New Delhi: Under fire ever since IPL spot-fixing scandal broke out, Board Of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI) is now facing tough questions about brand IPL and its credibility and sanctity in the world of cricket. CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar interviews BCCI's President N Srinivasan.
Here's the transcript of the full interview:
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate and a special interview with the president of the BCCI N Srinivasan. Mr Srinivasan would you accept that the fact that three, may be more, cricketers from Rajasthan Royals are accused of spot-fixing has badly damaged the credibility of the IPL, both as a brand and as a tournament?
N Srinivasan: I think it is a big generalisation. I mean, we have to admit the fact that three players have been arrested. At the same time, their lawyers are saying that they are innocent. I think we should also wait and see if Delhi Police prove, establish and substantiate whatever allegations they have made.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan, let me interrupt you at that point. The Delhi Police are clearly letting it be known that all three have confessed. Two of them are alleged to have cried in fact. Where do you get this confidence that they could still be innocent? People will assume that you are in a state of denial, if you keep insisting against all the evidence the police are putting out.
N Srinivasan: I'm not in a state of denial. There was some evidence shown on TV. Police have made their statements; police have said they have confessed, fine. All I'm saying is in this country until proven guilty you are innocent, I think that still stands. Since BCCI will also be issuing a showcause notice to them, there will be an enquiry; I can't have a pre-judged mind on it. But at the same time, I concede the fact that this is something which is a shock to all of us. I never expected that a player of the calibre of Sreesanth, who has played tests for India, and other Ranji Trophy players be accused of such wrong doing.
Karan Thapar: Preciously I asked you Mr Srinivasan can you accept that damage has been done to the IPL both as a tournament and as a brand?
N Srinivasan: For the last two days everybody has asked me same question, IPL is damaged, IPL credibility is gone. It is the biggest tournament in the world, we should be proud of it.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan, it has also taken the biggest hit, this is not the first time IPL cricketers have been accused of fixing. This has happened last year as well. The police are suggesting that it has been happening since 2009.
N Srinivasan: Suggestions are different, speculations are different, but I will reply to facts. Yes, this has happened, we have called an emergent meeting of the working committee of the BCCI. We are going to meet tomorrow. We are going to take stock of the situation. For your information, the anti-corruption unit of the ICC has been in charge of monitoring the IPL tournaments.
Karan Thapar: I will come to the ICC's anti-corruption unit in a moment's time, I want to go back to this critical point of whether you accept that the IPL has suffered damage or not. Are you telling me today as BCCI president that you do not accept that the IPL has suffered damage? Is that the point you are making?
N Srinivasan: The point I'm making is, everybody is now berating IPL, saying that IPL is finished. All I'm saying is I acknowledge the fact that three cricketers have done this; naturally it will have some impact. What is that impact, how much is that impact, your view is different from mine.
Karan Thapar: Let me put that to you, because this series of the IPL will be remembered for spot-fixing, because last year something similar happened as well - people are going to turnaround and say that the IPL is where fixing happens. As someone who is head of this whole organisation doesn't it worry you that the IPL is being associated with fixing?
N Srinivasan:It not only worries me. You see the fact is that I have to sit here and listen to people saying that IPL is fixed. IPL as a whole - no. Three players have done something wrong; it doesn't mean the whole of the IPL is wrong, which is what you are trying to make out.
Karan Thapar: I'm not trying to make out that the whole of the IPL is bad, but I will point out that the police say that the number may be much more than three, more teams than Rajasthan Royals may be involved, more games than the three they have identified may be involved. It could be a bigger problem.
N Srinivasan: If that evidence comes out we will deal with it. I can tell you one thing, if you think for a moment that the BCCI is not concerned you are extremely mistaken. BCCI is very, very concerned, but I can't go out in public and talk about what we are going to do, until the committee has discussed it. There is a process by which we govern. We have called a meeting tomorrow.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan people will be happy to hear you say that you are concerned because until now the impression that has come across from the tone and manner of your comments and the fact that the IPL commissioner Rajiv Shukla and IPL CEO have hardly spoken at all. Mr Shukla has just begun speaking. The impression coming across is that you are either in a denial or you are minimising damage done. You are correcting that by saying that you accept that damage has been done.
