Cricket, perhaps, taught Narayanaswami Srinivasan a lesson or two about team loyalties. The team comes first, not individuals, not even family members. In 2013, Srinivasan had no qualms in distancing himself from the betting allegations against his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, to ensure that the fortunes of his highly successful IPL team, Chennai Super Kings, were not affected. Again on June 2, 2013, he stepped aside as president of BCCI primarily to save CSK, fearing he might lose the team because of conflict of interest. Moreover, in May 2015, Srinivasan's company India Cements Ltd (ICL) transferred the franchise rights of CSK at a net asset value of Rs7.83 crore to Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited (CSKCL), a wholly owned subsidiary. He went on to head the International Cricket Council last year after the Supreme Court decreed that he was ineligible to contest for the BCCI's top post.
This time, too, sources say, Srini-vasan will do everything in his power to fight the two-year suspension on CSK. P.S. Raman, his counsel, told THE WEEK that there are several judicial remedies. “We can go on an appeal in any of the High Courts in Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi. Everything will be decided after he [Srinivasan] is back in India,” he said. A day after the panel headed by R.M. Lodha, former chief justice of India, spelled out the suspension, the CSKCL’s top bosses sat down to discuss all available legal options, like filing a petition in the Supreme Court for an interim relief. They also discussed other legalities, like who should be the petitioner—ICL or CSKCL. CSK's fortunes may seem to be intertwined with ICL's, but it is in the process of transferring the cricket team to the CSKCL, which has already received a nod from shareholders and the BCCI.
Be it ICL or CSKCL, the franchise bosses are not ready to lose either the franchise or the team. Feelers have been sent out to team captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to ensure that he doesn’t break ties with CSK. “For Srinivasan, the immediate challenge obviously is securing the future of CSK,” said Sumanth C. Raman, sports commentator and analyst in Chennai. “His company may go on an appeal to say that technically it doesn’t own CSK, but CSKCL is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ICL. There are many ways of going around the order, and he may even get the BCCI bosses [to] support the team.” But it will not be a cakewalk for Srinivasan. “Aditya Verma [the petitioner in the IPL scam] may again go to court if it is argued that ICL doesn’t have stakes in CSKCL,” said Raman.
The other immediate challenge for Srinivasan is retaining his ICC post. Though he will complete his two-year term only next year, there have already been calls for his removal. To continue at the top post, he would need the support of the BCCI top brass. But his equation with Rajeev Shukla, Anurag Thakur and Arun Jaitley, considered to be the most powerful in the BCCI currently, is not very good. “He is already trying hard to patch up with Anurag Thakur to retain the ICC chairmanship. The BCCI biggies may even nominate someone else [to represent the board in the ICC], citing the Lodha judgment,” said an official in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
Things are not well at home, too, for Srinivasan, with Meiyappan banned for life from all cricket-related activities. Srinivasan had completely disassociated himself from Meiyappan, husband of his only daughter, Rupa. Sources close to the family said there has been no contact between Srinivasan and Meiyappan in the past two years. Their last meeting was in 2013 at a golf course in Kodaikanal, when the IPL scam first hit the headlines. Post that, Srinivasan ensured that Meiyappan, scion of the AVM group, was no longer associated with his business or even seen as the face of his IPL team.
But Meiyappan had not let anything get to him, except maybe the days he spent in Mumbai while being interrogated for betting charges. Sports enthusiasts in Chennai say he continued to visit the Madras club. He would spend time playing golf or motor racing or on his Rs5 crore yacht, which he reportedly imported from Riviera’s Gold Coast factory in Australia. But the Lodha judgment has been a blow for him, said a CSKCL official on condition of anonymity.
Srinivasan, however, is a tough cookie. He once said, “I never get sleepless nights. I sleep well. Do not put me in the position of an accused because I am not accused of anything. In my mind, there are no double standards.” He hasn't let the inquiry, court cases or his waning clout in the cricketing world affect his business interests. In fact, he saw to it that his cement business flourished. And, in due course, he ensured that he and his associates have no equity stake in CSK and that every share is transferred to India Cements Shareholder Trust.
The ICL reported revenues of around Rs4,500 crore in 2014-2015 and CSK earned around Rs160 crore during the same period. The CSK earns Rs160 crore to Rs180 crore every IPL edition. “There will not be any major impact in terms of revenue of both the ICL and the CSK,” says a stock market analyst. But the scam seems to have hit CSK's brand value. According to a report by American Appraisal India, CSK's brand value came down from $72 million in 2014 to $67 million in 2015. But as senior journalist and cricket analyst R. Mohan said: “He [Srinivasan] has the knack of getting things done in his favour.”