Last Sunday Mahendra Singh Dhoni finally spoke on the IPL betting controversy that his team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) is embroiled in and newspaper headlines immediately screamed that he had broken his silence. That is both true and false. He did comment but with words that were devoid of any meaning or revelation.
According to an ESPN Cricinfo report, at a media briefing before the ODI against Australia in Sydney, he was asked about his reaction to the latest Supreme Court verdict and Dhoni replied, “I know one thing, irrespective of what is there, when it comes to Indian cricket, my name keeps popping up,” Dhoni said. “This [issue] has been settled, [but] something new will pop up. It keeps popping up. I am quite used to it. If there is nothing, some speculative story comes up, big or small. I have to keep dealing with all these things. It is [just] the end of one story, something else may start in a couple of days’ time, and you can monitor it.”
It’s a disingenuous reply. The verdict did exonerate N Srinivasan, the chairman of India Cements that owns CSK, of any cover-up and also does not touch on the role of players, but it is still quite damning. Srinivasan’s son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan has been held complicit in betting. And those who hold commercial interests in teams are now barred from becoming office holders in the BCCI, which oversees the IPL. This affirms that there was conflict of interest so far when it came to Srinivasan.
What is most embarrassing for Dhoni is the court ruling that Meiyappan was an official of CSK despite Dhoni telling the Mudgal Committee set up to investigate the scam that Meiyappan had nothing to do with CSK. Dhoni therefore lied or didn’t know.
If it was the latter, he had no business stating that Meiyappan wasn’t a CSK official. If he lied then he was part of a cover-up. This issue, therefore, has not been settled as Dhoni is saying. And this is not, as he says, the kind of thing that he is used to seeing.
The Indian cricket team’s captain is always the most loved and most hated man in the country depending on how the team is doing, but those emotions and speculations are connected to the team’s performance or selection or bickering between players. A serious question over ethics, the kind that Dhoni is under, is not a normal thing.
It is legitimate to observe stoic silence when Virender Sehwag hints that there is discord between him and Dhoni because that is something in the realm of a team’s internal issues but when it comes to betting by a man who was at arm’s length from him, then Dhoni does need to have an explanation.
Silence is going to be construed as complicity and, for a man who took Indian cricket to heights it has never seen, that would be a pitiful legacy to leave behind.
As things stand, beyond that statement clearing Meiyappan, there is nothing really he is accused of. But, in the absence of any public clarification by him, rumours will have a life of their own. Something new will pop up, as he says, but something old will also keep popping up in different forms.