N Srinivasan: Please understand what I'm saying - no one can say that nothing has happened. When three players have been caught, and three players have been arrested, how can I say that. It is not necessary for me to say, that is like given. But what I'm trying to say is that we have to focus on what to do, what is that the BCCI can say. BCCI will now look into this matter in great detail, BCCI will see whether it is a systemic failure. What is that we have to do is to improve and see such things don't happen again.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan, I will come to the steps that you need to take in a moments' time, but for a moment still I want to concentrate on the enormity of what has happened and to find out to what extent you accept. Do you today accept that one of the bigger losses is that fans of the IPL are losing faith in the tournament. The next time you have a last time no ball, or the next time a player drops a catch of a batsman three times in a game, people won't turnaround and say it was bad luck or part of the so called glorious uncertainties of cricket, they will say this was cheating. Anything and everything that goes odd will now be putdown to cheating that is the extent to which damage has been done - do you accept that?
N Srinivasan: No because you are carrying this a little too far. What has happened, some three players have been caught, this doesn't mean that millions of fans are going to say IPL is fixed. I don't agree, I don't want to argue. I do not agree to the extent to which you are saying it. I think fans will still believe in cricket. There have been some bad eggs, through the history there have been some bad eggs here and there but that doesn't mean that whole tournament is bad, everything is fixed. I don't subscribe to that at all.
Karan Thapar: Alright let's leave it to the audience to judge whether your answer responds adequately to their sense of concern, or whether they feel as I have been suggesting that you are minimising the problem. Let me come to a second critical question: did the BCCI and the IPL take sufficient steps to avoid such fixing? After all, Lalit Modi has now revealed that couple of weeks ago he was in touch by email with the IPL CEO Sundar Raman, forwarding to him information that Modi had received from the English journalist Edward Haskins, suggesting that games in this IPL series would be fixed. What steps did Mr Sundar Raman take?
N Srinivasan: See, I do not give any credibility to what Mr Modi says. Mr Modi is under enquiry for very, very serious acts which he has committed against the BCCI, for which a disciplinary committee has gone into it and we are awaiting that report.
Karan Thapar: Except Modi was simply a middle man passing on information from Edward Haskins, who is a credible journalist.
N Srinivasan: Mr Modi's enquiry must be complete, until such time that is done and whatever follow up is done, I don't want to talk about what Mr Modi says. In any case I will not response what Mr Modi says.
Karan Thapar: Except I am not asking you about Mr Modi. Mr Modi was only passing on details which he got from a reputed journalist Edward Haskins. It is Edward Haskins who was warning, through Modi, BCCI and IPL that there could be rigging.
N Srinivasan: Mr Thapar, I'm making it very clear, see if I say one more sentence, it can be used by somebody as saying... you know, I do not want to get into this situation where I comment on what Mr Modi has done now, I will not do it. You can draw any inference because it is not fair to me when he is subject to an enquiry and I'm the president of the BCCI, for you to ask me now. Ask me after the enquiry is over, I will come back to this programme and discuss Mr Modi.
Karan Thapar: Alright, let's then leave Mr Modi out, let me instead come to warnings issued to BCCI by the ICC anti-corruption unit as recently as January 2012 - that is just roughly 18 months ago. And they said and I quote, "There is a considerably increased risk of fixing at the IPL." What was your response to the ICC's warnings?
N Srinivasan: ICC is in charge of ICC's anti-corruption unit, it is the one which has been appointed to monitor and take steps to prevent this.
Karan Thapar: But ICC specifically in 2012 asked you to do two things - they asked you to monitor agents of players and secondly they asked for you to keep an eye on the unexplained wealth of some players. Where those two steps taken by BCCI?
N Srinivasan: Whatever has been specifically requested would have 100 per cent been dealt by the BCCI. In any case we are going to have a discussion with the anti-corruption unit of the ICC on what has happened now and what steps they took and what is it that could have been done, which has not been done. We are not going to keep quiet. I want to make one thing very clear. If there is a fault, if there is something that has been overlooked, we will not try and cover it up. We will say this is why it happened. I have nothing personally to gain in this.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan don't use the word 'if', clearly there was a fault. This sought of laps two years running can't happen without there being a fault.
N Srinivasan: I'm sorry Mr Thapar, I don't have the precise details that you have. But you can be sure the moment this call is over I will find out. But I can assure you that we will not cover anything, we will get to the bottom to this. Of all the people, the person who is hurting most is me. The BCCI is hurting most. Now I can't come and say.. now since you have asked me so I'm telling you we are hurting like anything. I don't like to be in a spot where people.. you know there are so many good thing in BCCI, we have done so much for cricket.
