The great survivor of Indian cricket admin: Why N Srinivasan’s word still counts

Age and health may not be on his side, but as the recent BCCI election showed, N Srinivasan still wields influence in the world of cricket.

ByQaiser Mohammad Ali

Published Oct 20, 2022 | 10:00 AMUpdatedOct 20, 2022 | 10:00 AM

N Srinivasan

Narayanaswami Srinivasan is a survivor, much like Jagmohan Dalmiya. He may be just shy of 78 and having health issues, but N Srinivasan continues to influence Indian cricket.

That “his word still counts” was evident in the latest election in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) where Srinivasan’s imprint was visible despite not being officially a part of either the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), his home organisation, or the BCCI.

The new BCCI president, Roger Michael Humphrey Binny, comes from an association that has been loyal to Srinivasan for many years — the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). Not just the KSCA, almost all seven associations in the South Zone have been fiercely faithful to him, barring on a few occasions, perhaps.

And on the basis of this staunch support, and his sharp intellect, Srinivasan has dictated terms in Indian cricket over the last few years, and went on to become the BCCI treasurer, secretary, and president.

The 2019 election

In the preceding BCCI set-up, which came into being in October 2019, there were two office-bearers from South Zone — IPL Governing Council Chairman Brijesh Patel (Karnataka) and Joint Secretary Jayesh George (Kerala).

At that time, Srinivasan headed one of the four groups that joined hands to avoid elections and formed a coalition to get “democracy” back in the BCCI after the 33-month rule of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) following the 2013 IPL betting-fixing scandal.

It is said that the forces have realigned since 2019 in the 38-member BCCI general body.

The BJP, of course, now has the strongest pool as it has most state cricket associations under its belt. The BJP gets its cricket muscle from the 19 states in which it is in power, either on its own or in a coalition. Srinivasan commands the second-most influential group.

‘Srini’s word still counts’

N. Srinivasan and Chief Minister MK Stalin at a felicitation for Chennai Super Kings. Also seen are Brijesh Patel, Jay Shah, MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev. (Supplied/TNCA)

Even in the changed dynamics of Indian cricket administration, with several new north-eastern states, Uttarakhand and Bihar (readmission) having become full members, Srinivasan’s grip has not completely loosened on the BCCI, insist his supporters.

“In general, I can tell you that every person I meet in the BCCI has only good things to say about him — not only the Board’s office-bearers and the state cricket association secretaries, but even the staff of the BCCI,” TNCA secretary RS Ramasaamy told South First.

“Yesterday, I was talking to a very prominent former India cricketer and he said that the best thing to have happened to former cricketers was Mr Srinivasan [during his tenure as BCCI chief]. He said Mr Srinivasan really took care of cricketers… one-time benefit purse and all that.”

The former India cricketer was referring to the one-time benefit purse that the Srinivasan-headed BCCI distributed among retired Test and First Cass cricketers in 2012 — a gesture that brought tears of gratitude to the eyes of some of the cricketers, and the widows of deceased players, who received the money.

Control of South Zone

It is widely believed that Srinivasan controls either all seven state associations in the South Zone or a majority of them, besides a few elsewhere in the country, like Haryana. Although the equations change from time to time within the BCCI, historically, Srinivasan’s sway in the South Zone has been a constant.

However, there have been a few voices of dissent, besides some views that try to contradict the widely perceived and circulated story as to who all he actually controls.

Take a look at how Jayesh George became the BCCI joint secretary in 2019. It is widely believed — or made to be believed by some people — that Srinivasan backed him.

But another view claims that George was “the first one to tell Sourav Ganguly that he was BCCI presidentship material”, and “supported” the former India captain. Since the election for all posts was uncontested we would perhaps never know the truth.

At the election, Mohammed Azharuddin (Hyderabad) proposed George’s name and Brijesh Patel (Karnataka) seconded it, as per the then strategy to show solidarity amongst the four groups.

All said and done, Srinivasan knows well how to influence and manage people — and votes — a la Jagmohan Dalmiya, say his admirers.

“He knows how to make friends; he knows how to win people. He has the knowledge of the game. Plus, he was the best host in the BCCI that I know of. It is very difficult to find another person with all those qualities rolled into one,” former Goa Cricket Association president Vinod Phadke told South First.

Even his adversaries concede that Srinivasan loves to “give”.

“He would help you. But for that he would want you to go to him and tell him that you are needy. Then, he would give you what you want,” says a Tamil Nadu cricket administrator who never got along well with Srinivasan.

How a scandal hit Srini

No one can say for sure how long Srinivasan would have ruled the BCCI — and by extension world cricket — had the IPL betting-fixing scandal not surfaced in mid-2013 and ended his innings. Having been elected as BCCI president in 2011, he couldn’t complete his term as circumstances forced him to “step aside” from BCCI and ICC affairs.

