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An opportunity to reform Indian cricket

Soutik Biswas | 10:58 UK time, Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lalit ModiThe dramatic midnight suspension of Lalit Modi, controversial chief of the Indian Premier League (IPL), over allegations of corruption in the cricket tournament, should mark the beginning of a serious effort to clean up the game in India.

Forget the IPL, neck-deep in allegations of financial misdemeanours and sleaze after just three seasons. (Mr Modi has denied the allegations.) This is Indian cricket's worst crisis since the match-fixing scandal at the turn of the decade. And if Indian cricket sneezes, world cricket will catch a cold.

So will Mr Modi's likely departure from his "billion dollar baby" - as the IPL was described by a largely uncritical media before the scandal broke out - be a panacea for Indian cricket's problems?

No. The rot in the running of Indian cricket, most believe, starts right at the top.

For evidence, look at the way the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is run. With a net worth of more than $1.5bn, the BCCI is cricket's richest and one of the world's wealthiest sports bodies. But it is registered as a non-profit organisation, is not required to make its books public and till very recently was a recipient of generous tax exemptions because it claimed that promoting cricket was a "charitable activity"!

Politicians control the levers of power in the board. And there are brazen conflicts of interests - one board member bought an IPL team after allegedly tweaking the rules, while the chairman of the selectors of the national team is a brand ambassador for another team. Nobody bats an eyelid and the show goes on.

Many say that the cricket board - which also runs the IPL - should be reconstituted as an autonomous statutory body, where people holding office will be public servants and accountable to fans. Its books should be open to the public and its operations should be transparent. All this could be led by an independent regulatory body made up of respected professionals from the world of finance and law.

But that is just one part of the story. Many believe that Mr Modi and the allegations over the IPL - rigging of team bids, opaque financial disclosures, nepotism, political meddling - are just symbols of a larger malaise afflicting India itself.IPL match

As the country hurtles from a closed, controlled economy to free market capitalism, regulation is weak and suspect, they say. The upshot, the fiercest critics say, is cronyism and corruption at times reminiscent of the early days of capitalism in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. More discreet commentators speak of a "system" which is unable to handle the heat of the free market.

So it is with cricket. In his engaging book on Indian cricket, A Maidan View, sports journalist Mihir Bose was prescient when he wrote that it was a matter of worry that the Indian cricket board "continues to behave as it were a street trader, eager for the loot but unable to either plan for it, let alone manage it". Bose felt the "essential contradictions" of the country and its cricket have not vanished. "Change has come, enormous change," he wrote, "but it has come far too quickly to be assimilated."

It is not only cricket which is suspected of being run by a cosy cartel of people linked to powerful politicians. There is a strong suspicion that India's natural resources are being bartered away in similar fashion, fuelling the Maoist uprising in mineral-rich lands. A lack of credible regulators, as the IPL again suggests, will only make matters worse.

Mr Modi's suspension could also turn out to be merely an episode in a long-running soap opera. Over the weekend, TV networks were gleefully reporting leaks that the income tax department was probing allegations of match fixing against 27 players in last year's IPL, which was played in South Africa for security reasons. It is another matter that the income tax department is not tasked with - and does not have the skills to - detect matching fixing; and that cricket is one of the most difficult games to fix.

But even if there were an iota of truth about bookies mingling with cricketers in South Africa last year, and players disclosing game information to help them, it would be cricket's Black Sox scandal, and the end of the game as we know it. The row over allegedly rigged team bids and shady team ownership will then look like a minor matter. IPL match crowd

Fans in India have nowhere to turn to except cricket. So the game will not perish, and neither should the IPL, which has turned out to be a hit despite critics who hate its crude grammar and loud razzmatazz.

But the IPL should play by the rules of the free market and prune its appetite for greed. Team ownership and sponsorships should be transparent and public, and everybody should pay their taxes. (In what is a scandalous sideshow of the row, the IPL wrangled entertainment tax waivers on tickets, resulting in loss of revenues to a state where tens of thousands of debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide.)