Karan Thapar: Let me test the assurance you are giving, I have noted it, the audience would have noted it. Let me test it. People say that one of the steps that you need to take is to use the contacts that you have in politics and after all BCCI has some of the most senior politicians in India across the spectrum working intimately with it. Use those contacts to push specific law on spot-fixing and match-fixing - will you take that step?
N Srinivasan: We will take what ever steps are necessary to eradicate this spot..
Karan Thapar: You are not answering my question.. Do you believe this step is necessary?
N Srinivasan: It is not a question of... I may do something more also, why don't you wait?
Karan Thapar: So what do you have in mind when you say you will do something more?
N Srinivasan: We have to discuss.. See I am not a single man organisation..
Karan Thapar: But you are the president of the organisation and you can share your thinking with us..
N Srinivasan: I lead, but I have to first share my thinking with my colleagues..
Karan Thapar: Well, let me put it like this then, do you believe a tough specific law on spot-fixing and match-fixing is needed? What does N Srinivasan himself believe?
N Srinivasan: I believe that the regulations must be so tight that no quarter must be given to anybody who indulges in this.
Karan Thapar: Is that a yes to my question?
N Srinivasan: You have to interpret it because I don't want to talk about laws. I'm not a law maker. All I can say is we will strengthen our own laws.
Karan Thapar: Alright, let me put a second suggestion that many believe is necessary if you are really going to stem the rot. Why don't you drop your hesitations and reservations and bring both the IPL and the BCCI under the Right to Information Act? That would assure accountability and transparency and it will reassure people that you are serious.
N Srinivasan: You see, we are a private organisation. You have made this suggestion - now we oppose the Sports Bill for various clauses it had, among that is the Right to Information. As far as we are concerned BCCI is a private organisation, it is not a government organisation.
Karan Thapar: You have just taken one of the serious knocks, is it time to drop your reservation and accept that you need to make a drastic change with your views with your past?
N Srinivasan: The fault doesn't lie in the Right to the Information Act, the fault lies with the greed of some players.
Karan Thapar: Alright in which case you are saying to me clearly that you do not want to change your position on the Right to Information Act and it will not apply to BCCI and to IPL, let me just take up the thought you have just given me. The fault lies with the greed of the players. How do you respond to the view, and it is a view that is widely shared, that the IPL created a type of ambiance, it brought together the type of people and it promoted the type of values that made fixing possible.
N Srinivasan: Well, I can't agree with you in the way that you have put it. I will say this that if you have noticed in the last few years there is less glamour, the ambiance is different and there is greater focus on cricket and that is how it will be.
Karan Thapar: Except that, that itself has become a problem because you now have 76 matches in seven weeks which you can't monitor and control. The number is far too large and that, therefore, becomes fertile ground for fixers to operate within. It happened last year, it's happened this year.
N Srinivasan: Mr Thapar, it does not matter how many matches you play. I think that is not the point. It is the question of how many crooks you have. I mean, it is plain and simple. If in this country everyone is a law abiding citizen and as they should be, there should be not a single person in jail. There is no need of a jail.
Karan Thapar: You know, you have said something very interesting - what matters is how many crooks you have. And I am afraid that draws my attention to a second level of concern with IPL. It lacks transparency and credibility in critical areas. People question the sort of franchises you have brought on board, the way money was paid, the way auctions were held, the way money was transferred to South Africa. At critical moments, questions were raised and it seemed that the money..
N Srinivasan: You are very articulate. I am not as articulate as you. But I will try to answer and respond to what you have just said. See, there was transparency in the auctioning of the franchise. As far as this question of where money comes from if anything is wrong - if a franchise had done something incorrect, it is up to the law enforcement agency or it is up to the respective department to look into it. We are not that. But I don't agree with you on this transfer of money to South Africa. Whatever it was, the tournament had to be shifted from India to South Africa in a matter of 10 days. And I think we managed to accomplish that and I don't think there was any wrong-doing there. As far as South Africa thing is concerned, there have been some notices which have been given, we have responded, the matter is before the law enforcement directorate - we are very, very, very confident that there will be no fault found with us.
