The inaugural winners of the Indian Premier League, the perennial underdogs who everyone loved to support and the ‘unofficial’ second-favourite team of every cricket fans, Rajasthan Royals lit the Indian cricketing stage in 2008 when it defeated the ever-mighty Chennai Super Kings in the final to win the IPL title.
However, that was it. That was the last time Rajasthan Royals tasted success when it came to winning the championship. The team, which had no ‘superstars’ per se, was led by talismanic spinner Shane Warne, who glued the team together and instead of banking on individual performers, played together as a team. No wonder they won 11 of the 14 league stages matches in IPL’s debut year.
But things took a nosedive post 2008, and soon the team was embroiled in a controversy, along with Chennai Super Kings, which led to its banning from IPL cricket for two long years. Let’s find out the reasons behind Rajasthan Royal’s ouster from the world-richest domestic cricket league. A hint, of course it has to do with money.
Roots of the Controversy
Back in 2013, when IPL had already gained a foothold in world cricket a spot-fixing and betting case arose when Delhi Police arrested three cricketers — S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan — on charges of alleged spot fixing. No sooner were the arrests made; Rajasthan Royals suspended the contracts of the three players until the probe was complete. Delhi Police, meanwhile, said that Chavan had confessed to being involved in the crime and claimed that Chandila had tried to get other players, including Chavan, involved in spot fixing.
BCCI, too, banned the players in question and initiated a probe to find out how deep the rot went. It was the month of July in 2013 when Delhi Police said that they would charge the arrested players with provisions of the stringent MCOCA. However, Sreesanth, Chavan and a few others, who were arrested by Delhi Police, were released on bail on 10 June 2013 by a district court due to lack of evidence to be charged under MCOCA.
Rot runs deep
Meanwhile, Delhi Police officers probing the matter called in the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, Raj Kundra, for questioning. Cops claimed Kundra was also involved in illegal betting. On the 6th of June 2013, Kundra, according to the cops, claimed to have confessed to placing bets on his IPL team through a bookie. The team management of Rajasthan soon got into action and said that Kundra would be suspended, and his shares in the team would be taken back if the charges against him were proven. IPL, too, banned Kundra from all cricketing activities under its ambit.
Apex court steps in
The Supreme Court of India, in October 2013, formed a three-member panel — Mukul Mudgal Committee — to probe the allegations of betting and spot fixing in Indian cricket. The committee, in February 2014, submitted its report to the Supreme Court, but the details of the report have not been made public. Fast forward to 2015 Justice RM Lodha panel, formed by the Supreme Court, to probe the betting scandal suspended IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years with immediate effect. While CSK was suspended by the panel citing operation rules, as the team, nor its management — India Cements, took any action against Gurunath Meiyappan, who was then the former team principal of CSK, and was accused of betting. On the other hand, Rajasthan Royals was given the two year ban on account of being directly responsible for putting the game into disrepute, with the panel claiming that Raj Kundra’s actions were unacceptable.
“Rajasthan Royals claims it is highly celebrated as a nursery of players. But three of its players have been accused of alleged spot-fixing. This shows that all is not well in their handling of affairs. The position of Raj Kundra with the Rajasthan Royals franchise — part owner and team official — means his actions brought the game, BCCI and IPL into disrepute,” the panel made this scathing remark in its report.
Committee rejects Kundra’s defence
On Raj Kundra, the judgment said his defence claimed that he was a citizen of the United Kingdom and that he did not know that betting was illegal in India could not be accepted. “If he was truly in love with game, he would not have engaged in betting,” Justice Lodha read from the verdict. Kundra later had tweeted: “Many inaccuracies…Have requested for a copy of the judgement. Obviously very shocked and disappointed…”
The axe falls on Rajasthan Royals
CSK and Rajasthan Royals accounted for about Rs 100 crore and Rs 70 crore in team sponsorship revenues, respectively, which after their suspension for two years was lost. But more than the monetary loss, CSK and Rajasthan lost brand value. The Lodha committee’s order banning the two teams meant that their cricketing activities would be a net zero for the next two years.
Though RR returned to the scene in 2018, they have been unable to perform as per expectations since then, failing to qualify for the playoffs in the last few seasons.
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