Apr 202014
BCCI Names Ravi Shastri in Proposed IPL Probe Panel

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has named former India all-rounder Ravi Shastri along with Justice JN Patel and former top-cop RK Raghavan as part of a panel that will probe the allegations of corruption in the cash-rich Indian Premier League.

This decision was taken in the board’s emergent working committee meeting that was attended by all state board chiefs in the country. The BCCI will now propose these names to the Supreme Court of India, whose approval is necessary to give this panel final authority. It was the Supreme Court that had earlier, directed the BCCI to come up with certain corrective measures for a transparent and effective probe into the allegations of corruptions in the IPL. The working committee of the board, thus, met with this single agenda at hand.

The proposed panel consists of former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court JN Patel, the former head of India’s prestigious Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) RK Raghavan, apart from former India player and commentator Ravi Shastri. It is the inclusion of Shastri’s name in the panel that has caused a furore in the cricketing circles. The 51-year old former all-rounder is a BCCI-contracted commentator and in the past, has been open and verbal in his praise for the now-maligned BCCI Chief N Srinivasan, who is the focus of this probe. Hence, many have called Shastri’s neutrality and objectivity in question.

Shastri’s inclusion in the panel was not a unanimous decision. He was opposed by former BCCI President Shashank Manohar, one of the most vocal critics of N Srinivasan. The fact that Manohar attended the meeting was itself was a cause of surprise as he had not attended any board meeting in over two years, ever since Srinivasan had taken over the reins of the board. Manohar represented the Vidarbha Cricket Committee in the meeting and his presence here was significant as he has openly opposed and criticised Srinivasan and questioned his alleged involvement in the irregularities and corruption in the IPL.

In addition to Shastri’s name, Manohar also objected to the inclusion of Raghavan. Other names that were considered include the BCCI interim Vice-president Shivlal Yadav, former additional solicitor general of India L Nageshwar Rao, and former Lok Sabha speaker and veteran politician Somnath Chatterjee. BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, however, has justified Shastri’s nomination in the panel, saying that he “has been around for a long time as a cricketer and he is also part of the various IPL committees including the governing council.” Additionally, Shasrtri is a member of the Code of Behaviour committee under the IPL Operational Rules, and a 2013 Bombay High Court order requires the board to have at least one member from the Code of Behaviour Committee in any probe panel.

Manohar also raised objection over the nomination of former CBI head Raghavan, as he had been interviewed by the Mudgal Committee while it was investigating the IPL corruption. However, Patel clarified that BCCI has never taken any help from Raghavan in the past. It is learnt that all three names were proposed by Patel himself. It is up to the Supreme Court now to accept or reject this proposed panel and get the ball rolling in the investigations.

Apr 152014
The Light Roller: Test return or not, Kevin Pietersen in whites would be great for the county game

Kevin Pietersen’s apparent suggestion in comments to ESPNcricinfo that he might yet play again for England was interesting but not necessarily a great surprise.

For a start, Pietersen does not like being out of the limelight. He is a man who finds it necessary to wish his twitter followers a “Happy Monday”.  A provocative remark to a media outlet is more or less de rigueur.

However, the mooting of a return to Test cricket was almost inevitable because of the structure of international and domestic cricket – not just in this country – as this column noted a few weeks ago. An England cricketer might have a central contract which affords a degree of stability, but a county player doesn’t need one to get picked for his country. Big runs by KP for Surrey could make things very tasty indeed.

The County game is wide open

The opening rounds of the LV= County Championship have suggested that a raft of teams in each division are likely to be competitive this season.

In the top tier, Yorkshire and Notts both have the kind of strength in depth that looks attractive on paper but, as Lancashire showed in 2011, the title is winnable with a small and unsung group. Durham will be well-marshalled again by Paul Colllingwood.

As for the second division, Surrey’s opening defeat by Glamorgan was a sign that they may be aiming to make a hash of things once again. Graeme Smith might wish he had retired from the game as a whole before the season is out, unless KP rides to the rescue.

The Roller’s predictions? Yorkshire for the title; Essex or Glamorgan to win Division 2.

The BCCI’s intransigence over pictures is bad for media independence

When the 2014 edition of the Indian Premier League hits off tomorrow, users of mainstream media might find photographs of the action in short supply.

This will be because of the latest skirmish in a lengthy battle between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international media agencies, the latter having been banned by the former from taking pictures of recent test series and other tournaments under its jurisdiction.  The BCCI insists that only the IPL’s own photographers may provide images to news media, ensuring that all profits are retained by the organisers.  The international agencies, working through the News Media Coalition, argue that they should have the right to report on what is a sporting news event and sell the material they gather to their clients (i.e. newspapers, websites and so on).

