The RM Lodha panel, instituted by the Supreme Court to investigate allegations of corruption and match fixing in the IPL, has just announced that the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings franchises will be suspended from the IPL for two years. However, if the owners sell the franchises, they will be able to continue to take part in the IPL – thus the suspension applies to the teams’ owners only. The Royals’ co-owner Raj Kundra, who had confessed to betting on IPL matches to the Delhi police in 2013, has been banned from cricketing activities for life. Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of former BCCI president (and current ICC chairman) N Srinivasan, has also received a similar ban; he too has been found guilty of betting on matches.
The IPL betting scandal broke in May 2013, when three players from the Royals franchise – S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – were arrested on charges of match fixing. Subsequently, Raj Kundra and Gurunath Meiyappan were summoned by the police for questioning; Kundra confessed to the charges, while Meiyappan denied any wrongdoing. He was quickly removed from his official position as team owner of the Super Kings, and the franchise effectively washed its hands off him. N Srinivasan’s name was brought into the ambit of the investigation, and he too denied any wrongdoing.
In the two years leading up to today’s verdict, the BCCI has banned Sreesanth and Chavan for life (Chandila’s fate hasn’t been decided yet) and has found itself on the receiving end of the Supreme Court’s ire. Its internally-appointed committee essentially whitewashed the entire scandal, finding Kundra and Meiyappan not guilty, but a PIL filed by the Bihar Cricket Association challenged the legality of the committee, leading to the Bombay High Court striking down the its findings.
The Supreme Court then took over, instituting the Mudgal panel to take over investigations. It also instructed N Srinivasan to step down as BCCI president, saying “How did he stay on despite all the allegations? His staying on is nauseating for cricket.” Among other things, the Mudgal panel submitted a sealed envelope to the court, containing the names of 13 individuals connected to the scandal – some of these were alleged to be senior cricketers in the CSK franchise.
The Mudgal panel report cleared Srinivas of the betting and fixing charges, but stated that he, along with other BCCI officials knew about a player who was attempting to fix matches and did nothing about it. The IPL’s chief, Sunder Raman, was also censured, as it was revealed he had been in regular touch with a bookie during the season. After this, the Supreme Court set up the Lodha panel, which was to decide the punishments to be handed out to the key players, with its findings being final and binding – as you will have realised, the panel hasn’t pulled its punches.
This is a landmark day in the history of Indian cricket, in many ways – the BCCI can no longer lord it over Indian cricket with the utter impunity that it used to, and N Srinivasan now has to deal with the ignominy of having his prized IPL team turfed out of the tournament, quite apart from the question marks that still float around his name. As for his players, people like MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Mohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja (and chaps like Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo, from abroad) suddenly find themselves without a team; as for the Royals, Rahul Dravid and his charges find themselves without a leg to stand on as well. Justice Lodha has said that whatever remedies are available to the average citizen are also available to the concerned parties, so there will no doubt be a series of appeals after this. Can the IPL, as a concept, survive this body blow? We’ll just have to wait and see.