When an association is valued at Rs 18,000 crore (US$4.09 billion) as the Indian Premier League IPL is, it is bound to come in for some controversies. And the IPL has had a fair share of such from its inception in 2008. But the scandals have hit a crescendo in 2010 with a re-organisation of the League stemming from sackings, to the birth of teams and the throes of their initiation, to desperate bids of other franchises to evade expulsion and lodge themselves back in the League.
The black spots that blight the IPL's story in 2010 began when 26 Pakistani cricketers, who had made themselves eligible for the IPL, were ignored by the franchises at the players auction in Jan. This cold shoulder came about in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in Nov the previous year and the subsequent deterioration in diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan. Later in the month the PCB ruled out the participation of Pakistan players in the IPL and revoked the no-objection certificates it had initially granted to them.
The next scandal erupted with unveiling of two new franchises on March 21, 2010. The shocker was not so much the news that two fresh teams were going to become part of the League, but the prices at which they were sold. When Sahara group bought Team Pune for US$370 million and a five-company consortium led by Rendezvous Sports, claimed Team Kochi for US$333, their costs signified a value in excess of the original eight franchises combined!
Just a few weeks from its birth and the Kochi franchise was already imbued in a seething controversy. A government functionary detected that Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, had conducted back-room negotiations with Rendezvous Sports to issue a generous sweat equity to his friend Sunanda Pushkar. It turned out, the dubai-based businesswoman had been granted 18% of Rendezvous' stake in Kochi while corporate law stipulates that no more than 15% can be handed out in sweat equity. A further controvention of law was that sweat equities can only be distributed a year after the inception of a company, whereas the Kochi franchise was not even a month old.
The impact of this scandal was so great that it led to an embarrassed Congress having Tharoor resign his post. Enroute to this denouement, Tharoor entangled himself with IPL chairman Lalit Modi in a spat regarding the ownership of the Kochi franchise. Modi had gone public with the details of Kochi's stakeholders on his Twitter account, much to the chagrin of Tharoor who claimed that in so doing, Modi was seeking to discredit the owners of Kochi by devulging such confidential information. Whether, Tharoor was attempting to cover up the fact that his friend Pushkar bore a minority stake in Kochi is not known, but whatever the case, his underhand dealings had come to light.
Meanwhile, another storm was brewing. By late April, the BCCI had decided to suspend Lalit Modi from his post of IPL chairman. The 22-point charge-sheet which the board dished out against him, centred around financial irregularities relating to the initial franchise bids for the Rajasthan Royals and the Kings XI Punjab, the rigging of franchise bids in 2010, the sale of broadcasting and internet rights and his general conduct.
By mid-May, Modi had time enough to gather his thoughts and come up with a response. He had his lawyer Mehmood Abdi deliver 15,000 pages of evidence to the BCCI's headquarters for the perusal of Board president Shashank Manohar and secretary N Srinivasan. A beaming Abdi addressed the press after the delivery, expressing certainty that his client would be exonerated of his charges and reinstated to his post.
However, that was not to be and the stalemate between Modi and the Board continued throughout the year. In fact, the BCCI's disciplinary committee which was probing Modi's fishy dealings came to an end in Sep and was renewed only on Dec 11th. On July 15th, the Bombay High Court had even rejected Modi's petition requesting the reconstitution of the panel because as Modi claimed, two of three panel members in Arun Jaitley and Jyotiaditya Scindia were prejudiced against him. Subsequently, Modi moved the Supreme Court and the case comes up for hearing in the second week of Jan while the newly retained disciplinary committee will hold its next hearing on Dec 27 and 28.
Then in late August, another controversy came to light when television news channel CNN-IBN got hold of an e-mail exchange between Modi and BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan. The communication seemed to suggest that the two had fixed the IPL players auction of 2009. Modi had assured Srinivasan, who was part owner of the Chennai Superkings, that he had convinced the Rajasthan Royals not to bid for English all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, so that Srinivasan's team could snap him up. CSK did exactly that, buying Flintoff for a staggering $1.55 million. That price tag made him the most expensive player alongside Bangalore Royal Challengers' Kevin Pietersen. But nothing came off the claims and Srinivasan quietly kept his post.
