Cricket may appear to be in the international sporting shadow of football on the global stage but it is the leading light when you look at which game has been the more controversial of late. The Indian Premier League (IPL), in particular, thrives on controversy. A few weeks ago Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, repeatedly indicated on television how controversy, among other things, was part of the successful package.
As in the world of Hollywood and Bollywood, the adage that no publicity is bad publicity seems to be the case. The IPL auction caused a huge stir when teams did not pick any Pakistan players, a strategic rather than contrived decision the team owners led us to believe. And as if that controversy was not enough, Shah Rukh Khan, the Indian Bollywood actor, made a statement supporting the presence of Pakistan cricketers.
That was so ironic because he co-owns the Kolkata Knight Riders, who did not bid for cricketers from across the border. But then, the great IPL circus is never short of ironies. Now we have a player - Ravindra Jadeja - banned from playing the tournament because he went shopping for more money than he was being offered by the Rajasthan Royals. Jadeja was out of contract and had been negotiating with other franchises, and for that he was banned for a year.
The IPL take pride in getting the best deal in every commercial tie-up they are involved in and yet they are punishing Jadeja for trying to get a bigger pay cheque. It is worth stressing that Jadeja believed he deserved a better deal as he is now an India international, which he was not when he first played for the Royals in 2008, the year the Shane Warne-inspired team clinched the first title. He must have done something unethical in the eyes of the IPL chiefs for him to be banned.
The Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), which backs the IPL as a domestic competition, has also thrown a punch in Jadeja's direction, blaming him for his country's poor show in the World Twenty20 in England last year. The young all-rounder batted so slowly against England that India were put out of the in competition and faced public ridicule. Sshh... no one dare say that a fall out between Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, and Virender Sehwag contributed to the poor result and the fact that India could have performed better had the players been less weary after the IPL in South Africa.
So, blaming small-town boy - Jadeja comes from Jamnagar in the Indian state of Gujarat - was nice and convenient. Is the BCCI so angry with Jadeja that they do not want him to play the World T20? Getting back to the IPL, a body that is all about money. Jadeja could have been hit where it hurts - in his wallet. But to ban him for a season and build a hurdle that could prevent him getting into India's T20 squad for the World event, which will be held immediately after the IPL, is a low blow.
It is heartening to know Jadeja can appeal to the IPL governing council to reconsider his decision. Every batsman has made an error of judgment that made him look silly, every captain has made a move that will haunt him and every administrator has messed up at some time. And most of all, most people have allowed greed get the better of them at least once in their lifetime. Although Modi is often seen on television addressing the media, the IPL is not the most transparent of organisations. When I called up the firm that handles the publicity affairs of the event to ask them for the exact guidelines which Jadeja had breached, I was told that they were not for media consumption.
Funny how a player is crucified in public but the same public do not have the right to know in detail what he did wrong. Jadeja has claimed that he kept the BCCI informed about wanting to play for another team. But he finds himself desperately short of support. That his Saurashtra state association chief, Niranjan Shah, is part of the IPL set up should act as soothing balm, but then Shah has not exactly come out and expressed his willingness to help sort out the issue.
The IPL's non-transparency does not end here. No one, apart from those in the IPL inner circle, knows how much Kieron Pollard, the West Indian, who was signed by the Mumbai Indians, and the Chennai Super Kings' Shane Bond, were finally bought for after the tie-break in the auction. Money is good for the game and its practitioners, but it is no good if it creates a monster that fractures the soul of talented cricketers. At the moment, Jadeja's world is dark and gloomy. Even if the sun comes out in the form of forgiveness, the stigma will stay.
Cricket administrators are not known to forgive and forget acts of indiscretion although they can get away with them themselves. That is a fact.. oops, I mean the rules of the game. Clayton Murzello is the Group Sports Editor of the Indian newspaper Midday @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org