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, and his woman companion, and the wordy duels between the minister and Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner.

Inevitably, the not very pleasant exchanges between them have ensured that the television cameramen will perhaps be busier chasing these two men than the players. Suddenly, therefore, it is no longer Yuvraj Singh's angst over the loss of captaincy of Punjab Kings XI team, or the tussle for wearing the orange cup as the highest run-getter between Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis, which are of as much interest as the background of Sunanda Pushkar, Tharoor's socialite friend, who has sweat equity in a company that is part of the consortium that got the IPL Kochi franchise.

To add more spice to the scene, there have been reports of Modi having asked Tharoor during their days of better relationship not to extend the visa of a South African model and Miss IPL Bollywood of 2009. And, as if all this wasn't exciting enough, rumours were current about Tharoor receiving death threats from the infamous "D company" or the underworld don, Dawood Ibrahim, who is supposed to be based in Pakistan.

If Kochi seemed an unlikely town to bid for an IPL team because of Kerala's lack of a cricketing tradition (notwithstanding Sreesanth's emergence in recent years), its position was sought to be undermined by a few members of the consortium that won the franchise who apparently wanted the team to move to Ahmedabad.

Again, like other mysteries about the extent of ownership of the various teams, the identities of those who wanted to leave Kochi in the dump is unknown although among the high-ups they approached were union Minister Sharad Pawar and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Pawar is a former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Modi is president of the Gujarat Cricket Association.

The IPL has been one of the great success stories of Indian cricket. Its inauguration coincided with India's success in the T-20 world cup and brought a host of legendary, well-established and highly promising young foreign players to make the competition a memorable affair. The IPL has also helped a large number of budding Indians to rub shoulders with the greats of the game and undergo a unique learning experience, which cannot but benefit Indian cricket.

The razzmatazz associated with the game, which carries the IPL's bold signature, and the presence of foreign umpires and commentators have made India the envy of the cricketing world because of the highly effective worldwide television coverage.