The mismanagement of Indian cricket reveals India’s wider failings

The mismanagement of Indian cricket reveals India’s wider failings

May 25th 2013 |From the print edition

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CRICKET is like a religion in India, it is said—especially by Indians, who take almost as much delight in their love of the sport as in the contest between bat and ball. Nothing, they suggest, unites their vast and varied country so much as its devotion to what was once an English summer game. That is one reason why the epic mismanagement of Indian cricket matters. The other is that it gets to the heart of the cronyism and high-level abuse that plague India more widely.

Every cricket season brings news of a fresh scam or intrigue including, on May 16th, the arrest of three cricketers and a dozen bookmakers for alleged match-fixing in the country’s most popular domestic tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Investigators in Delhi hint that the players were paid indirectly to underperform by the Mumbai gangsters who control much of India’s enormous illegal gambling industry (betting on cricket is against the law in India). If they are right, the nexus between racketeers, bookmakers and greedy cricketers, exposed in 2000 in one of the biggest scandals in modern sport, remains in place. This would not be surprising: India’s government and the men who run cricket there have done almost nothing to dismantle it.They are often the same people. In recent years politicians have flocked to join the Indian cricket board, which claims a monopoly on the game in India, and earns about $200m a year. Yet its rulers appear to spend more time jockeying for position than cleaning up the mess. They also provide a miserable example of governance: the current president of the Indian board, a Tamilian businessman, N. Srinivasan, also owns an IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings.

India’s mismanagement is bad for cricket elsewhere. The financial dominance of India has given its rulers a de facto veto on how the game is run globally. But India takes no responsibility for the Indian bookies corrupting cricket. The cricket board appears to view the collaborative culture of international cricket mainly as a threat to its interests.

As the global field most marked by India’s economic rise, cricket is worryingly indicative of how the country conducts much of its official business. Negotiations on trade, energy and climate change, in which India is increasingly important, have been similarly buffeted by the intransigence of the elite.

More than just a game

What is to be done? As so often in India, the solutions are easy to state and hard to enact. The government should legalise betting on cricket, in order to control and regulate it. The cricket board must also be regulated more tightly, as the commercial operation it is, not the volunteer organisation it claims to be. It should recognise that the longer it fails to stamp out corruption, the more tightly it will be controlled. It should start by cracking down on the alleged cheats—not, as in previous scandals, seeking to exonerate them after the dust has settled.

Such reforms would be opposed by the same powerful people who aspire to run everything in India, from politics to cricket to banking (see article). That is why they are so important. International confidence in India’s ability to uphold the rule of law and fight corruption is at an all-time low. To improve their country’s reputation, its rulers should start by cleaning up their favourite game.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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