There are no friends in politics, only allies. I am sure Lalit Modi must be thinking along these lines after BCCI slapped a life ban on the man who launched Indian cricket on the billion-dollar road with the IPL. At one time, Modi was thought to be as the man in shining armour, complete with the white horse and lance, driving Indian cricket on a path to untold riches, but as in life, nothing is free and everything has a price. Modi paid his.
If in the beginning, Modi opened the doors to cricketing heaven with his IPL, then the very doors have now closed on him. He may yet rave and rant and take the legal route, but his nemesis N Srinivasan has won the round rather handsomely, at least for the time being. My prediction is that we have not heard the last of this sordid episode that is replete with corruption, money laundering and of course, politics of high stakes where there is no prisoner.
The deluge of charges smothering Modi might cast him like a villain, but I always believed that there are no saints in our cricketing administration, or for that matter, sport, especially when there is money which, as they rightly say, is the root cause of all evil, and yet, power.
Not many years ago, Modi strutted around the Indian cricket fields like a prima donna with the Board jumping at his every bidding, the media on a leash, and the gullible public, besides cricketers of every hue and status, eating out of his hands. Like the Queen, Modi might have thought he could do no wrong, but then, he never quite watched his back, a cardinal sin in the world of politics.
For all his alleged misdemeanours, Modi has left a legacy in the form of IPL that cannot be glossed over. In fact, such has been the impact of IPL that it was not long before other sports adopted the franchise-based format in a bid to tap the riches. However, no other sport in India can even dream of matching cricket in terms of popularity that in turn attracts sponsors even if largely by way of TV rights and adevertising. However, that is beside the point.
The IPL, for all its ills and controversies, still brought in riches that the Board until then had not even envisioned. Modi, in his own way, even if it meant treading on toes, changed cricket for all time to come, much like Packer did back in the ‘70s with his breakaway World Series that introduced coloured clothing and lights. In other words, Modi converted a sport called cricket into an outright business venture.
Much as you might dislike Modi for his brash and stylized functioning, the truth is that the IPL filled not only the BCCI coffers, but also those of the cricketers, many of whom turned millionaires almost overnight, courtesy the auction.
For the purists, IPL is an anathema, but for the paying public, it is entertainment and a social outing despite match-fixing casting a long shadow over the tournament. Personally, I am not hot on the T20 format for it often compromises on tradition in the name of innovation. However, somebody like Modi saw T20 a potential money-spinner and he went after it like a man possessed.
As for the Board, it enjoyed those days on velvet, letting Modi do all the talking and doing while it sat back watching its revenues grow by leaps and bounds. But then, historically, the Board never allowed any official to get bigger than itself, and when Modi began to tower over the sport while becoming the most famous cricket administrator, he unwittingly lit the fuse.
The point is that much as we criticize IPL, if only for it being brash, garish, sleazy and loud, while attracting undesirable elements, it's a tree with growing money on it. So much so that the Board, gorging itself on the fruit called IPL, now has only money coursing through its veins instead of blood!
In the event, there was neither remorse nor regret, the emotions not linked to our cricket administrators, when they booted out Modi who was painted as cricket’s biggest sinner while themselves posing as saints. The fact is that Modi was allowed a free run in the early days of IPL and it was not as if the Board was totally in the dark about the so-called shady dealings that he is charged with. Perhaps, it suited the BCCI to look the other way at that point of time.
And now, the skeletons are having a walkabout, much like the Fridays at a Formula One venue. I am sure, there are many more in the cupboard, but whether they too will come tumbling out is anybody’s guess.
For the moment, Modi finds himself out in the cold, booted out by the very people who once had put him on a pedestal. After all, with money comes the power that corrupts the mind like no other vice can. In this context, Modi’s ouster is more to do with the politics and jockeying for power than just the litany of his alleged wrong-doings during his tenure as the IPL Commissioner.
Thus, with Modi out of the way, the decks appear clear for Srinivasan who had worked overtime to rid of the man once touted as “Moses” of Indian cricket. The scoreline should read: Politics 1, Cricket 0.