Indians have become inured to - even callous about - corruption, so there is a real possibility that Mr Modi will be made the fall guy, and there will be no meaningful, demonstrable change in the running of the cricket. At the same time India is largely a reactive society - only crises and scandals sometimes lead to real reforms. IPL-Gate - as many networks are describing the row - could then actually end up cleansing and reforming the cricket board, and the game could actually emerge stronger. It is time to restore the dignity of Indian cricketers and their fans.


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  • 1. At 11:17pm on 25 Apr 2010, shikari shambu wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 00:06am on 26 Apr 2010, David Smith wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 3. At 00:39am on 26 Apr 2010, gstonesunited wrote:

    Great Blog Soutik; Bit disappointed however that a great game of cricket between Chennai and Mumbai has instantly been forgotten.

    I don't know if you're familiar with Ireland's GAA system but I think the IPL could learn a lot from it.

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  • 4. At 02:01am on 26 Apr 2010, Jay wrote:

    Corporate governance is almost non-existent in India. All developed countries forced Toyota to recall/fix its defective vehicles, but not in India. Leave alone Toyota, not a single car has ever been recalled in India. There are many serious allegations against many high profile industrialists/businessmen. These days no one really care about “smaller” crimes like income tax violation, fraudulent tax exemption. Even contract killings of farmers to get land; murder of social activists, trade union leaders like Shankar Guha Niyogi is “not so important” issue any more. We all know how general food items (e.g edible oils, baby food etc) and even life saving drugs are adulterated and sold in open market every day, BUT not a single high profile businessman has ever been convicted for (Prevention) of food and drug adulteration act. Nobody is held responsible to pollute/destroy natural resources (like Mithi river in Mumbai or forests in Andaman etc) and practically destroying many peoples’ lives. Quality of Indian science-research is deteriorating fast since last few decades, as per many reports. India now comes at 177th position, out of 229 countries (Scopus database). India is also "among the least innovative nations in the world". But have anyone seen any serious report, and more importantly, ACTION to reform Indian higher education and research? Not really. All are window dressing, cosmetic change. We all are feeling great by Government or corporate sponsored propagandas or GDP growth, 8% growth rate, number of billionaires increasing in India. No one really care about the price general citizens are paying

    In India everything has a price. If anyone is able to pay that, s/he is free to do whatever s/he likes.
    Even if IPL was or now made a for-profit organization, there is no practical hope that situation will improve much. At some point of time someone have to take personal responsibility. That needs vision, courage and high moral standard. Indian society does not support such people any more. It is really a great achievement for an Indian to maintain decent level of honesty and morality yet survive successfully in any field of life there. We must not expect that the replacement of Lalit Modi will have a very different ethics and accountability to run billion dollars worth Business Empire like IPL.

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  • 5. At 02:50am on 26 Apr 2010, syed wrote:

    The game of cricket has its frenzy fans only in sub continent. BCCI, the governing body for cricket in India, has for decades cheated the common man and the successive governments, by taking tax concessions. Its criminal to see the kind of extavaganza IPL is held. Lavish parties, free security provided by the government, IPL has misused the venues and infrastructure all over India. Lalit Modi as IPL chief has bought castles in Europe and heritage havelis in Rajasthan. Government is directly responsible for such state of affairs, since it has provided all the facilities needed to host game of cricket,but not other sports events.

    The solution to end this monopoly game is nationalise the BCCI and use the funds to uplift other sports in India.We dont need criminals like Modi and political rats like Pawar and Patel to run BCCI. The stadiums and other facitilties used exclusively for cricket should be used for other sports events. We have Commonwealth games in a few months time. Does somebody in India care about it. Shame on those we root for a game, which has nothing but betting, sleazy culture and underworld nexus.

    Mr.Biswas, dont waste your blogging on such trivial issues. Highlight rather about our national game, Hockey. Make our Indians realise that there is a real world across who value only the field events, not the gilli & danda game. So much for the independence we have and still we carry the colonial baton.

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  • 6. At 03:47am on 26 Apr 2010, Umesh Patil wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 7. At 04:04am on 26 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    The only fact in this whole stew of allegations is that not a single charge against Modi has yet been proved

    Proove it now.....