The next controversies to boil over concerned the franchises themselves. On Oct 10, the BCCI ended the spirit of amicability that had prevailed for years between the board and the franchises, when it slapped termination notices on Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. The two teams were expelled from the IPL for allegedly changing their stakeholder structure behind the Board's back. Shocked by their sudden ouster, the franchises gathered legal aid and took the Board to court with both cases going into arbitration. Fast foward to a month and a half later, and the arbitrator - Justice B N Srikrishna - showered clemency on the Royals by granting it a six-week interim stay on the termination order. The judgement mean that the Royals were back in business and could function as a part of the IPL again.
But their Punjab counterpart wasn't so lucky as the same judge withdrew from the case revealing that he had represented the Wadia Group that partly own the franchise, in past cases. The Board had raised objection to his continuance of the case even though he had been their original arbitrator of choice. However, within days the Bombay High Court came to the aid of KXIP, issuing a stay on its expulsion and it followed up the judgement by quashing an appeal from the BCCI to remove the stay.
In the meantime, the owners of the Kochi franchise were embroiled in a squabble. The leading two companies of consortium - Rendezvous Sports and the Anchor Group - were jostling for a higher equity stake, which would grant the beneficiary with extra ownership rights. As a result of this dispute, the the franchise couldn't register as a team with the BCCI, in late Oct, handing it a 30-day show cause notice why the it shouldn't not be scrapped. The deadline passed and the board diferred it decision for another week during which the ownership dispute was resolved and Kochi finally became an official new entry in the IPL.
Due to all the problems it as imbued in, the Board had to postpone a couple of important dates for lead-up events to IPL4. Firstly, the player auction was pushed back from late Nov to early Jan before it was eventually scheduled for March. Then the deadline for teams to retain four of their players before the auction was deferred from Dec 6 to Dec 8 thanks to a directive from the Bombay High Court. The Court was reacting to a complaint by the Kings XI Punjab that the BCCI was deliberately stalling their case so that the deadline would expire.
On the side, there were other scandalous stories emerging. Former India player Atul Wassan erupted with the startling claim that two IPL cricketers, whose names he would not disclose, had confided in him that they had been approached by bookies with spot-fixing offers. "I cannot specify but some players were approached and this is common knowledge here over the last two-and-a-half years," he said. "This is not confined to IPL either and now you have (Shane) Watson and (Brad) Haddin also coming out, saying they too have been approached. This gives you an idea how much threat spot-fixing poses to the game."
Meanwhile, Australian players in the IPL were having problems of their own. Several of the Aussies threatened not to sign contracts with the Australian Cricket Board Cricket Australia, if the board kept deducting 10 per cent of their IPL salaries. Chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association Paul Marsh said"...any attempt to take 10%, or any other amount for that matter, from the IPL salaries of Australian players is completely unacceptable and will be opposed in the strongest possible way by us."
From the ugly shadow of spot-fixing, to suspected auction-rigging, to the BCCI's many legal entanglements, the IPL has been through a whole gamut of scandals and controversies. Now one has to just wait and see whether the highly anticipated fourth edition of the League will in fact take flight or will come crashing down like the mighty Zeppelin.
Many quarters already predict that the IPL will faulter, fail and die, especially since its conceiver Lalit Modi is no longer running the show. The complications that the BCCI is embroiled in is mind-boggling for with uncertainty looming over the number of teams definitely taking part, no schedules can be made in concrete. Plus, with the player auction likely to be postponed and possibly clash with the World Cup schedule, players will not be on hand to promote the season. The BCCI will be keeping its fingers crossed as will all the IPL fans. Will IPL4 happen? That's the big question.