While hearing the betting case, the Supreme Court unilaterally expanded its scope to include administrative reforms in Indian cricket. That proved the death knell for Srinivasan the cricket administrator, after a court inquiry found that his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was found to be involved in the scandal.

Eventually, Meiyappan, along with Rajasthan Royals’ co-owner Raj Kundra, were banned for life from any involvement in Indian cricket.

Srinivasan also faced a conflict-of-interest charge for buying an IPL franchise, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), while being a BCCI office-bearer.

As a BCCI administrator, he had inside information and no one believed him when he said that he never shared that with the CSK when he donned the hat of the franchise owner. He tried his best to prove that he was clean, but the issue stuck to him.

For the same reason, his daughter Rupa, too, had to quit the TNCA president’s post in December 2021, after the BCCI ombudsman found her in the conflict-of-interest zone.

Bending the rulebook


N Srinivasan

N Srinivasan. (Supplied/TNCA)

Irrespective of the two IPL issues concerning him, Srinivasan could well have become the first man to have a second term as BCCI president in independent India after his tenure, which was to end in 2013.

At the time, a BCCI office-bearer (excluding the five zonal vice-presidents) had two-year terms and a third one if elected, and they (barring vice-presidents) couldn’t be re-elected to the same office again. The five vice-presidents could have a second three-year term, though.

With the BCCI in his firm control and with no opposition in sight, Srinivasan executed a masterstroke in 2012, his second year as president.

He got the BCCI constitution amended, allowing a second term for the office-bearers as well. And he also had the zonal rotation policy discarded, and now anyone from any zone could contest elections for any post of the office-bearers.

Another amendment enacted would enable all office-bearers and vice-presidents to have three-year terms, instead of two-plus-one, starting 2014.

The Jaitley factor

Interestingly, two years after the amendment, Shashank Manohar, whom Srinivasan had succeeded as president in 2011, claimed that the amendments were made to enable politician Arun Jaitley become BCCI president in 2014.

Jaitley, by mid-2014, had become the Union finance minister and had left cricket administration. Had Srinivasan not have faced the IPL betting scandal, he could have become the first president in independent India to have got a second term.

Around that time, another Srinivasan masterstroke was the proposal of adding two more joint secretaries to the existing lone one in the BCCI. In other words, it was most likely the new joint secretaries would have his blessings and would support him in elections.

But before this internal plan could fructify, the IPL scandal ended Srinivasan’s career as an administrator.

India Cements legacy

Srinivasan is vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, the company that has given him both power and authority. Apart from being a leading cement company, India Cements has been patronising cricket and cricketers.

Srinivasan carried on his company’s legacy and this helped him get a strong foothold in cricket administration.

He became TNCA president in 2002 and remained in that position for 16 years, until his daughter Rupa took over from him in September 2019.

As the TNCA representative, Srinivasan gradually made inroads into the BCCI, eventually occupying the top three positions — treasurer, secretary, and president. Srinivasan, then, became the first chairman of a revamped International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2014.

N Srinivasan

Srinivasan and ex-England Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke. (Supplied/ICC)

Significantly, Srinivasan failed to finish both his terms, at the BCCI and the ICC. In June 2013, he famously “stepped aside” from the day-to-day functioning of the BCCI after the IPL fixing scandal surfaced and pressure on him increased.

The Supreme Court never allowed him to return to the BCCI and also stopped him from completing his ICC term, despite him telling the court in April 2014 that he, as ICC chairman, had ensured a lion’s share of the ICC media rights for the BCCI, translating into “upwards of ₹3,000 crore” for the 2015-2023 period.

Ramasaamy sees the current picture differently, though.

“One thing I can tell you is that he commands a lot of respect. Everybody respects him, and I am not talking about the numbers [of state associations] that he has in his support. I don’t know that. But he is highly respected,” he emphasises.

Health, age factors

While there is no match to Srinivasan’s experience in cricket administration, the chemical engineer’s age and health are turning out to be impediments. He turns 78 on January 3, and has been having vision issues for some time.

“The main thing is age; it counts. Definitely, health also counts,” underlines Phadke, a staunch Srinivasan loyalist.

Ramasaamy, however, insists that Srinivasan is still quite active.

“He is absolutely healthy except for a small vision problem. He is able to manage things fine. Even today, he is the first man to reach the India Cements office [in Chennai]; he is there before 9 am. He doesn’t travel as he used to before. But when necessary, he does travel,” he says.

The BCCI needs an experienced hand to attend ICC meetings, and currently there is perhaps no one person better equipped than Srinivasan to handle issues and hold negotiations at that level. But it is said that due age and health factors he is unlikely to be chosen.

“I am not exactly sure what he is thinking now. But he has already seen the pinnacle of cricket administration [ICC chairmanship],” points out Ramasaamy.

Srinivasan may not officially hold any position in cricket. However, he is likely to have an influence on Indian cricket for some more time to come. Little wonder that he is known as the great survivor.