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  • 8. At 04:06am on 26 Apr 2010, jamrith wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 04:21am on 26 Apr 2010, kp vidyashankar wrote:

    Mr Modi is the first person to have given the players a large share of their money. We watch the players play and not BCCI, CA etc. Also the best of commentators, ex-players, broadcasters have enriched IPL. Without Modi's innovation, I fear rot will set in. Neither Pawar, Shashank Manohar or N Srinivasan have shown any love for the game. The shamelessness of Kris srikkanth and N Srinivasan puts the stench of river Cooum to shade. BCCI will be the loser if Modi goes. Already we are hearing that Sobers (joke) and Lara (NOT A joke) are gearing up for IPL4. Shashi Tharoor is a disaster for the country. GOOD he went. Hope Modi fights back and takes down two three sickos with him. We fans of IPL will rescue him. And joke in Parliament is 'Tainted' MPs and parties demanding IPL clean up. Let the finanz ministry chek that no terror or criminal funds have come in. Beyond that only revenue loss is to be plugged.

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  • 10. At 05:18am on 26 Apr 2010, chandu83 wrote:

    People in India are corrupt? Shocking!

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  • 11. At 05:25am on 26 Apr 2010, jamrith wrote:

    @K.P.Vidyasankar, in taking up the cudgels for Modi you point out that the players are at-last getting some money. what about the players in other sports--tennis,football,athletics,badminton etc. Why should cricketers enjoy some divine status especially when modi has fuelled the whole circus with tainted money and manipulated bids. it stinks to high heaven as do the commentators some of whom have a big stake in the Modi pie.

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  • 12. At 05:34am on 26 Apr 2010, Soumya Panigrahi wrote:

    The concept of IPL came from ICL which actually started quite a time before IPL but never got approved by BCCI.So Modi can be considered as a good COPY-CAT but not the innovator of IPL concept.

    A fast rise usually leads to fast fall...I am happy to see that this law of nature is still working.

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  • 13. At 06:49am on 26 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>> Soumya Panigrahi

    Wrong. Modi gave the concept to BCCI in 1990's. He is always step ahead ...

    >>>>A fast rise usually leads to fast fall...

    fast is fast.....

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  • 14. At 06:51am on 26 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>>> what about the players in other sports--tennis,football,athletics,badminton etc

    Before blaming cricket win some world cup or something

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  • 15. At 07:05am on 26 Apr 2010, Cris Edinburgh wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 16. At 07:05am on 26 Apr 2010, jet225 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 17. At 08:07am on 26 Apr 2010, jamrith wrote:

    @ bakedbeans please pass on your name to Modi he could do with some beans.

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  • 18. At 08:35am on 26 Apr 2010, Avalon wrote:

    @Bakedbeans, actually you're the one that is wrong, Modi took the concept from the now defunct World Series Cricket, which was started by Kerry Packer back in the 70's.

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  • 19. At 09:07am on 26 Apr 2010, jet225 wrote:

    this is incredible. bbc won't tolerate even mild criticism of the indian congress party. i'm pretty sure, if i had said the same things about one Narendra Modi, my comment would not have been removed. Incredible.

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  • 20. At 09:21am on 26 Apr 2010, shahenshah wrote:

    LALIT Modi, is a corrupt human being, whom thought of himself as teflon DON of sorts. The reality is all of India is corrupt until we respect and recognize talent we will not move forward as a country. We have to create more transparency in everything in India.

    What is more pathetic but are these corporate bosses who just to stand next to star and get their fifteen seconds of fame will give out these on lakh checks which in the great scheme of things is peanuts.

    If people made decisions with their heads of instead of their hearts or other bodily organs India will move forward as country.

    JAI HIND!!!

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  • 21. At 09:35am on 26 Apr 2010, kimji wrote:

    I propose we rename this country. We should be henceforth calling it, "Scamstan"! Everything we touch we taint. May our myriad Gods help us!

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  • 22. At 11:13am on 26 Apr 2010, Neetu Singh wrote:

    I like this article as it covers not only the problems affecting IPL, but also the general malaise affecting the wider Indian society.

    The suggestion that there should be an independent regulatory body to oversee is worth considering. Who will regulate the regulatory body?

