It’s a matter not very well known that the Indian Premier League’s architect Lalit Modi’s term of expulsion from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for “committing acts of serious misconduct and indiscipline” got over on September 24, 2016. Technically, that is. But there is a lot of uncertainty around the return of the mercurial administrator to the BCCI fold, as well as Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) that he currently heads. Modi, at the moment, is not sure if he would apply to the BCCI for reinstatement. “They illegally expelled me,” Modi told Outlook over phone from somewhere abroad. “But I was not aware of this [his expulsion period getting over]. I will check this out.”
There could be more than one reason for Modi’s uncertainty. One, he has already been an office-bearer of the RCA for almost eight years. And, according to the Lodha committee recommendations, no person can be an office-bearer for over nine years (interspersed with two cooling-off periods of three years each), be it with the BCCI or any state association that is affiliated to it. Interestingly, Lalit Modi has not only appreciated the Lodha panel’s recommendations but also announced that the RCA would comply with them. “RCA should be part of the BCCI. If somebody is against you, you should not expel him. We are not going to relent,” he thunders.
So, assuming that Modi applies for reinstatement and even if he is accepted back in the fold—though it looks highly improbable—he will get only one year to administer. How hopeful is Modi himself? “I am least concerned with how the BCCI operates,” he says nonchalantly.
A major reason for Modi pitching in could be his son Ruchir. Recently, 22-year-old Ruchir became president of the Alwar District Cricket Association, and reportedly purchased property to be eligible for it, as per the Rajasthan state rules. Ruchir also visited Jaipur recently. The events made tongues wag. People in cricketing circles wondered if Lalit Modi was trying to install his son to continue his rule by proxy. Modi himself denies this. “He is nowhere in the picture. He is too young,” he says. As per the timelines set out by the Lodha committee for the BCCI and its affiliates to hold fresh elections adhering to its new stipulations, RCA will have to hold polls by November 15.
After the BCCI expelled Modi, the RCA again elected him as its president; that led to RCA’s suspension from the BCCI. A wrathful board has since suspended all rightful annual financial grants to the RCA. The state team, however, competes under the aegis of the BCCI, after 75 Rajasthan cricketers moved the High Court, seeking to play in BCCI-organised national tournaments.
Lalit Modi is also fighting a court case against Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who was one of the members of the board’s disciplinary committee that found him ‘guilty’ on eight different charges. Given that Jaitley and current BCCI president Anurag Thakur are BJP leaders, Modi’s reinstatement looks to be remote from this angle.
Based on its own disciplinary committee’s report, the BCCI’s general body resolved to expel Modi at a specially convened meeting on September 25, 2013. The Board invoked Regulation 32 of its Memorandum and Rules and Regulations that deals with ‘indiscipline’ and ‘misconduct’.
The rule is clear on the issue of reinstatement. Rule 32 (iv) reads: “A member or associate member or an administrator expelled may, on application made after expiry of three years since expulsion, be readmitted by the board, provided the same is accepted at a general body meeting by 3/4th members present and voting, for re-admission.” RCA deputy president Mehmood M. Abdi said the issue would be assessed before Modi, living in England for more than six years, applies for his reinstatement. “RCA’s suspension was consequential to the expulsion of Modi from BCCI under Rule 32. That suspension could remain in place only for a period of three years....,” Abdi, who is also Modi’s attorney, told Outlook. “So, if Modi’s suspension goes, RCA’s suspension is meaningless and it should be reinstated forthwith. Even otherwise, the suspension of any state association cannot last for more than six months [without punishment or exoneration]; it is more than two years since RCA has been suspended,” he pointed out.
Asked if the RCA would raise this point with the BCCI, Abdi said: “We haven’t yet decided. We are assessing the situation and will move accordingly.”
Modi became a part of the BCCI’s upper echelons on November 29, 2005, as one of its five vice-presidents. After failing to find a firm toehold in the Himachal Pradesh and Baroda cricket associations, Modi found a friend and mentor in I.S. Bindra, who made him a Punjab Cricket Association vice-president. As is the rule, each VP gets to head a BCCI committee, and Modi was nominated chairman of the marketing sub-committee, as his expertise lay in the area by virtue of coming from the well-known Modi business family.
Cheergirls liven it up during an IPL match at Eden Gardens
But long before that, in 1996, Modi had approached the Board with a proposal to start an inter-city cricket league in the 50-over format. His plan was to sell the teams as franchises, with ESPN—the channel his company, Modi Entertainment Network, distributed in India—broadcasting the matches. He proposed that he would pay an annual royalty to the BCCI. In return, he wanted it to give him access to its grounds and to players of the Indian team. The proposal was shot down, apparently over the choice of the broadcaster, in this case ESPN.
“It was my dream to make Indian cricket the most powerful brand in world sport and one that I took up in earnest after November 2005. Having identified the potential revenue streams, I emphasised to the BCCI the importance of finding the right value for BCCI rights. I went about single-handedly, collating and analysing all past data on BCCI prices and arrived at a conclusion that cricket in India was getting undersold,” says Modi.
Later, Modi became RCA chief and sold the idea of IPL to the then BCCI president Sharad Pawar. Convinced, Pawar handed Modi a cheque (read loan) of Rs 200 crore ($50 million) to launch the IPL. In September 2007, Modi, in the presence of Pawar, ICC president Ray Mali, presidents/CEOs of national cricket boards, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Stephen Fleming and Glenn McGrath made the grand announcement of IPL’s launch. However, Modi’s rendezvous with IPL lasted just three seasons. His brash style of working annoyed many big names in the board, but no one could openly complain or revolt, as he enjoyed Pawar’s patronage.
After Sharad Pawar’s term was over, people in the BCCI started to revolt. And moments after the 2010 IPL final, president Shashank Manohar, through secretary N. Srinivasan, suspended Modi from the BCCI on various charges of indiscipline and misconduct and slapped him with three showcause notices. Modi replied in detail to all of them, while staying in London, where he had shifted in May 2010, citing threats to his life in India. Unconvinced, the BCCI initiated an inquiry against him and there were a number of hearings. Finally, on September 25, 2013, at a SGM, with Modi’s bete noire Srinivasan in the chair, Modi was expelled. Modi’s expulsion period is now over. Will he apply to the BCCI for a return, in drastically changed circumstances, for another innings?