India’s cricket chairman is facing a sticky wicket

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India’s cricket chairman is facing a sticky wicket

NEW DELHI - India is bracing for the next round of mudslinging in the Indian Premier League corruption scandal as the cricket tournament’s chief prepares to take on the establishment to save his job.

Tension is mounting as the clock ticks down to the Monday deadline set by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for suspended IPL boss Lalit Modi to respond to the charges against him.

Modi, 46, was removed as head of the glitzy IPL last week pending an internal BCCI probe into allegations of corruption, tax evasion and money-laundering that sparked a federal tax investigation.

He also stood down as a BCCI vice president and as chairman of the T20 Champions League, a separate club tournament organized jointly by India, Australia and South Africa.

Modi has been unusually quiet over the past week, even keeping away from his account on microblogging site Twitter, as he consults friends and lawyers while drafting the reply to the BCCI charges.

“Sorry, not been tweeting as been working on my reply to the show cause. So have had no time,” said Modi’s last post on Twitter on Monday.

Modi needs all the help he can get, for he appeared to be fast losing support both in the BCCI, which owns the cash-rich Twenty20 tournament, and the IPL’s governing council.

Former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, a member of the governing council, admitted Modi will find it difficult to be reinstated as the IPL chief and BCCI vice-president.

“We are awaiting answers to several questions put to him and, yes, it would help if he answers them to everyone’s satisfaction,” Pataudi told the Indian Express newspaper recently.

“But even so, coming back would be difficult as the problem with him was his style of functioning, which a lot of people had problems with.”

The brash and aggressive Modi, the scion of a wealthy north Indian business family, has run the IPL as a virtual one-man show since its inception three years ago.

In an earlier Twitter post, Modi said: “I am still chairman of IPL. Just suspended. Wait - we have just begun.”

He also threatened to “reveal the men who have tried to bring disrepute to the game.”

As Modi worked on his reply, the media frenzy around the IPL scandal died down as newspapers and television shows turned their attention toward the World Twenty20 being held in the Caribbean.

But it could be just the lull before the storm rises up again.

Noted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle said he is convinced the IPL will be back in the news once Modi submits his reply and the BCCI moves to take action on it.

“By the 10th of May, Lalit Modi will have emerged with his defense and we will know then if people want to watch the news or the cricket,” Bhogle wrote in the Indian Express.

The seeds of Modi’s downfall were sown last month when he revealed the ownership details of a new franchise set to join the IPL in 2011.

He embarrassed a high-profile member of the government, junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor, by leaking on Twitter how Tharoor’s girlfriend had been given a free stake in the new team.

Under pressure from the opposition, the minister was forced to resign, embarrassing the Congress-led government.

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