Cricket in India has gained its sanctity over the years. However, as of late, the game has transformed from sports to a commercial vessel. Huge chunks of money have been invested in the game, and in the past few years, it has become a lucrative business. But, it is an undeniable fact that when money is involved, unscrupulous practices are inevitable. With its advent in 2008, Indian Premiere League has become a kind of “cricket festival.” The vision of Lalit Modi was seen as a reformation in domestic cricket, and many new opportunities were created in this format. But, this vision later became a money making process which on several occasions raised questions to the sanctity of the game. The man behind the concept has himself absconded over the alleged charges of corruption. This does not stop here, many players were accused of having their alleged relations with the betting houses and some are even charged on these grave allegations.
Behind the glamour and money, a bitter truth lies that has caught the attention of the authorities. Issues of betting and corruption were prevalent earlier, but it has accelerated since the commercialisation of the game. The focus of this writing is wholly concentrated towards the recommendations provided by the Lodha Committee over the issues of providing independence to the players, where they are not treated as mere employees, fixing the tenure of the office bearers, so that the affairs of the game are regulated under one man’s hegemony, and to regulate the alleged involvement of Gurunath Mayyaipan and Raj Kundra in the spot fixing case. The said committee was constituted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under the supervision of retired Chief Justice of India, R M Lodha, consisting of two other retired Supreme Court Judges, Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice R V Raveendran. The three member committee was constituted to revamp the functioning of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, and uphold the paramountcy of the game.
This report of the three member committee mainly focussed upon the transparency of the game. The report was based upon the committee’s exhaustive research on how the game is run in the country, and what could be done to ensure more accountability in its functioning. The Apex Court took cognizance of the rising arbitrary practices, and constituted the committee with the view to provide comprehensive recommendation to remove the menace. Though, the committee observed that there was no such sufficient evidence found against the former IPL COO Sundar Raman, but made considerable observations which would help in upholding the sanctity of the game. It was recommended by the committee that BCCI be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information. The focus of this recommendation was to enhance citizens to know about the functioning, and making the board more transparent and accountable with its functioning. By such measure, a regular check can be kept which may reduce many extraneous activities to take place. It had been a debatable issue on whether Government officials or Ministers should be allowed to be office bearers of the Board. The committee had taken due consideration of this issue, and critically disallowed any government official or minister to hold the position. The committee has set the tenure of the office bearers, and have recommended set of rules and regulations with the voting rights. The committee also recognised the independence of the bodies, and has further recommended to have separate bodies for IPL and BCCI.
All these recommendations are concentrated towards the functioning of the Board, and reducing its influence upon the Indian Premier League. Apart from this, the committee had made a very important recommendation on the issues of betting and fixing. It is believed that fixing and illegal betting has what caused most of the disarray within the IPL and BCCI. The committee had made a set of guidelines on the issues of spot-fixing, match-fixing and illegal betting. Since, the IPL’s spot-fixing case in 2013, the issues of betting have gained an increasing momentum. Many advocated in favour of legalising betting of various forums. The committee had provided one of its most controversial recommendations of passing a legislation for betting which would provide various safeguards. As in India, gambling is a State Subject, regulated by an archaic law, the Public Gambling Act, 1867, which today is obsolete. The committee had made a sharp distinction between betting and fixing, by legalising the former and criminalising the latter. The report in its recommendation had observed that by legalising betting by a legislation, the menace of fixing could be curtailed to a big extent. The observation is a forward looking step, but yet no common consensus has yet reached due its implications. But, since no concrete legislation has yet passed, the committee has suspended two IPL teams Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, for their alleged role in spot fixing and illegal betting.
The committee since constituted by the Apex court categorised itself as a high-profile one; providing recommendations resulting in several drastic changes. The BCCI has constituted a working group to analyse these suggested recommendations, and vowed to ensure the purity of the game. But, if analysed, the recommendation if efficiently implemented will produce good results curtailing the menaces. Though it would be a bad signal for the government officials and the prevalent management. The suspension of two teams, and upholding the involvement of Gurunath Meiyyapan and Raj Kundra in the fixing racket have opened the doors of the judiciary to take due cognizance of the matter. If the recommendations are implemented, then it will be a new beginning for cricket in India as many players would be freed from the grab of corrupt officials. The sports would be performance oriented, and there will be a stop to every possible unfair practice.
Though, hockey is the National Sport of India, one cannot deny the fact that cricket is followed religiously in our nation. People preach cricketers as God, and any sort of illegal activities destroys their faith upon the game. The interference of Judiciary, governmental agencies and concerned citizens has exposed the ill side of the game, and many precautionary measures are taken to tackle this. Every sport involves money, but such should not be spent for illegal practices. Investment in sports has caught its pace, and it should be directed towards improving the infrastructure and for the upliftment of the players. In the end, commercialisation of sports must not be towards criminalising of sports.