NEW DELHI: India’s cricketing fraternity Wednesday welcomed the shock decision to ban two teams from the IPL as a long overdue opportunity for the game to clean up its scandal-sullied image.
While the suspension of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals from the next two editions has thrown the Indian Premier League (IPL) into turmoil, former players, administrators and commentators said the move would strengthen the glitzy Twenty20 tournament in the long run.
Top officials in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) say they would respect the punishments announced by former chief justice Rajendra Mal Lodha on Tuesday which were seen as a damning verdict on the rule of the organisation’s former chief Narayanaswami Srinivasan.
Inderjit Singh Bindra, another former head of the BCCI, hailed what he called the “historic and landmark” punishments imposed after top officials were caught betting on IPL matches involving their own teams.
“Beginning of the process of cleansing Indian cricket. I do hope that BCCI learns the right lessons,” Bindra tweeted.
The veteran commentator Ayaz Memon said the verdicts should serve as a wake-up call to the BCCI which is by far the most powerful body in world cricket thanks to the huge TV contracts that the Indian team commands.
“Essentially the Lodha report is a stinging indictment of BCCI which has skirted around issues of ownership rules, conflict of interest, match fixing, spot fixing and probity in office bearers ever since IPL began,” he wrote in The Times of India.
“The biggest import of the Lodha report is that the shield BCCI has always used to cover itself with, that it is a private society which owes allegiance to itself, has been busted.”
Since its launch in 2008, the IPL has become hugely popular by paying mega salaries to big-name internationals who perform against a glamorous backdrop of dancing girls and Bollywood stars who part-own the teams.
But despite attracting big audiences, it has been dogged by scandals, including allegations of corruption, match-fixing and crooked umpires.
The tournament’s effective founder Lalit Modi is currently resisting demands to return home from exile in London to face questioning over money-laundering linked to a mega IPL broadcast deal.
Srinivasan only agreed to step aside as BCCI chief after being found guilty of a conflict of interest for at the same time being at the helm of Indian Cements which owns the Chennai Super Kings.
Lodha also banned Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan from cricket-related activities for life after he was convicted of betting nearly $100,000 on matches.
A similar punishment was handed down to Raj Kundra, co-owner of the Rajasthan team and husband of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.
Indian batting great Sunil Gavaskar said the IPL would “definitely bounce back” but said the board needed to smarten up its act.
“Every organisation needs a review … the BCCI need to look at how they will be able to give the cricket followers in India the confidence that the game is in good hands,” he told India’s NDTV network.
The bans dominated India’s newspapers which welcomed the severity of the punishment.
“For far too long, BCCI ignored cricket’s inner voice,” the Indian Express said in its main editorial. “The court has served it a public and momentous rebuke.”
Anurag Thakur, the BCCI secretary and a Srinivasan rival, said the board would “respect the verdict” and was committed to “the larger interest of the game”.
With the bans reducing the event to a six-team competition, experts predicted the BCCI would invite bids for two new franchises and allow a fresh player auction.
Former judge Mukul Mudgal, who headed a committee which probed the betting scandal, said the game would emerge stronger.
“Many people feel it will have an adverse effect on the game but I think this is a temporary setback and cricket will come out cleaner and people’s faith in the IPL will be restored,” he was quoted as saying in the Pioneer newspaper.
International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.