Rahul Dravid spoke to ESPNcricinfo editor-in-chief Sambit Bal about dealing with the charges of spot-fixing against his Rajasthan Royals team-mates, why it is vital for the law to be involved in policing cricket and how credibility is of utmost importance
Rahul, the last three months haven’t been easy for you.
Yes, towards the end of the IPL it was a difficult period. Difficult personally and from a team perspective as well. So in a lot of ways, relating to the IPL and personally, it has been a tough time.
Take us through those first couple of days. Describe your emotions when you heard about it.
There is not really one emotion at a time like that. You go between anger, sadness, disappointment, you feel bad. From our (Rajasthan Royals) point of view, I thought the IPL was going really well. For a team like that to be at that position at that stage, to be pushing for the title, was fantastic. I thought, not just from Rajasthan Royal’s point of view but from the whole IPL’s point of view, till that point it was a really good IPL; good crowds, some good cricket to watch. The standard of cricket was good. So for that to happen was really disappointing from everyone’s point of view.
You really involve yourself in building this team and get personally involved with a lot of players. So was betrayal an emotion you felt very strongly?
It’s not just about me personally. While I’m the face of the team and probably the most high-profile player in that team, there are a lot of people in the team and a lot of people who have done work behind the scenes, not just to get the team together but to set up the whole team, set up the franchise. A lot of people work behind the scenes to make the IPL the success that it was. Obviously you do feel bad because you know some of these players at a personal level. You’ve spent a lot of time with them in the dressing room. But you also feel bad for the lot of other people as well, those who’ve put in a lot of effort to try and make this a success. And you can sense a lot of people do feel let down, I guess it’s a natural feeling. A lot of the team-mates of the players concerned, a lot of the coaches, the officials, people who have spent many hours talking to the players not only in the team but within the states, the state associations, local associations … So there is a feeling of being let down, part of it is personal. But it’s not only about me, a lot of people felt let down.
You’re someone who has played with a certain amount of integrity and honesty and when you see something like this it must make you really angry. Did you think at that time, maybe, cricket isn’t worth playing?
There is anger. Like I said earlier, you go through emotions, there is anger and you feel let down. Especially in India, in fact not only in India, there are so many passionate fans of this game, who truly love the game, you can read and hear about the sacrifices they make to be able to watch us play cricket matches, wherever, in different parts of the world. Waking up at wee hours, following the game, writing about the game on the web. Today, because of the web you get to see just how many fans this game actually has and how passionate they actually are. You feel angry for them. You feel angry, when things happen, that you have let down people like that, you’ve let down the real fan and you’ve let down the people who truly care about this game and give you unqualified support, and that’s where you feel that sense of anger.
You have been part of two teams that have been involved in fixing scandals and in 2000 you were much younger. How did it affect you then?
The funny thing was in 2000 - and I tell people that - I remember the day I landed in England to play county cricket for Kent was actually the day Hansie Cronje confessed and I remember this so clearly because I landed in Kent and Simon Willis, who was involved in Kent at that time, came to pick me up at Heathrow Airport and the first thing he said was “welcome to England” and the next thing he said was “Hansie Cronje has confessed”. Six months I was away from India then and all hell broke loose in India after that, and a lot of stuff happened in the next six months but I felt completely away from it all because I was playing cricket in England and in those days I didn't have access to a computer or wifi and if I needed to get news from India, I remember I had to go to the club office for a computer and then log on to pages. There weren't so many television channels and after some time I just switched off from it. I was just so happy playing cricket in England, that I just switched off from it and when I came back six months later and when we played the Champions Trophy in Kenya, there was a completely different team. The whole thing had passed. The commission, the inquiries, it was all over. So it was really funny for me, the first time, that I was completely away from it all. This time around it was a little different and obviously with so many news channels, so much of more television and so much of more media involved, you just feel like you are a lot more in the middle of it than I was last time.
Do players think the same way as fans? Does fixing get spoken about in dressing rooms or in conversations that players have?
When incidents happen, like the Pakistan players at Lord’s or the Bangladesh Premier League or even last year in India, where there was a sting operation and there were some boys who were managed to fix games or take money under the table, when incidents like these happen and it comes out in the papers, players do talk about it. It does get discussed in the dressing room. It won’t be constantly get discussed in the dressing room, like players always taking about fixing, it’s not like that. But when incidents happen, people do talk about it, people do mention it and just in general, casual chat that would happen in any dressing room.
Do you think that administrators have done enough? Have they shown enough seriousness consistently over the years, or is it when something like this happens, people wake us and then it dies down?
I think they’ve tried. We can easily go around blaming just administrators and players. But the fact that the incidents are still happening, it means that it (what is being done) is not enough and we need to admit the fact that we need to work in partnership with the law in this country to be able to actually crack down on this thing.
One thing that happens every time a fixing story breaks is that cricket suffers a serious dent in its credibility. We’re not going to go into specific cases because your team is involved and one of your team’s owners is involved. But do you think that administrators in our country care enough about credibility?
I think they should. I think it’s really important. Like I said earlier, when I answered your earlier question, so many fans and so many people care deeply about this game and it’s because of these fans and people we are who we are as cricketers. Administrators are there because of the fans and the cricketers, to run this game. So I think that credibility of a game in the eyes of the public is extremely important.
Credibility of a cricket board or organisation?
Of any authority, of a team, of a board, or a government for that matter. I think credibility, irrespective of what you do, if you are in public life, then it is important.