Karan Thapar: Let me come to that last question. It has to be the last question of this show. The reason why the people have deep concerns about the moral functioning. And I use that word moral deliberately is because the BCCI permitted and it condoned, what many believe, is a blatant conflict of interest. When they allowed you first as a senior official of the BCCI and then as the President to own an IPL team. People said that if this sort of thing is permitted, it suggests that anything goes. It suggests a moral lackness in the way the BCCI and IPL operate. And that many people believe is now playing out right across the board, no matter where you look at the functioning of the IPL. This moral concern with a lack of regulation and absence of probity.
N Srinivasan: Have you finished?
Karan Thapar: I have indeed, sir.
N Srinivasan:No, you have finished this question. You see, this matter is before the Supreme Court and is sub-judice. I can't say much. All I can say is, I do not own the team. I happen to be a shareholder of a company which owns the team. That's a large public company with one lakh shareholders. You see, the advantage that you have is that you can put the question to me. I cannot answer on it because the matter is before the Supreme Court. As and when it is determined, at that time again there are two issues - one Mr Modi and this. Both of these I will come before you and you can ask any question at that time. But at the moment, I have my hands tied in replying. I can reply, but not publicly.
Karan Thapar: My last question Mr Srinivasan. The police are saying that there could be 15 more matches in this series alone where match-fixing has happened, there could be many other teams that are involved beyond the Rajasthan Royals. Infact match-fixing could go all the way back to previous years. Maybe even as far as back to 2009. Can you give me some assurance that in the remaining critical week, when you have your semi-finals and your finals there will not be spot-fixing.
b>N Srinivasan: You see, the way the question is put it is as if we either tolerate or allow or permit or turn a Nelson's eye towards match-fixing. I am sorry to spot-fixing. I am sorry that is not so. We are really shocked. But I have to go into the fact that I have to be objective. How we feel, I cannot state that. But I can assure you that I have no words to condemn what has happened. So, it is not as if we want this to happen.. We want that it never happens. We want it never to happen again and we don't want at any time again to be in a spot where such questions can be put to us.
Karan Thapar: Mr Srinivasan, you say you don't want to be in a spot where such questions are put to you. I know that these are embarrassing questions. But do you feel that the IPL has let down its fans and followers? Not just in India, but worldwide. Do you owe them an apology?
N Srinivasan: See, IPL has not let down the people. It is these dirty cricketers who have done it. These people who have indulged in these kinds of activities. They are the ones and we feel bad, really bad that such a thing has happened.
Karan Thapar: Do you feel that you need to apologise?
N Srinivasan: The BCCI.. You see I don't have to personally apologise. So long as people know that I condemn it, that I don't want it, that I resent the fact that I have to sit here and answer this. It is not so much an embarrassment. We are honest people. Why do honest people..
Karan Thapar: Would you like to see the guilty cricketers, who you called the dirty cricketers a moment ago, go to jail?
N Srinivasan: No punishment is too little for them.
Karan Thapar: That means, you would like to see them go to jail?
N Srinivasan: See, I am not a law enforcement.. I am not a judge..
Karan Thapar: I am asking you about your personal opinion.
N Srinivasan: My person opinion - if they are found guilty, they should not play cricket at all again.
Karan Thapar: But that's a very mild punishment. A life-time ban is nothing. After all, you gave a life-time ban to Mohammad Azharuddin shortly after he became a cricketer even though he hadn't been absolved of the charges, you started welcoming him back into the BCCI. So life-time bans don't work. Let me come back to my question. Do we need deterrent punishment like sending these "dirty cricketers" to jail?
N Srinivasan:Yes. I have no hesitation in saying yes.
Karan Thapar: And will the BCCI bring the criminal cases against them as well?
N Srinivasan: If permitted, we will.
Karan Thapar: What do you mean if permitted. Who is stopping you?
N Srinivasan: I don't know the law Mr Thapar. I am not a lawyer. I am an engineer. So, I will go to the extent, to the maximum extent possible to punish people who do indulge in such activities.
Karan Thapar: Alright.
N Srinivasan: Now, what are the limits I don't know. So, as an engineer I have to ask a lawyer.
Karan Thapar: But you will go to the very limit of what the law permits. That's the message you are giving to the Indian people today?
N Srinivasan: 100 per cent.
Karan Thapar: Mr N Srinivasan, thank you very much for answering my questions.
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