    Recently, it came out in BBC news that SEC - Security and Exchange Commission the regulators of Wall Street were busy watching pornography on the government provided computers while the 2008 financial crisis was unfolding.

    So the human mind finds innumerable ways to beat rules, laws, and ethics of the society.

    I would suggest that the problem lies somewhere else. It is actually not such a mystery if you are willing to look.

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  • 23. At 11:13am on 26 Apr 2010, MOHI wrote:

    Corruption like prostitution cannot be totally eradicated. It can be controlled by moral evaluation of self and society. We have train oureslves to eat less money especially what does not belong to us. Cricket has lot of money so politics and corruption is part of it. Azarudhin is a living exaple of how you can survive after all he did .

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  • 24. At 12:16pm on 26 Apr 2010, AnIndianByFaith wrote:

    Just feel hugely sorry for Mr Lalit Modi...such a bright young person with hard working and very quick decision making capabilities...IPL would never exist without him. He single handeldy show-cased this product called IPL. I really feel sorry for him.

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  • 25. At 12:23pm on 26 Apr 2010, Eagle Eye wrote:

    Mr. Biswas has very aptly and accurately analysed the Indian criket scenario. It is of utmost importance for India ( Govt & International Cricket Body ) to probe deeply into the activities of BCCI & IPL and clear up the mess once and for all.

    Punish the guilty, set rules / systems for the transperant working of both the organisations ( BCCI & IPL ) both profit making like MNCs.

    This will also prove to the World at large that the Indian Govt. is sincere & keen on getting rid of corruption from the country. This could just be a step in that right direction.

    Corruption is one of the bigger causes / root of most problems in India. Be it in the sphere of health, education, sports, infrastructure developement etc.

    It is high time to embrace & bring in Change. However, this may all come to a cropper in India like several other Scams. Let's keep our fingers crossed & hope for the best.

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  • 26. At 12:33pm on 26 Apr 2010, Eagle Eye wrote:

    Let us see how Clean & Powerful is Mr Manmohan Singh. Action speaks louder than words. How his Govt. cleans up BCCI & IPL once & for all ?
    This will be his Govts. first step towards cleansing of the system.

    "Satyameva Jayate"

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  • 27. At 1:28pm on 26 Apr 2010, Abid Hussain wrote:

    "...and if Indian cricket sneezes, world cricket will catch a cold ..."

    Bit of an exaggeration!! What happens to Indian cricket will hardly impact on say, the English county league, or the West Indies leagues. Corruption on the sunbcontinent is common - almost a rule rather than the exception. All that will happen is that fewer players from outside India will be interested in participating in future. The whole enterprise may fizzle out even before the next scandal hits - which ofcourse it will.

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  • 28. At 1:47pm on 26 Apr 2010, AMIR wrote:

    Such league like ipl brought disgrace to the great game of cricket bcci and icci not loose there credibility

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  • 29. At 2:12pm on 26 Apr 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The Era of Corruption continues. Corruption has become supreme in government, business, banking and sport. We all continue to vote, buy, borrow and cheer in the same manner. How will things change? Only through you.

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  • 30. At 2:34pm on 26 Apr 2010, Gav wrote:

    When Modi made the decision to move the whole IPL to S Africa - most commentators, journalists thought it was not possible - how could such a big event just relocate?

    He did it! and trust me - if it was left to BCCI or some of its civil servants - it would have been called off!

    Give credit where it is due. Without him, IPL and Indian cricket will suffer - it may give boost to some big egos in the BCCI

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  • 31. At 3:06pm on 26 Apr 2010, Umesh Patil wrote:

    Commenter ' jet225' you are right. BBC indeed does not tolerate any criticism of Congress Party. I had my post asking how can India's ruling party and current rulers allow such brazen corruption go unanswered and BBC censored that comment.

    I am Congress supporter. But BCC looks like has adopted 'no criticism of Congress' attitude.

