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'Modi is history. Let's talk about something else '
Amidst all the hype and hoopla that the 81st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the BCCI generated this week, a small bit of news got lost in the frenzy. A leading movie production company in Mumbai announced that The Commissioner - a movie based on suspended Indian Premier League (IPL) boss Lalit Modi - had been indefinitely shelved.
Now, as things stand, the story of the man who attempted to globalise cricket like never before and almost succeeded will perhaps never be told through cinema.
Not just in reel life but in real life too, Modi seems to have become history.
The AGM is meant to be an affair every two years when the who's who of the BCCI meets to elect the executive body. It is a ritual conducted not merely to appoint new office bearers but to reward loyalty that matters most in the powerful corridors of the board. However, this year was an exception. The trivial matter of finalising the new body - including the president-elect - remained just that and, instead, every bit of energy went in ensuring Modi's ouster. It was a matter of loyalty and the board's honorary members were unanimously steeped in the belief that Modi had breached it.
There was no doubting the BCCI's intention right from the day when they handed the man his suspension letter on April 25 this year. What remained to be seen was how smoothly and effectively they would allow it to be handled. The AGM was the end result of those five months that went in planning Modi's downfall.
Now that he is gone, the question is whether the BCCI will continue to revel in the show that Modi had put up and thus continue risking a corporate takeover of the sport or will the functioning return to the old and trusted ways of being a closely-knit body of elected individuals who never believed in being out in the public eye?
BCCI members have already got busy making the right kind of noises, just in case the flourishing Indian cricket industry is alarmed. A tip-off to the media that the fresh domestic television rights have fetched far more than what Modi had bargained for, a generous comment stating that Indian cricket's title rights - sold to a leading telecom company - will bring in record revenues and forwarding TAM ratings to show that the Champions League 2010 was a far greater success than the 2009 edition are some examples. A leading board official, in fact, had a question for those in the media covering these developments. "Modi kuch chhota announcement karta tha aur tum log bada bada likhte the. Ab kya hua? (Modi used to accomplish something small and the media would go berserk in publicising it. Now, the board is doing something and what's happened to you?)"
There'll be a lot more such examples coming to the fore now. As much as it may sound hackneyed, the board - despite its shortcomings of being unprofessional on many fronts - will toe the line that Modi did and not without a reason.
By giving Modi the ultimate power to initiate the IPL, what the board did was invite an elephant into its drawing room. The Ambanis and Mallyas, Bollywood and glamour, and along with them some serious money, came into the coffers. Even if the elephant sits within the board's corridors in its friendliest mood, it will still leave the drawing room in a mess.
It is to control that mess that the board will have to toe Modi's line on the professional front. There are those who feel that without Modi the IPL will be reduced to mere 'middle class'. However, even to remain there and not slip to being just ordinary, the board will have to work it out the way Modi did.
Unlike most of its counterparts across the world, the Indian cricket administration is not about paid professionals as much as it is about political equations. In fact, if there's one power game that unites all political parties from India, it is the control of the proverbial 800-pound gorilla that the BCCI is. That is why perhaps Modi's 'close BJP connections' still failed to rescue him and that is precisely why NCP chief Sharad Pawar's long-standing association with him immediately came to an end when the financial irregularities within the IPL were reported.
"The executive body consists of 30-odd representatives (from state associations, Railways, HRD and so on). What matters is what these 30 individuals think. The public, media, cricketers and everybody may have their perspective. But that doesn't matter. These representatives do, " says a top official. Therefore, when these 30-odd members unanimously decided that Modi should go, he was put down without a whimper.
That is why Blackberry-wielding men like Modi are bound to have a short shelflife within the BCCI and not the khaadi-wearing politicos like Arun Jaitley. "Modi is history. Talk something else, " says a BCCI official now, putting it as blatantly as he can. The board has absolutely no doubts that life will remain the same without the maverick administrator. "He called it upon himself. He didn't do anything different. The board was always making money and will keep on doing it. Because, it is Indian cricket that sells, not Lalit Modi, " says the board member.
Sadly, the producers of The Commissioner seem to have no interest in this theory. Their gut feeling seemed like it was Modi alone who changed the face of Indian cricket.
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