No more boozy late nights for players and a ban on cheerleaders at matches -- the plan to rescue the corruption-stained reputation of cricket's Indian Premier League has begun. "Operation Clean-up" was announced on Monday by the BCCI, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the game's embattled governing body and owner of the lucrative annual IPL tournament. The BCCI has been plunged into crisis since the arrests last month of cricketers and bookmakers, kicking off a match-fixing scandal that last week forced the organisation's head to step aside pending an internal investigation. Interim head Jagmohan Dalmiya unveiled the quixotic 12-point reform plan, which includes a new code of conduct for players and franchise owners, as part of a belated response to public anger. Since its 2008 launch the IPL has brought a mixture of Bollywood razzmatazz and financial acumen to the sport, in the process installing India as the dominant force in the global cricket business. But progress has come with a darker side: a huge illegal betting industry, linked to criminal syndicates, has seemed able to persuade young players to throw elements of matches.
The clean-up seems largely designed to disrupt communication between racketeers and players. The plan even includes the dramatic step of jamming mobile signals in grounds during matches. After team officials were caught up in the police investigation, the BCCI says it will introduce restrictions to stop team owners interacting with players during play. "From now on owners will be restricted from entering the dugout and dressing room during matches," Mr Dalmiya said at a press conference in New Delhi. If properly implemented when the IPL begins next year, the measures could go some way to restoring the tarred reputation of a tournament that boasts a brand value of $3bn, according to Brand Finance, a consultancy. However, many cricket observers remain sceptical, noting that the BCCI suffers from weak governance and limited accountability, which even the strictest ban on parties and pitch-side dancers is unlikely to solve. "The problem is that Dalmiya represents the 'ancien regime,' and so he is unlikely to bring any real transparency and accountability to the sport," says Sidharth Bhatia, a Mumbai-based commentator.