India Cricket Head Rejects Calls to Quit After Arrest of Kin

N. Srinivasan
N. Srinivasan, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), addresses a press conference in Kolkata on May 26, 2013. Source: AFP/Getty Images

N. Srinivasan, president of the board that runs the world’s richest cricket tournament, rejected calls for his resignation after a relative was arrested by the police for betting on the outcome of games.

Mumbai Police on May 24 arrested Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan on charges of placing bets on Indian Premier League matches. That form of gambling is illegal in India. Meiyappan, who is a member of the team managing Chennai Super Kings, a franchise owned by India Cements Ltd., was yesterday suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India from any involvement in the game, according to a statement on the website of the sport’s governing body.

An investigation into spot fixing, where players manipulate specific actions in a game, following the arrest of three cricketers and a Bollywood actor, widened with the detention of Meiyappan and led to calls from Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to former board secretary Jayawant Lele for Srinivasan’s resignation. Fueled by sponsorships, broadcast revenue and ticket sales, the IPL has grown into the world’s richest cricket competition, worth $3.67 billion, according to London-based Brand Finance Plc.

“I have not been asked by anybody” on the board to resign, Srinivasan, who’s also the managing director of India Cements, said in a press conference in Kolkata yesterday. “On the contrary, my support is complete and I refuse to yield to unfair, motivated attacks.”

Meiyappan’s lawyers Abad Ponda and Ishwar Nankani said his arrest was “irrational and illegal,” the Financial Express reported yesterday.

Mumbai Indians

The Twenty20 league, which showcases the sport’s newest and shortest format, concluded its sixth season. Mumbai Indians, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd., beat Chennai Super Kings, which has won two of the last five iterations of the Indian league faced, in yesterday’s IPL final in Kolkata.

Srinivasan was heckled by spectators in Kolkata’s Eden Garden stadium as soon as he was introduced during the presentation ceremony that followed the game, Times of India reported today.

The controversies have destroyed $1 billion of stakeholder value, said Unni Krishnan, global strategy director at Brand Finance.

PepsiCo Inc. agreed to spend 3.97 billion rupees ($71.2 million) over five years to be the title sponsor of the Indian Premier League. Pradeep Wadhwa, a Gurgaon, India-based spokesman for the world’s second-largest beverage company, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

‘Ethical Violations’

“Such ethical violations are steadily chipping away at the trust levels of viewers and other stakeholders who will eventually lose all real and serious interest in IPL,” Krishnan said in an e-mail. “This will break the backbone of IPL and erode all other stakeholder interests making India and cricket poorer.”

The board’s officials met with the Mumbai Police on the evening of May 23, and will “continue to offer all assistance to the police and regulatory authorities,” it said in the statement.

Three cricketers, including a former national team bowler are being investigated by police for spot-fixing in matches. The three players including S. Sreesanth, all belong to the Rajasthan Royals team.

Sreesanth said he had “been falsely implicated,” Press Trust of India reported citing his bail application.

Twenty20 Match

“The last few days has been difficult for me as a father and a father-in-law,” said Srinivasan, whose media interaction was telecast live by most news channels. “However, I sit here as the president of the BCCI and put aside all personal feelings, and I can assure you I will not shirk from my duty, however difficult it may be.”

Minister Nath in televised remarks said Srinivasan’s position had become “untenable,” while Lele said Srinivasan shouldn’t “wait for 10 minutes to resign,” Hindustan Times reported yesterday.

The rapid-fire appeal of a Twenty20 match has won huge audience in a cricket crazy country. The sport, invented in England more than four centuries ago, has largely been played in former British colonies.

The league capitalizes on the growing popularity of the shorter version of the game compared with the more traditional one played over five days with breaks for lunch and tea.

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