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  • 32. At 3:08pm on 26 Apr 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    It is a sad commentary on Indians - especially the upper middle class, expatriate and rich - that they have come to terms with corruption and justify the deeds of the corrupt if they are seen as good managers or fixers. The attitude is - so what if he is corrupt, he is at least a good worker. Indians' true enemy is such people among them. It is unimaginable in any country in the world that people would support somebody like Lalit Modi after he has been sacked and censured on corruption charges. People, like Bakedbeans, for example are the kind who either live in delusion or dont want to face the facts despite evidence. This growing irrationality and escapism will only help India sliding into a moral abyss. And a dishonest society can never aim to become a great nation - economic and otherwise.

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  • 33. At 3:59pm on 26 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    >>>Abid Hussain

    "...and if Indian cricket sneezes, world cricket will catch a pneumonia" may be an exaggeration!!

    you should ask your chairman why he wants to play India in a netural country ..I belive it is not for 140mn USD tv money....


    Ok intially I thought he took it from Romans...Thanks for your input ...

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  • 34. At 4:02pm on 26 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:


    Show me the proove against modi...

    The only fact in this whole stew of allegations is that not a single charge against Modi has yet been proved ....

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  • 35. At 4:18pm on 26 Apr 2010, bigbang wrote:

    Jay wrote: "Corporate governance is almost non-existent in India...

    Hi Jay, yes it is painful to watch and follow these incidents but things are changing for better in India. People do get exposed and life becomes difficult for them because negative message has more visibility now - through active media (and social networking applications :-)). Justice still takes time but it does get done. The fact that BCCI did not agree with Modi's activities and challenged him - it is a very good sign and an example that a wrong doer cannot hide any more for long. Once punishment is handed over in a timely manner then people will have more confidence. But media too have a positive role to play and should not become like a circus to sell anything to public.

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  • 36. At 7:35pm on 26 Apr 2010, Naveed wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 37. At 02:07am on 27 Apr 2010, syed wrote:

    At 12:16pm on 26 Apr 2010, AnIndianByFaith wrote:

    Just feel hugely sorry for Mr Lalit Modi...such a bright young person with hard working and very quick decision making capabilities...IPL would never exist without him. He single handeldy show-cased this product called IPL. I really feel sorry for him.

    I think member is forgetting the facts that Modi is a criminal. No one is above the law of a country. In Modi's case, he has employed powerful lawyers(devil's advocate), and a cattle crowd who own the different teams of IPL. Who bothers as a common man of such fallacies in India.

    Justice in case of Modi is already delayed. He was supposed to be behind bars for the crimes done in USA long time ago. He has borrowed time by taking all the loopholes in law at Bombay Highcourt. I have never seen a shamelss person like Modi, who has amassed wealth behind imagination, by misuing the post of IPL. Firing squad will be apt to deliver justice to Modi.

    The Government has also acted with such stupidity, by providing security, tax concessions and all other facilities at the expense of tax payers for the IPL matches.I strongly suggest the government to not waste any time on court trails by using precious public funds. Either hang Modi and make him face a firing squad. Whoever supports Modi is supporting an outlaw and a criminal. I believe no law abiding citizen will support Modi.

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  • 38. At 02:49am on 27 Apr 2010, acenavigator wrote:

    Well, no one can become rich or powerful in India, without generous dosage of corruption, be it a politician, industrialist, public servant or a sports person. Maybe the only industrial house which is slightly allergic to this is the Tata group. Otherwise all are thoroughly corrupt. People who get caught are the ones who either become lazy to cover their trail or turn unlucky. Lalit Modi, suddenly turned unlucky.Why spew venom on him? Everyone was happy with him because they discovered he is a gold mine.

    The professionals who make the max money in this country are the ones who do the cover up using legal means: chartered accountants, lawyers, police, civil servants. I am yet to come across a honest person among this group. The beneficiaries are mostly politicians and their sidekicks-businessmen.

    And finally, what about Indian media? I am an idiot if they had not known this all along.

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  • 39. At 03:32am on 27 Apr 2010, CricketBuster wrote:

    >> not a single car has ever been recalled in India.

    yes jay certainly not

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  • 40. At 03:45am on 27 Apr 2010, CricketBuster wrote:

    And I certainly didnt know that if Modi has given some of rights to his know-hows happens only in IPL. Anywhere in the world a big business deal is driven by how acquainted you are with the other party so stop taking it down as corruption. It would have been corruption only if Modi has given away the deals at throw-away prices which he didnt if you look at some of hefty deals IPL signed. At the end of day I am sure Modi would have earned from IPL but anyone would be naive to think that he was there for charity work. He is just been made a scapegoat out of this with lot of other bigger culprits hanging around just because of their proximity to government.

