Indian bowler Sreesanth was banned for life for spot fixing in the IPL. Picture: AFP Source: MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP
THE Indian Premier League has blasted off again — and could be even more explosive than when Brendon McCullum blasted 158 to launch the inaugural IPL in 2008.
The fireworks are set to detonate off the field.
As a corruption scandal continues to engulf the seedy underbelly of the competition, the contents of a sealed envelope given to an Indian court have the potential to rock world cricket.
The envelope was given to the court by a committee, headed by retired judge Justice Mukul Mudgal, which was investigating spot-fixing and betting in the IPL.
It allegedly contains the names of six international players including “sensitive information’’ pertaining to top Indian players.
Discovering “many allegations of sporting fraud,” the Mudgal committee ordered the sealed envelope only be opened by court judges.
Desperate to ensure the information was kept secret, the Indian Board begged the court not to divulge the contents of the envelope.
The matter could hardly be more serious.
Mudgal’s report found that a journalist, who was connected with recording of secret tapes for a sports magazine, could identify the voice of the current Indian player.
“The journalist refused to disclose the names of the Indian players involved. In spite of repeated requests to put the name of the said player in a sealed cover for perusal before the Supreme Court, the journalist appeared terrified and was very reluctant to do so and pleaded that it would be dangerous for the journalist concerned,” Mudgal’s report said.
The seedy saga has continued to roll on since Delhi Police arrested three Rajasthan Royals bowlers — Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan — for fixing during last year’s IPL.
The players were allegedly promised money ranging from US$36,000 to 109,000 for each over. There were 11 bookies arrested in the sting and Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, already stood down from the ICC’s umpiring panel, was named as a “wanted accused’’ in a 11,609-page charge sheet.
Controversial N. Srinivasan has been removed as Indian board president after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, a Chennai Super Kings official, was indicted for betting and sharing team information.
With the corruption scandal flaring, it is little wonder the gloss has gone off the IPL and many franchises found it hard to sign up sponsors for this year’s tournament.
The enthusiasm among sponsors and fans for the IPL is simply not the same as it was in the first five years.
Even apart from all the dirty laundry being aired, it does not help put bums on seats or generate big TV audiences when the first phase of the IPL is being played in the United Arab Emirates.
Yet most of the players are still laughing all the way to the bank.
Despite some salaries taking a hit, Aussies Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson were both wearing million-dollar smiles after being bought at auction in February.
And there were rivers of gold for Indians Yuvraj Singh and little-known keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik.
Yuvraj was bought for an astonishing $2.48 million by Bangalore and Karthik was nabbed by Delhi Daredevils for $2.22 million.
But the big salaries and big hits could just be a back story.
World cricket and its jelly-belly corruption officials have never gone close to conquering the corruption scourge that keeps plaguing the game.
If the sealed envelope is ripped open, it will be landmark day for the game which will no longer be able to close its eyes and ears to some of the dark forces which have been eating away at it for decades.