Cricket: Gavaskar to take over troubled India board

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Supreme Court installed batting legend Sunil Gavaskar as the interim head of India's troubled cricket board on Friday, after forcing the scandal-tainted incumbent N. Srinivasan from office.

Three days after warning the president it would order him to stand down if he tried to cling to power, a panel of judges announced that 64-year-old Gavaskar would take the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Gavaskar would be made "interim working president" of the BCCI, said the court, an appointment which places him in charge of the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The Twenty20 competition has been embroiled in allegations of illegal betting and spot-fixing, including against Srinivasan's son-in-law.

However, it was not immediately clear if Gavaskar would stay on beyond the tournament, which begins next month, with a lawyer for the BCCI saying only that a current board member could take over on a permanent basis.

There was no immediate reaction from Gavaskar to Friday's announcement but he has already indicated that he is willing to take on the task of leading the most powerful body in world cricket.

A lawyer for the board, meanwhile, said that the BCCI "fully endorse(d) the order passed by the Supreme Court today", saying it was in line with its own proposals to the judges.

In its announcement, the court also said that the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals - the teams at the centre of allegations of illegal betting and spot-fixing in last year's competition - would be allowed to take part in this year's IPL.

The same panel of judges said on Thursday that both sides should be barred from the eight-team tournament which starts in Abu Dhabi next month.

The U-turn will be a huge relief to the board, with The Times of India estimating that the total loss resulting from the teams' suspension could have been as much as US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion).

"We told the court that at this juncture, especially since everything is unverified, we could not stop any team in playing in the IPL," C. A. Sundaram, one of the board's lawyers, told reporters after the hearing. "It would have affected the tournament as well as millions of cricket-loving public. We are very happy that the court has not passed any order that would have interrupted the tournament."

While there was no immediate reaction from Srinivasan, Sundaram reiterated that the outgoing president had been willing to "stand aside" during the investigations which have ensnared his son-in-law.

The judges were seemingly unimpressed by Srinivasan's offer, aware that he stood aside last year before resuming his duties and then winning re-election.

The panel is looking at a damning report it commissioned into wrongdoing in last year's IPL when former Test bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was caught deliberately bowling badly while playing for the Rajasthan Royals in return for thousands of dollars from bookmakers.

Released in February, the report also concluded that Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan - who was the team principal of the Chennai Super Kings - could be guilty of illegal betting on IPL games.

The Super Kings are owned by India Cements, whose managing director is Srinivasan. The team are captained by India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

This year's IPL begins in Abu Dhabi on April 16, with the opening round of matches having been relocated to the United Arab Emirates as India is holding a general election next month.

The court said that Gavaskar would have to cease his work as a television commentator to avoid any conflict of interest in his new role, adding that the BCCI must "adequately compensate" him for loss of earnings.

Srinivasan had been regarded as the most powerful man in world cricket and is still due to take over in July as head of the International Cricket Council.

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