Disclaimer: The author would like to state right at the outset that he is a fan of one of the teams in question here.
The Justice Lodha committee’s recommendation to suspend the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals for a period of two years has sent shockwaves throughout Indian cricket. Fans of both teams are worried that ‘Whistle Podu’ and ‘Halla Bol’ will only be a distant memory if and when the two teams return in two years’ time. Not many are questioning the decision to keep Messrs. Meiyappan and Kundra out of the game for the rest of their lives, but many do feel that Justice Lodha’s recommendation to suspend two fan-favorite teams from the Indian Premier League a bit too harsh. While the judgement of the Lodha committee has been implemented in toto, the BCCI has instituted a four-member team including Saurav Ganguly to examine the report, giving hope to the franchises and the fans that there would be an outside chance that the team could still play the 9th edition of the Indian Premier League.
Before discussing the judgement and potential alterations to it, four axiomatic principles need to be established whilst considering the correct quantum of punishment for any questionable activity:
- The exact crime has to be established, and the punishment should reflect the crime committed.
- The punishment has to act as a deterrent so that similar activities are not encouraged in the future.
- The punishment should be specific to the person or entity that has committed the said questionable activity, and should not affect those who are not directly and willingly involved.
Finding the middle ground:
Any decision vis-a-vis these two franchises has to balance the three traits cited in the title of this article. There can’t be no question that Messrs. Meiyappan and Lodha have to pay the price for participating in an activity that is illegal in the land, which is made worse by their privileged access to their teams in particular, and the teams in general. Additionally, since it has been argued that the franchise owners were in the know of the alleged misdeeds of Meiyyappan and Kundra, it is only proper that they also face punitive action. This author personally feels that a 2 year suspension is actually rather light on the franchise owners, and that the game would be best served if they were to be banned from it forever. This however does not imply that the teams themselves have to be suspended. The above statement might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but the subtlety in definition makes all the difference in the world. At the end of the day, the Indian Premier League is the success it is mainly due to two sets of people: the fans and the players, neither of whom are guilty of any wrongdoing as per the conclusions of the committee (not factoring in the alleged spot-fixing case of three players which is subjudice, and is a completely different issue). Indeed, the committee explicitly states that the players are free to play for any of the remaining franchises, which while bailing them out, shortchanges the average Chennai and Jaipur fan. Ultimately, the average cricket-watching public doesn’t care who owns the franchise as long as their city is represented, and the players with whom they’ve built up an emotional connection over the past eight years, still take the field for their city. Indeed, a permanent, elegant, and just solution would be to dissolve the franchises, conduct fresh auctions for franchise rights, and hand the newest bidders the rights to a new Chennai and Jaipur team, but the full squads as of today. This would ensure that on a practical level, nothing changes in the Indian Premier League , keeping the tournament relevant and competitive. This will also ensure that fans will not have to face any unforeseen dilemmas vis-a-vis their support of the teams, albeit a rechristening of the team name might be in order, a la Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Justice Lodha’s report states very clearly that Cricket is not just any other game or sporting activity, but a passion for millions of people. The committee in all its wisdom has tried to do what is best for the sport, but this author feels that innocent players and the hardcore fans could use a bit of a healing touch amidst all this negativity. Watching MS Dhoni of the Chennai Cavaliers whack Shane Watson of the Jaipur Juggernauts over long on could just be a better alternative, than a short-lived, yet protracted heartache of seeing their teams wallow in ignominy while the other teams take to the field in Indian Premier League .