BCCI President and Chennai Super Kings owner, N Srinivasan passed his astrologer Dr Venkatesan Karthikeyan's advice on match strategy to captain MS Dhoni during IPL 2013.
Emails reviewed by The Economic Times show these advisories — on toss and batting order — referred to three matches, including the final in Kolkata on May 26, in which CSK lost to Mumbai Indians by 23 runs. The emails also contained advice to the team management on which deities should be propitiated on match days.
The newspaper confirmed that the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption and security unit and Mumbai Police, which is investigating match fixing charges in IPL, are also aware of the email trail.
When the newspaper seeked a comment, Srinivasan said: "I'm at my residence and no longer taking calls." Dr Karthikeyan also didn't respond to two email requests for interview. Dhoni did not respond to an email.
Arun Pandey, who has known Dhoni for almost 15 years and shares business interests with the India captain, including in Rhiti Sports, where Dhoni had an interest, said "Dhoni is a very humble and honest man and he will do anything to help you but when it comes to the game he is quite clear: he is the captain, he makes the decisions." For the IPL final, Srinivasan, included in the mail under the address firstname.lastname@example.org, is instructed with regard to the toss that "choice of batting first is preferred". The email then says the batting order should not be changed - "not to change batting order" and "Dhoni not to change order as far as possible".
In the event, Chennai lost the toss and Mumbai chose to bat first while the batting order remained the same from the previous match, also against Mumbai, although only three batsmen were needed in that game.
Pandey said "If even Dhoni's father told him to take a glass of water for refreshment when he was on the field, he wouldn't do it. So it would never be that he would do any of these things like batting first or not changing the order." On April 8, Srinivasan received an email from Dr Karthikeyan for the match against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on April 10. This asked that Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan "stay away from viewing the match in any format". Chennai won by ten wickets. Meiyappan was investigated by police in the IPL match-fixing case.
Another mail, sent on April 11, refers to the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk on April 13. Gurunath is again advised to "stay away". Chennai won by four wickets with one ball remaining.
For both matches, the directive for the toss was given as follows: "Choice (bowling/batting) for toss win to be followed as advised for IPL". Chennai won the toss in both games and chose to field. Both these emails use a sentence - "magic stick to be brought in for control and online correction also" - that seems puzzling. The emails also advise offerings be made to various deities, distinguished persons, or special guests.
Before the final against Kolkata Knight Riders, Dr Karthikeyan said: "As 26th is a Sunday and Jyeshta Nakshatra and not friendly to Shri Dhoni, we have to do special prayers to some important deities of various temples."
The astrologer then went on to advise that members of the team management carry with them laminated pictures of Ganesha and Goddess Baglamugi and that they be placed on specific walls of the dressing room. CSK team management and owners were also advised to wear blue T-shirts throughout the match. It was also written that the opposition must be given red towels.
The list of such advices stood at 18 for the match against Kings XI and 20 for the contest versus Bangalore.