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  • 41. At 09:10am on 27 Apr 2010, jet225 wrote:

    Whatever you have to say about the IPL, the final was superb. It was full house, filled with screaming fans. It's a good thing that there are 10 months to the next season. Public memory is very short. There is going to be a new player auction for 2011, and soon everyone will be yapping about the obscene amount paid to some unknown West Indian or NewZealander. The show will go on.

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  • 42. At 2:16pm on 27 Apr 2010, Jay wrote:

    Hi “fine_spirit”.
    Corporate Governance is not improving much, as I observe it. As an ex-executive (for short time) in one of the most corrupt (and most successful) Indian MNCs (you can guess the name and you are right), I can vouch for that.
    If anyone tells me that BCCI or sports media did not know what is/was going on in IPL since it started then I’ll not buy that. In fact I’ll trust Modi’s statement that the decisions on IPL franchises and IPL activities were done with full knowledge of BCCI bosses. Does it not raise eye brows that why so many daughters of powerful people (both from business and politics) work for Modi/IPL, particularly those who have stakes in IPL?!!! In reality, everyone was happy when Modi was giving them good cash return. It all took drastic turn when he started the conflict with a powerful politician and federal minister. We all know how majority of Indian journalists are purchased. One bottle of Johnny Walker black label whisky with crispy tandoori chicken in a decent restaurant can give anyone an excellent report in next day’s newspaper in India. That’s why sensible people read Indian newspapers mainly to know about “incidents”, NOT "facts", as far as possible. Then they try to verify that from other, more authentic sources like BBC. I personally would not read Indian newspaper/media if BBC or PBS (American news channel) cover India extensively (which is not possible).
    It is a reality in India that if a school kid score excellent marks in school exams; parents, neighbors even teachers forgive him/her for many other faults for which s/he should have been disciplined. IPL may be a cricketing success but we MUST not allow it to break laws and ethics of good governance.

    To CricketBuster. Thanks for the latest (2010) info . I check the info in 2009 and could not find any.
    It seems that some good trend started with few manufacturers. But it seems that you missed my point. Even in those two instances (you sent the link) the company voluntarily recalled their vehicle, NOT forced by the Govt. I doubt if Indian motor vehicle dept do any critical evaluation (safety and other features) of a car, sold in India. It is the market force that prompted the recall, NOT the Govt.

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  • 43. At 10:31pm on 01 May 2010, Raj Machhan wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 44. At 10:42am on 02 May 2010, Eagle Eye wrote:

    We all feel this corruption in cricket is a very apt case for BBC to go in for an indepth investigation and reporting of the same. A game which is getting a very bad name through matchfixing, spotfixing etc. Need an independant look into the whole affair for all cricket fans & the world at large.
    This could be of immense benefit to the game as well as an indepth study / reporting of corruption, which may then draw the attention of the Govts. & ICC.

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  • 45. At 06:29am on 04 May 2010, ninetofivegrind wrote:

    Quick question that I hope some of the Indian readers/contributors of this blog can help me out with?

    The question is specifically cricket and why cricket is the dominant sport by some margin in India? I appreciate the English/colonial legacy of cricket but modern football and rugby are also English games.

    Given cricket requires significant leisure time (sometimes 5 days) and the kit is hardly cheap I would have thought this would preclude many ordinary Indians from seriously becoming involved in the game (with all due respect)?

    On the world stage I can't recall seeing many Indian sports teams excel with the exception of the national cricket team. The Aussies, Kiwis, Saffas, English etc are all serious cricketing countries but are also mad for rugby, football and numerous other sports as well.

    Thanks in advance.


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  • 46. At 06:09am on 06 May 2010, S C MEHTA wrote:

    No Corporates, without the 'blessings' of the politicians, can so blatantly and openly form such (the IPL) or any other conglomerates, and also create such a huge network of corrupt practices at such high levels.

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