A fairly unedifying spectacle this may be, but there is an important principle at stake in terms of media independence.  And given how frequently the IPL finds itself mired in debates about corruption, one might have thought that the BCCI would realise it is sometimes wise to put media goodwill before the health of its own coffers.

Hadlee’s vintage kit is this week’s star performer

Bell and Cook have played themselves back into form; Jonathan Trott has made a welcome return to the field of play; some of those hoping for a test call-up have pressed their claims with impressive performances.  On foreign soil, the future king of England has proved once and for all that royals should stick to horse-based sports.

However, the major cricketing highlight of the last week was surely the appearance with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge of Richard Hadlee; or to be more precise, Richard Hadlee’s World Cup ’92-era shirt.  You know the one: light grey with white, red, green and blue trim across the shoulders and with no hint of this skin-tight nonsense they go in for nowadays.  All the other team kits were of the same design in different colours.

New Zealand made the semis of that tournament before being beaten by the eventual winners, Pakistan, who overcame England in a memorable final, despite Derek Pringle’s 3-22 off ten measly overs.  This was also the tournament in which Alec Stewart scored a remarkable 29 off 96 balls as England, despite having already qualified for the later stages, failed to chase down Zimbabwe’s 134 and were bowled out for 125 off 49.1 overs.  How times change.   

Twitter: @willjgore

Apr 042014
IPL turns down request to reinstate Jaipur
Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane celebrate Tillakaratne Dilshan's wicket, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Rajasthan Royals, IPL 2013, Bangalore, April 20, 2013

Rajasthan Royals had preferred Ahmedabad over Jaipur as their home venue this season © BCCI

Sunil Gavaskar, the Supreme Court-appointed president of BCCI-IPL, has declined the request from the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) to reinstate Jaipur as the home venue of Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2014.

On Thursday, the IPL announced the final schedule for the tournament, which begins in UAE and finishes in India. Among the notable venues omitted was Jaipur, the home base of Rajasthan Royals. The IPL reasoned that since the RCA failed to produce the No-Objection Certificate from the state government, it was left with no choice but to pick Ahmedabad as the alternative, a preference given by Royals themselves.

Although the RCA’s officiating secretary KK Sharma dispatched an emergency request on Friday to the IPL requesting for Jaipur to be included, Gavaskar made it clear that the decision could not be reversed. Gavaskar added that even Chennai and Mohali had lost out on a few home games due to want of permissions.

“The BCCI-IPL had sent letters earlier to all the associations asking for their availability, security aspect in view of the fact that this is the year when the general elections are on,” Gavaskar said in his first interaction with the Indian media in Mumbai since taking over the interim role.

“Having received letters from various associations, we have scheduled the matches according to the okays that we have received from various associations. There was that little bit of uncertainty about Jaipur. And not just Jaipur, as you see from the schedule, Chennai and Mohali also had issues. Therefore the endeavour has been to make sure that the schedule is not been disrupted.”

In his letter, Sharma had said the RCA was “surprised” about Jaipur being ignored and felt the loss would be suffered by both the cricket body as well as the people.

“We are surprised how the governing council of the IPL has shifted our home matches to Ahmedabad without even asking us. We shall suffer losses for the perpetration made as well as the people of Rajasthan shall lose their right to see the home team perform in front of them,” Sharma stated in the letter. “We would request you to kindly reschedule the itinerary and give us the due home matches as earlier.”

However, Gavaskar pointed out that considering the internal legal dispute of RCA, Royals were happy to play in Ahmedabad instead of Jaipur.

“Besides, I think the RCA matters are also sub-judice and therefore in view also of the fact that the Rajasthan Royals did indicate that they would be happy to play at Ahmedabad, the decision was taken. But it is also in view of the fact that every franchise has been talked to. Like I said, some of the regular venues have missed out. Some of the regular venues like Dharamsala, for example, have missed out. Chennai will get only a couple of matches because of the election situation. That is how it is, so it doesn’t rule these venues out from next season’s IPL but in the current circumstances, with the kind of uncertainty that was there, the decision was taken only because of that and not for any other reason,” Gavaskar said.

Gavaskar, who spent his first week in the UAE overseeing the preparations for the first 20 matches from April 1 to 30, reassured that all the eight franchises will be compensated adequately for the additional costs incurred during the first phase.

“I think that has been agreed to. That is understood that there will be compensation but what the quantum is is something they are working on,” Gavaskar said.

