The Chennai Super King

This is not a post about Rajinikant ( world is his oyster, Chennai is too small for him). This is not about Stalin ( the former mayor of Chennai has seen better days. He was not even sure of his earlier constituency so had to go away from Chennai). This is not about Dhoni either. ( The India captain may be adopted son of Chennai when IPL is on but remains an outsider for large part of the year).

This post is  about N.Srinivasan. Who among many other things is also the owner of the IPL team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) . Unlike other IPL owners, he maintains a very low profile. Even when his team CSK won the IPL trophy in consecutive years , 2010 and 2011, he was not seen anywhere around the trophy. He let the captain and the players bask in the limelight.

The shrewd strategist that Srinivasan is, remains in the background for good reason. The moment spotlight falls on him, awkward questions will emerge in media and public. Questions about the conflict of interest between an IPL franchise owner occupying the chair of Hon. Secretary of BCCI ( the richest and most powerful sports body in India and in cricket worldwide). People and players allege that he has used his position in the board to manipulate many decisions concerning IPL.

For starters, as the Hony treasurer of BCCI, he had complete access to the IPL business plans. He knew that IPL franchise made good business sense and used his influence to get consent from BCCI to bid for the Chennai franchise. Later, we hear in every edition some charges being levelled at N.Srinivasan about abusing his position in BCCI to help CSK. For e.g, in selection of Andrew Flintoff in 2010 and Shane Warne alleged that on Srinivasan’s orders the pitch was changed at the last minute in a league match between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Shane Warne got warnings and had to pay a hefty fine, but no investigation was carried out about the role of Srinivasan.

In another blatant abuse of power, he got Krishnamachari Srikkanth, the selection committee Chairman of Indian team to become the Brand Ambassador of Chennai Super Kings. I do not have the exact dates to say which came first for Srikkanth, but he had both the positions, an obvious conflict of interest. Lots of detractors of Srikkanth allege that as selection committee head he has been giving more than a fair share of chances to the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay and now Abhinav Mukund, obviously with the proddings or blessings of N.Srinivasan.

In his book “3 mistakes of life” , Chetan Bhagat has talked about cricket, religion and politics as the three mistakes. N.Srinivasan seems to have dabbled into all of the above. A second generation businessman from Chennai, the Vice-Chairman and MD of India Cements, has his fingers in many pies.  To be fair to him, India cements is the market leader in cements in South India. India cements have grown through organic route and through acquisitions of companies like Vishnu cements, Raasi Cements and Coramandel cements under his leadership.

This post graduate in Chemical Engineering from US, must be finding the cement business rather boring for his intellect. Hence the interest in cricket and cricket administration in particular. If one has interest in cricket administration, can politics be far behind. Firmly in the Sharad Pawar camp of BCCI, Srinivasan has risen through the ranks from top job in TNCA to Treasurer BCCI, Secretary BCCI and now President-elect BCCI.

India cements cement plant in Kadapa would have perhaps brought Srinivasan in touch with the late AP CM YSR and through him his son Jaganmohan Reddy. Now the detractors of Jaganmohan allege that India Cements was favoured by giving land at a throwaway price. India Cements holds a significant minority stake in the Jaganmohan promoted , since sold to Vicat, Bharathi cements. Covert did an investigative piece, which revealed that India Cements invested in Jagan promoted Raghuram Cements by paying a huge premium, even before the company started construction.

If Srinivasan has friends in high places, can enemies be far behind. His sworn enemy is AC Muthiah. Muthiah, a fellow industrialist from Chennai has always considered the TNCA his pocket borough. Muthiah has charged Srinivasan several times in court, right upto Supreme Court on several counts including theBCCI office bearer and IPL ownership conflict of interest.

If reading all of the above, gives you an impression that Srinivasan is this wily businessman, then it is time to see his religious side. A God-fearing man, he is never seen without a pottu (tilak) on his masthead, even  in his well tailored business suits. Last year he donated a laddu making machine worth Rs 9 crore to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam for making 5 lakh laddus a day.

Now comes this new twist in the Srinivasan saga. His name has cropped up in the CBI investigation of the 2G scam. It is alleged that India Cements and UB Group helped Kalaignar TV to repay the money to DB Realty. India Cements has clarified that it is only payments related to advertising.

The 2G scam has claimed many a bigwigs. Imagine, N Srinivasan and Vijay Mallya joining ( highly unlikely) the other stars in Tihar jail. Mallya and Srinivasan in Tihar would have a lot to discuss. These otherwise dissimilar personalities have so much in common right from cricket to religion to politics. One a King of Good Times and the other Chennai Super King.

– G.Mohan

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