Given that cricket is part of the national psyche, Indians felt hugely betrayed when the match-fixing scandal first broke out in 1997. Cricketer Manoj Prabhakar blew the whistle. Then, cricket matches became scams and cricketers and the betting mafia were linked. Too much has happened after that, and though the International Cricket Council (ICC) has made efforts to stop corruption in the game, cricket lost a great deal of credibility and continues to do so, with the long shadows of corruption thrown over the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well.
So, as the Cricket World Cup begins today, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, one can only hope that allegations of corruption do not sully what promises to be a great 1.5 months for the cricket fan. Of course, efforts have been made in the run-up to nab bookmakers and ensure that we have a clean tourney. State police have cracked down on bookies prior to the World Cup and one knows that eyes will be peeled for suspicious activity.
The onus is not just on the ICC or the police. It is on the players. The players whom fans repose so much trust in, idolise and pay through their nose to see, must uphold the integrity of the game. They cannot succumb to ‘advances’ by bookies, temptations by so-called fixers, or even cite danger or the fact that they were scared to justify any wrongdoing. It is up to them to play in the best spirit of the game. They need to be guided by their conscience. Cricketers must think that it is because of the fans that they are on the playing field today. It is the fans who are the lifeblood of the game. If support dries up because of hurt, and feelings of betrayal, anger and complete mistrust, interest in the game will peter out completely.
So, as the seats fill up in the spectator stands and your supporters take their seats at home in front of televisions, play your hearts out and play clean. You owe it to everyone who has paid money or sacrificed time, to watch you and your brilliance on the cricket field. Give us a show, and keep it clean.