Just after the news broke that spot fixing has reared its ugly head in the ongoing Indian Premier League, none other than Sunil Gavaskar commented on a TV channel that there are players who are getting immense amount of money, often not deserved. The batting maestro had been instrumental in seeing to it that Indian cricketers got their fair share long before cricket and money became synonymous.
So coming from him, it is all the more evident that the amount of moolah changing hands in IPL borders on the ludicrous. And despite organisers and franchises crying hoarse to the contrary, the IPL has been, and will remain, more of a glamour event than one that empowers the sport.
No one can deny the fact that many KKR fans flock to Eden Gardens more to see Shah Rukh Khan dancing in the stands, rather than the cricket itself. Deepika Padukone kissing Siddharth Mallya grabs more eyeballs than the reaction of Royal Challengers players after a victory. And it cannot be denied that players, who are not really superstars can get swayed by the fact that they are in such close proximity to Bollywood’s who’s who.
And then there is the dark side. The after-match parties had turned murky even during the first season. Women, drugs and alcohol were baits used to lure players. It is possible that the IPL culture, along with the T20 format, made it a hot bed for betting and match fixing. The glamour not only attracted the players, but it also provided an environment for the bookies to make their contacts.
And that happened away from the dressing rooms and the stadiums, cricket took a back seat among cheerleaders, booze and an environment that said it was more important to have fun than to play the game. It is an open secret that the underworld has deep roots in Bollywood.
It is now coming out in the open that Bollywood insiders had acted as a go-between with betting cartels and players. It may be a bit unfair to say that off-field glamour led to such activities since match fixing in cricket was there even before IPL came to be. But it can definitely be inferred that it gave the bookies easier access to players.
The world of the super rich can be tempting. And for players like Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, and even S Sreesanth, the IPL along with the unscrupulous bookies, provided an easy way to be pretenders.
* Elora Sen is a Kolkata-based sports writer