In the past decade or so, cricket has gained a lot of prominence. Sometimes for good reasons and the other times for bad. And right in the centre of it is the franchise-based league called the IPL or the Indian Premier League. IPL is an extravagant cricket league that started over thirteen years ago and has always been under the spotlight. A novel concept, introduced to India for the first time in 2008, IPL became hugely popular all over the country in no time. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, and the most affluent T20 tournament in the cricketing world.
With the copious amount of fame and popularity it has gained over the seasons, the IPL has also generated its fair share of controversies and scandal. The three of the biggest infamy the Indian Premier League has seen will be mentioned in this article.
When the Indian Premier League started in 2008, it was listed 22 on the Forbes list of Best Businesses in the world. With a circulation of a sum as big as 4 billion dollars within one year, it became the second biggest league in the world, next only to the Champions League in Europe. Within its debut season itself, it became viral, immensely prevalent and an overnight success.
The IPL was the new thing in the world of cricket. All the best players wanted to be a part of it, and all the eminent entrepreneurs wanted a share of the prize. From industrialists like Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya to Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta, all flocked to invest in this new sporting league.
This big extravagant league was the brainchild of the then BCCI Vice-President and Chairman of the IPL board, Lalit Modi. Like the Premier League, Modi became an overnight star and a household name. He was even seen as a hero for bringing in a tournament whose sole purpose was entertaining cricket fans.
Under all the glitz and the glam was a world of nepotism, money laundering and scandals, of which again, Mr Modi was the mastermind. All this came to light two years after the inception of the eight franchises and two seasons into the game.
All the controversies started with the ownership of a new franchise named Kochi Tuskers Kerala. The team from Kochi was supposed to be a new addition to the league in 2010. The bid for this team was won by Rendezvous Sports World, a consortium of investors. Sunanda Pushkar, who later went on to become the wife of Shashi Tharoor, was one of the equity holders in this consortium. This deal was supposed to be a confidential agreement.
However, Lalit Modi violated the terms of this agreement when he tweeted the transaction details and released them to his social media followers. This seemingly innocent act led to a series of events, each more grave than the other. Began the domino effect, which finally led to the downfall of Lalit Modi. Shashi Tharoor was accused of corruption and misuse of his influence and power as the Minister of External Affairs for financial gains. The charges amounted to such extents that Tharoor was ultimately forced to resign from his post.
Soon after that, probes were to be conducted against Lalit Modi, who had tweeted the deal’s terms. Several money laundering schemes, tax evasion of a whole tournament and even nepotism was unearthed.
One of the significant examples of nepotism was the ownership of the Rajasthan Royals. Lalit made sure that the majority stake in this profitable franchise went to none other than his brother-in-law, Suresh Chellaram.
With the blatant abuse of power brought to light, BCCI suspended Lalit Modi and removed him from his post as the Chairman of the IPL after the revelation of the dubious deals which had taken place over the past few years. As more and more got revealed, the charges against Lalit mounted, stacking up to over twenty-two cases, of which six were major crimes. Eventually, the Enforcement Directorate was involved, and they started an in-depth investigation into the charges against Lalit. He was forced to flee to London and has been residing there ever since.
Since then, the charges against Lalit Modi have only increased. In fact, in 2015, a non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against him on money laundering charges. However, Lalit has never returned to India, and the charges against him have never been processed to completion. As long as he does not return to India voluntarily, the Indian agencies cannot arrest and extradite him.
In its most simplified way, spot-fixing is an illegal activity related to certain isolated incidents in the course of a match, and it’s done to ensure a particular result in a proposition bet. These bets are made regarding occurrences that might happen during a game and aren’t immediately linked to the game’s outcome. So, it could range from an alteration in a particular delivery, say a no-ball or a wide, or a batsman securing single figures from a delivery.
Essentially, betting syndicates place their money on these specific occurrences, making it very hard to track the Twenty20 format of the game. Furthermore, not all team players are necessarily involved, making it hard to keep a tab on individual performances. One might ask how this proves to be cost-effective for gamblers. Well, the game’s intricacies are hard to track, and once they fixate on an occurrence, they make fortunes off of the lapses. In cricket, spot-fixing first came to light in the 2010 Pakistan tour of England.