Gavaskar said a formula was still being worked out and the franchises, too, will be involved before arriving at a final figure. “That is being looked at because it will take some time to calculate the exact amount of compensation, looking at the number of matches they will get, some number of matches they will miss out. There are a lot of factors to look at as far as the compensation package is concerned. I am pretty certain that they (franchises) will be happy. They won’t be too disappointed.”

Asked whether he had made up his mind on whether to retain Sundar Raman, the controversial IPL chief operating officer, as a BCCI employee, Gavaskar said he is yet to take a call.

“I am seized of the matter. Right now, I have just been in office for a week and therefore I am evaluating all the information that is coming to me. So, once all the information comes to me, certainly I will be able to (take the call).”

Apr 032014
Why Jaipur, Raipur and Dharamsala missed out
James Faulkner celebrates a wicket with his Rajasthan Royals team-mates, Perth Scorchers v Rajasthan Royals, Group A, Champions League 2013, Jaipur, September 29, 2013

James Faulkner and his Rajasthan Royals team-mates won’t be playing at Jaipur because of a lack of state government clearances © BCCI

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The major talking points of the schedule of the India leg of the IPL were the omission of Raipur and Jaipur from the list of host cities, and Ranchi having been preferred over Kochi as Chennai Super Kings’ second home. The IPL authorities have said that the changes were made due to lack of security assurances from some of the state governments.

Jaipur missed out because of the inability of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) to acquire requisite state government clearances. “We have not got the No-Objection Certification (NOC) from them,” IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal said. It has been understood that the court-appointed BCCI-IPL president Sunil Gavaskar has extended the deadline for all the shortlisted IPL venues to provide NOC from their respective police authorities by Wednesday (April 2).

While RCA officiating secretary KK Sharma was unavailable for a comment, a RCA insider revealed it was a win-win situation for all stakeholders. “The state association is in a mess. Election results are held by the court. The BCCI is against the RCA. And even the team owners were not so keen on Jaipur as their first choice, so everyone is happy,” said the insider. This will be the second time Ahmedabad will feature as the home venue for Rajasthan Royals, after hosting four Royals home matches in 2010.

Although no one from Royals was available for an on-record comment, it is understood that the franchise was not interested in Jaipur due to the various on-going controversies in the RCA. Even last year the franchise was kept on edge till a last-minute turnaround by the Rajasthan Sports Council allowed the Royals to play at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur which had been locked out earlier. “Ahmedabad has three-times bigger capacity, has three times less hassles and more sponsors are available for the franchise,” a former RCA official said.

There had been few problems in Raipur last year, when two of Delhi Daredevils’ home games were held at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium. ESPNcricinfo understands that the franchise had requested to host two more matches this year, following the overwhelming response for both matches. Biswal said Raipur missed out since it was “not necessary to have so many venues” this season.

Like Raipur, Dharamsala, the picturesque venue in Himachal Pradesh that had emerged as Punjab’s second home venue over the years, does not find a slot in this season’s schedule. The reason is the same as Jaipur’s. “Despite writing to the relevant police authorities twice and a HPCA representative meeting them in person for providing the requisite security cover for IPL games, they just didn’t even bother to respond – either in affirmative or negative,” said Vishal Marwaha, secretary of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. “This just shows that the state government just didn’t want IPL matches to be played in Himachal.”

As a result, Kings XI will play two of their home games in Cuttack, the home city of IPL chairman Biswal. According to Mohit Burman, a co-owner at Kings XI Punjab, the franchise had asked for Ahmedabad as the first alternative. “They had consulted us and even if Cuttack was not our preference we are happy,” Burman said.

The Chennai Super Kings will also play two of their home games outside the city they are based in, hosting them in Ranchi – the hometown of India and Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni. Super Kings had received tremendous response for their 2013 Champions League Twenty20 games in Ranchi. As a result, despite Kerala Cricket Association TC Mathew having announced that Kochi was set to host “a couple of CSK home matches”, Ranchi got the nod of the IPL authorities.

It is understood that during their meeting with the IPL officials in Chennai in February had been asked to submit their shortlist of alternate venues other than their home grounds. And the BCCI insiders said they have done their best to accommodate most of their requests.

“It’s extremely impossible to adhere to each and everyone’s preference,” an official said. “Without going into the specifics of an individual venue, I would say that considering the logistical challenges and the operational considerations, we have drawn a schedule that would suit virtually everyone. We have to factor in kit and crew movements, also the fact that every team has to get at least one game in a weekend double header.”

The IPL starts on April 16 in the UAE, where 20 matches will be played, and shifts to India on May 2 with the final scheduled for June 1 in Mumbai.

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