On April 5, I had a post “Controversial IPL- Welcome Back.” As if to prove me right, a few days ago a huge row erupted about possible spot fixing/match fixing incidents involving three players of the Rajasthan Royals. These include an Indian Test cricketer, the mercurial S. Sreesanth who made a big name for himself in Kerala. Delhi Police paraded enough preliminary evidence to prove there could be a lot of muck around this extravaganza called the “Indian Premier League.”
As more bookies are caught, it seems likely that the rot may not stop with just these three players. It is entirely possible that more players were compromised and more matches fixed. What is worse are claims that these incidents may also have taken place in the previous editions of the IPL.
Some glibly argued over the last few days that “spot fixing” was not really match fixing. While that may be true when it comes to Test cricket, there is no doubt whatsoever that spot fixing in T20 cricket can dramatically change the results of the game. We know how often teams lose by the proverbial whisker.
Here is my take on IPL and the sordid events associated with it, true or imagined. I am not restricting myself to what is well known through the media about the cases mentioned above:-
- The IPL has been mired in controversy since the days of Lalit Modi who wanted to transplant an essentially Western hard nosed business concept to a culture and ecosystem which is still not fully ready to accept it in 2013, much less than in 2008 when it all started. Even today, most young Indian cricketers who are touted as the biggest beneficiaries of the IPL have not still got culturally attuned to the consequences of earning unprecedented sums of money, the glitz and the glamour, the cheer leaders and what have you. It is not surprising that some are easy prey to the bookies and the underworld.
- The advent of powerful politicians like Sharad Pawar controlling the game in one form or the other changed the dynamic of cricket administration in India. While many things did improve, some things got from bad to worse, such as the involvement of the underworld in betting as the stakes became huge. Decades ago foreign players were reluctant to tour India and often second level players made the grade for tours. They invariably complained about the facilities and the food. Today it is the dream of most cricketers from all over the world to get an IPL contract. Young or over the hill, black or white, they throng to get noticed by the franchisees’ scouts.
- Conflict of interests abound and have not been addressed though these were evident right from its inception. This propagated the theory that a bit of wrong doing is ok. The rot started from the top. N. Srinivasan, the then Treasurer of the BCCI was the top honcho of India Cements which owns the Chennai Super kings. Today he is the President of the BCCI, the richest and most powerful cricket body in the world. An Aussie journalist went so far as to say that he is a “destructive figure.”
- The entire tournament is not played as per the norms of the ICC. So it is laughable when the top brass of the BCCI say with pride that the anti-corruption duties have been outsourced to the Anti-Cuorruption Wing of the ICC, which has no say in virtually anything in the IPL.
- Many have not realized that for the franchise owners it is business and with it comes attendant issues like Government regulation on Foreign Exchange and the like. To what extent they follow the rules and to what extent they break them is not clearly know as many allegation of violations have cropped up in the past.
- Like in many other aspects of the law in India, we are quick to forgive. We don’t take tough actions to give deterrent punishment. In the last major match fixing case, the players concerned were banned for life but no criminal charges were brought against them. Years have gone by and the dust has settled long ago. Settled so well that Md. Azharuddin, former India captain and supposed king pin of that racket is today a Member of Parliament no less.
So what happens next? There are no easy answers. I can imagine that the cricketers will be let off the hook and by next year’s IPL things will be back to normal. Unless many changes take place, which are most unlikely, the only thing that will happen is that betting will increase, more controversial incidents will take place and the ” game” will go on. When I say game I do not, of course, refer to cricket.