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Transparency is the way forward

Peter Roebuck

Indian cricket had had a red letter day. It's not often that a court case affects the wellbeing of a game. The ridiculous Packer case may have been the last instance. But the verdict reached by the Supreme Court of India in backing a “beautifully crafted” judgment produced by the Kerala High Court is such an occasion.

As the noble litigant Balaji Aiyengar said afterwards, “So far sports associations in India have had responsibility without accountability. Hopefully this will usher in an era of responsibility with accountability.”

Well may the local accountant and the entire cricket community hope and pray. Governance has long been the critical issue in the game. Jiggery pokery has been exposed in Zimbabwe, USA, Pakistan and Kenya and the game's trusted rulers mostly buried their heads in the sand. But then the ICC turned a blind eye. Some have been given high office.

Allen Stanford and Lalit Modi were treated like gods of the game until finally some bright spark began to ask questions and examine accounts. As Bob Dylan pointed out, “Money doesn't talk, it swears obscenity, who really cares?”

Seamy side

Not cricket's smug and self-serving rulers that's for sure. Gambling is rife, rigged matches are not unknown, brown paper bags smooth the path of building contracts. The corruption of the CWG in New Delhi has been exposed. Let the CWC come next. After that the IPL and ICL need to publish their documents.

Officials are servants of the game not its blithe masters. Already there is talk of hidden payments to IPL players whose auction price was low. Cricket has its seamy side.

The Kerala case is critical and lights the path forward. Frustrated by the secrecy and sloth of the local cricket body, Aiyengar began proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 against the KCA members claiming they are ‘public servants' as they discharge public functions. Hitherto the PC Act applied only to public bodies and cricket and sport in general had always regarded themselves as private. In effect KCA and the BCCI were laws unto themselves. Or so they thought.

Sagacious verdict

Thanks to the sagacious verdict handed down that assumption has been thrown out, initially by the Kerala High Court, and on appeal confirmed by the Supreme Court of India. Suddenly cricket bodies are stewards of the game. Pop the champagne corks. Order a sweet lassi. Accountability is vital to the health of a country and its constituent parts. People are dying in Tunisia and Egypt and Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in pursuit of freedom and accountability.

Of course the established powers and the cronies and boot lickers around them are aghast.

Responsible leaders, though, will welcome the decision and urge the KCA and all its counterparts around the world to open their books for inspection. It's our game. Actually it's our country and world and one day that news will reach even the upper echelons.

Transparency is the way forward. Honest administrators have nothing to fear. One rupee to a crore says that the new guard in Karnataka will welcome the decision and apply it fearlessly.

Twenty years ago it did not matter all that much, except to locals, which faction ran the game in this country.

Now India is the most powerful voice in the game and is permanently in the spotlight.

The decision in Kerala and the rise of Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Venkatesh Prasad in Bangalore are steps in the right direction. It's been ground hard won.

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