2012 and 2013 spot-fixing cases in the Indian Premier League (IPL):
Coming to spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), there have been two major scandals—the 2012 spot-fixing case, and the 2013 spot-fixing and betting case.
The 2012 spot-fixing case started with a sting operation by two reporters of a Hindi news channel—Jamshed Khan and Sushant Pathak. Posing as representatives of various teams, they carried out the procedure for around eleven months. Five players were accused of seeking money through exchanges in spot-fixing.
Over tape, it was recorded that Kings XI Punjab’s Shalabh Srivastava was ready to take part in spot-fixing. He was penalised with a five-year ban. Abhinav Bali, a player in the erstwhile Indian Cricket League, was speculated to have taken part in spot-fixing in the 2009 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and was charged with a one-year ban. Monish Mishra, a batsman for the Pune Warriors, claimed to have received Rs 12 million to Rs 14 million, which was much more than his entitled fee of Rs 3 million. He was charged with a one-year ban as well. Kings XI Punjab’s Amit Yadav was conjectured to have been involved in spot-fixing and was penalised with a one-year ban. TP Sudhindra, pacer for the Deccan Chargers, was caught delivering a no-ball as part of the spot-fixing involvements and was imposed with a life-ban from the game.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) handled the preliminary enquiries, and it was headed by the then former chief of the Anti-Corruption Unit of ICC.
The 2013 spot-fixing and betting case unfolded with the arrest of three cricketers of the Rajasthan Royals team by the Delhi Police. Under speculation, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan witnessed a series of trials before the Patiala House Courts acquitted them in 2015. In January 2016, Ajit Chandila was penalised with a life ban from the game. Initially imposed with a life ban, the Supreme Court lifted Sreeshanth’s restraints in March 2019. Several bookies were arrested for cricket betting, spot-fixing involvement, and illegal exchanges of cash.
Suspension of teams:
In a separate case, the Mumbai Police arrested Gurunath Meiyappan—the Chennai Super Kings’s team principal, for alleged betting. Although he was later released by bail, the Chennai Super Kings were penalised with a two-year ban (starting 2015) from the league. Additionally, a life ban was imposed on Gurunath Meiyappan.
The erstwhile owner of the Rajasthan Royals, Raj Kundra, was also speculated to have been involved in similar illicit activities. He was disbanded of all his shares and was suspended from the Indian Premier League in 2013. Furthermore, in 2015, the Rajasthan Royals were suspended for two years.
Teams that are defunct now:
Through the thirteen seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), five teams discontinued their participation.
Debuting in 2008, the Deccan Charges were a part of five seasons. Due to internal issues with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), they announced their discontinuation.
Kochi Tuskers Kerala
In 2011, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to introduce two new teams into the league, and Kochi Tuskers Kerala was one of the franchises. Owing to financial concerns and disputes between their owners, they were declared defunct a year later.
Pune Warriors India
Pune Warriors India was the second franchise introduced in 2011. After three years of a stellar line-up, they announced their discontinuation in 2013.
The Gujarat Lions, having garnered a huge fan base, were a part of two seasons—the 2016 season and the 2017 season. They declared their discontinuity after this.
Rising Pune Supergiant
The Rising Pune Supergiant was also part of two seasons—2016 and 2017. They battled against the Mumbai Indians in the finale of 2017, and announced discontinuity after.
In recent times, surrounding illicit activities in sports have gotten more robust, and have been enforced stringently. Even with all the controversies embroiling the Indian Premier League, it is one of the most anticipated cricketing tournaments every summer. The game keeps viewers entertained for over two months every year. Though the tournament was cancelled this year owing to the pandemic situation, it did not deter the fans from cheering for their team through their TV screen from the safety net of their homes. Even with all the scandals and illicit activities, cricket is a game that caters to people of all religions, classes or creeds.
The glamour of the cricket world and fame and money earned through IPL gives many young kids the freedom to dream. And that entails the complete spirit of the game.
Written By Ramya S Prakash and Suhani Kabra for MTTN
Edited by Shirley Asangi for MTTN
Featured Image by Navya Anil for MTTN