The opening paragraph of a report in the Times of India last Saturday gave me the creeps: “Five years after it created an unforgettable buzz in South Africa, the money-churning Indian Premier League (IPL) is all set to return to Nelson Mandela’s country once again.”
For the Times of India reporter it may have been an “unforgettable buzz” but for us in South Africa it was the root of a scandal which grew to eventually destroy the entire administration of Cricket South Africa, undermine that organisation’s credibility and cost the administration dearly at the International Cricket Council’s top table.
It was a report in this newspaper about counterfeit tickets being sold at the Wanderers for the 2009 IPL final that first put the spotlight on the wrongdoings around how this country came to host the IPL that year.
As the drama unfolded it was left to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to set up a commission of inquiry under Judge Chris Nicholson, which found that former Cricket SA chief executive Gerald Majola illegitimately obtained bonuses as a result of South Africa hosting that year’s IPL and subsequent Champions Trophy.
A working committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India will meet tomorrow to discuss moving the IPL – or at least part of it – to South Africa later this year. Just like in 2009, it’s because of India’s elections that not sufficient security can be provided for the IPL that has necessitated the board taking the drastic steps to move the tournament.
It would be a grave error on Cricket SA’s part were they to agree to host the event again. Never mind that the organisation is still coming to terms with the new administration and governance structures it has had to create as part of the fall-out from the previous time the event was hosted here.
The IPL has been clouded by allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting, which has tainted some of that country’s top stars.
Last year Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was banned for life after being found guilty of match fixing during the IPL. This year, MS Dhoni’s name has been linked in a judicial probe to illegal bets being placed on matches. The Chennai Super Kings owner, Gurunath Meiyappan, has been found guilty of placing bets on matches and passing on team information to gamblers. The owners of the Rajasthan Royals – including the glamorous Shilpa Shetty – face allegations of illegal betting.
Can Cricket SA really afford to have an event blighted by such controversy take place on these shores?
Given what took place the last time the IPL was hosted here, the answer has to be an emphatic No! - The Star