Spot fixing scandal has hit Indian Cricket yet again. Three cricketers, including one test cricketer, have been arrested by the Delhi Police for alleged spot fixing in the three games in IPL6. The three players belong to Rajasthan Royals. Match fixing and spot fixing rumors has always been in the air and there has always been suspicion on IPL too. This incident has brought the focus once again to the malaise in the sport, i.e. almost a religion for the millions in the cricket crazy country.
It is almost 15 years since cricket was dogged by the match fixing controversy. No one would have forgotten the HanseCroje episode that resulted in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) imposing life ban on the former Indian test captain Mohammed Azarudding and five years ban to Ajay Jadeja. More recently, three Pakistani cricketers were convicted for spot fixing in an England – Pakistan test match. Last year sting operations had revealed fixing in domestic cricket and few players were suspended.
Immediate reactions to the arrest of Sreesanth and two other Rajasthan Royals players has been one of shock from some quarters and that of all “We always expected this” by some others. The first section believes that there are some bad eggs and that should not in any way tar the rest. The latter section feels that IPL is a ready, heady mix for such escapades, given the glits and the glamour and the money involved. The BCCI has promised that it would take severe action if the charges are proven. What would this action be ? BCCI might hand over a life time ban for players involved. What would be the impact of such a ban ? Couple of the players are thirty plus and what would this ban really mean ? Will this “Severe Punishment” be deterrentenough ?
Going by the past trends, it does not seem that such bans have deterred the cricketers from getting involved in fixing. Azaruddin was handed over a life ban, banished into ignominy by the cricketing world; but then, he has since entered politics and become a Member of Parliament. Some other cricketers are well-known commentators now. Even the imprisonment of the Pakistani cricketers does not seem to mean much, as the latest incidents prove. An Anti-Corruption wing of the ICC as well as the Anti-Corruption Wings of the BCCI have hardly had any impact as we do not find any significant findings. The HanseCroje episode was picked up by the Journalist and the Delhi Police stumbled on it by accident. The Pakistani cricketers were caught in a sting conducted by British media. The Delhi Police have once again stumbled on Rajasthan Royals bowlers incidentally as well while actually investigating something else. This only proves that match fixing and spot fixing are going on undeterred and undetected. Now and then, the Police stumble by accident or Journalistic stings reveal the rot.
Experts opine that it is impossible to watch so many cricketers, so many bookies and multitude of fans and that is precisely why such occurrences continue. The Boards and ICC have no where-with-all to monitor and catch the errant ones. It is more a policing job and it is easier said than done. Let us look at Sreeshanth and Co. episode. It is very difficult to believe that only three cricketers are involved in this ignominy. So is the case to believe that one team was afflicted. When nine teams are participating in this grandiose event, around 250 cricketers, it seems naïve to believe that only three persons are involved. The lure for quick money is there and many a young cricketer would be an instant victim to this greed. In any case, the Pakistani cricketers have shown us how vulnerable young and rural boys would be.
How does the fixing impact the others, the cricketers, the fans, administrators and the franchise holders ? The comment of legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar captured the mood of dejection. He said “I felt like a fool”. All the fans who pay a hefty sum to watch the match live and those millions glued to the idiot boxes feel absolutely cheated by this kind of fixing. Once the fans lose interest in the game, then the game has no place. It is only for the spectators that the game is played and cricket rakes in money due to the huge fan support. Hence, it is absolutely essential that something has to be done to rid the game of this menace. The role of players and administrators as well as the team owners, in this particular instance is very vital. The cricket boards who are the regulators need to sensitize the players against falling easy prey to the bookies by proper training and education. They also need to ensure that the guilty get punished in such a way that it has salutary impact on the others. The offenders should not be let-off with bans but should be booked under the Criminal Justice system with the board acting as a complainant.
One of the most respected Cricketer of our times, Rahul Dravid expressed his pain and disappointment with the episode involving his team members. While it is important to distinguish between the Rahul Dravids and Sreesanths, it is also imperative that team managers keep a great vigil on their wards and discipline them. Equal onus is on the franchise owners who need to, perhaps, scream and profile their recruits. The Police have to keep a scientific vigil over the entire cricketing arena. A concerted and coordinated effort is called for to end this malice.
Cricket is a great game and a gentleman’s game at that. Villains like match fixers have no place in this. Entry barriers need to be built to prevent entry of villains in the noble arena and proper monitoring and deterrent punishments need to be in place to ensure that those in the arena do not turn into black sheep.