Where to for the IPL after Lodha report?

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The Lodha report is big news, but it isn't new news. The decision to suspend the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings for two years has been in the pipeline since the betting scandal that hit the Indian Premier League in 2013.

There were two separate cases. The first is the accusation that three Royals players – Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – were charged with spot fixing. The second was that Gurunath Meiyappen of the Super Kings and Raj Kundra of the Royals were involved in illegal betting on IPL matches.

It was this second case that has led to the suspension of the two franchises and the ending of N Srinivasan’s time as BCCI president. Meiyappen is the son-in-law of Srinivasan and although he was referred to as only an 'enthusiast' by his wife’s father, Meiyappen referred to himself as team principle and was regularly interviewed as the team’s representative on TV coverage of the event.

A BCCI investigation found both Meiyappen and Royals co-owner Kundra to be innocent of any wrong-doing. This was quite remarkable given the amount of evidence against them which included taped conversations with book makers, and in Kundra’s case, an alleged confession to the Delhi police.

It was at this point that the courts got involved. Aditya Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar, filed a motion with the Mumbai high court saying that the investigation into CSK and Royals officials was a 'sham'.

For the BCCI, finding those officials guilty would have massive implications for the teams involved. The allegation was that they did not want to have to deal with the fall out. The Franchise Agreement had clause 11.3 (c) states the following:

"A franchise may be terminated immediately if the Franchisee, any Franchisee Group Company and /or any Owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchisee, the Team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket."

While Srinivasan and CSK attempted to distance themselves from Meiyappen, the retired Indian Supreme Court judge Mukul Mudgal said it was clear that he worked for the team in an official capacity.

Mudgal also said that Srinivasan needed to step down as head of the BCCI while this was under investigation, referring to the fact that he was still in post as 'nauseating'.

The Lodha committee was constituted after the Mudgal committee submitted its report and it was given a remit to decide the punishments for those involved and look into the conflicts of interest that have been at the heart of so much of this scandal.

As a result, Meiyappen and Kundra have been banned from being involved in BCCI cricket related activity for life, CSK and the Royals will sit out the next two seasons, their players are free to move to other teams.

It will very interesting to see what this means for MS Dhoni, the player most associated with CSK. He could chose to sit out the next two years of the event but that would be a very expensive decision for a man who does not have many years of top level cricket left.

The BCCI could well decide to arrange for the two franchises to be sold to different owners but that would involve the tournament losing two of its most powerful brands.

There has been some speculation that these decisions will be challenged in the courts, but it would be unlikely for them to be over turned. Whether the IPL can continue to make money and fulfill TV obligations with six teams is also up for debate.

The real question in all of this is the position of Srinivasan as the man who is at the head of the world game. The man who runs cricket still has many questions to answer about the way he handle this situation and its aftermath.

Some ownership transfer shenanigans means he is not as linked to CSK as he once was. However, he was the owner at the time when his son-in-law was engaging in illegal activity and then he attempted to distance himself from it all rather than dealing with it.

Aditya Verma was scathing in his criticism of the ICC Chairman when he spoke to FirstPost once the Lodhi report had been released: "Srinivasan used every means to shield his son-in-law Meiyappen. He has no morality.

"Now, the BCCI has to come up clean, as it’s accountable to the nation and the game of cricket. If the BCCI wants to redeem its lost reputation and for the sake of credibility of cricket, the present board management must call back Srinivasan and file criminal charges of fraud and forgery against him and those others involved in the corruption. Nobody, no institution is above law."

This story still has a long way to run and the far reaching consequences could be sending ripples through the cricketing world for months and years to come. For now we will need to see what happens when the dust settles.

The IPL is too lucrative to be allowed to crumble, but those that run it need to do so with integrity and an outlook that is above reproach.  

Peter Miller

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