New Delhi – India’s beleaguered cricket chief N Srinivasan faced growing calls to resign from within his own ranks on Wednesday after the Supreme Court warned that they would otherwise order him to quit.
The day after a panel of judges slammed Srinivasan’s “nauseating” refusal to resign as cricket board president while allegations of illegal betting and spot-fixing are investigated, commentators said the man regarded as the most powerful in world cricket had suffered a “sledgehammer” blow.
Srinivasan, who takes over in July as head of the International Cricket Council, has yet to make a statement on the judges’s comments over investigations into a scandal which involves his son-in-law.
But in a sign that his iron grip is dramatically loosening, a vice president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) described Srinivasan’s position as “untenable”.
“Mr Srinivasan’s position may have become untenable as the BCCI president following the observations made by the Supreme Court,” vice president Ravi Savant said.
“He should step down, else the BCCI and Indian cricket will lose credibility.”
Another vice president, Shivlal Yadav, also hinted that Srinivasan’s days were numbered, saying the BCCI would decide how to proceed once the court issues a firm order, possibly as early as Thursday.
“BCCI will wait for the top court’s order to decide its future course of action,” Yadav, who has already indicated that he is willing to step up, told the NDTV network.
During Tuesday’s hearing in New Delhi, Justice A K Patnaik said there could be “no fair investigation” into the betting scandal while Srinivasan remained at the helm of the board.
“If you don’t step down, then we will pass an order,” said Patnaik, who heads the two-judge panel.
The bench is looking at a damning report that it commissioned last year into wrongdoing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) following a betting and spot-fixing scandal that rocked the Twenty20 tournament.
Released in February, the report concluded that Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan could be guilty of illegal betting on IPL games.
The report, by a panel headed by retired judge Mukul Mudgal, suggested Meiyappan may have passed on team information to outsiders for illegal betting, but did not specify what information or to whom.
“There are no definite findings by the Mudgal committee but the allegations are of a very serious nature,” Patnaik told the court.
Meiyappan was the team principal of Chennai Super Kings, an IPL franchise owned by Srinivasan’s India Cements company and captained by national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The scandal has generated huge media coverage in the cricket-crazy country, dominating some newspaper frontpages less than a fortnight before a general election.
“SC tongue-lashing sets stage for Srini's exit” was the front-page headline of The Times of India, while the Mail Today said Srinivasan had been “given out” by the court.
Several leading cricketers have piled in to demand Srinivasan’s resignation, including the World Cup-winning former Test star Mohinder Amarnath who said no one was “bigger than the game” .
“He must respect the law and do what the Supreme Court wants him to do,” Amarnath told AFP. “He needs to step down.”
Sharda Ugra, a senior editor with the influential Cricinfo website, said there appeared no way out for Srinivasan.
“His position has been untenable for a while,” Ugra told AFP.
“The court has come down with a sledgehammer.
“I am not sure there can be a way out. The BCCI cannot afford to annoy the Supreme Court anymore.”
The court was due to reconvene on Thursday although it was not clear whether the judges would carry through their threat to impose an order for Srinivasan's resignation then.
India is the most powerful country in world cricket due to its vast television audience, which enables the board to generate almost 70 percent of the game’s revenues.
But the BCCI has often found itself at the centre of controversy, with Srinivasan’s predecessor Lalit Modi now living in exile in London as he battles corruption charges.
International news organisations, including Agence France-Presse (AFP), have suspended their on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies. – Sapa-AFP