This has been a season of plenty for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Lots of cricket action and plenty of controversy — sacking outspoken Mohinder Amarnath as selector, pulling up Mumbai Cricket Association for hosting England’s development squad, allegedly getting other countries to vote for Laxman Sivaramakrishnan to be part of ICC’s Cricket Committee, reportedly using pressure to ensure former ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat does not hold an important position in Cricket South Africa, spot fixing and now, Pune Warriors accusing the Board of being unsporting.
All this vindicates what cricket sage Richie Benaud has always maintained about cricket being the most controversial game.
Along with controversy has come a degree of shame with a Test player and World Cupper being in custody for alleged spot fixing with two domestic players.
The cynics are hoping for more names with feet of clay to crop up. The manner in which things are escalating, our newspapers and television channels will continue to show us that there is so much to cricket than just the 22-yard battle, the players, administrators et al. So much more that forms a big, black and ugly cloud.
The BCCI can still be proud of the Indian Premier League. Despite all the turmoil, it has survived six seasons. And despite the latest spot-fixing controversy, most people still want to watch it. But that doesn’t mean the future of the tournament is not in doubt.
Some cricket lovers wonder whether the cash-heavy tournament should continue to be part of the cricket season with so much of dirt flying around. IPL will probably continue being part of our lives because no matter how much sleaze we hear about, it is a money-spinner for the BCCI, teams and players. And of course, bookies!
IPL-bashers don’t have any great chance of victory here as long as the tournament continues to boost the economy. However, if the spot fixing menace cannot be stopped, the BCCI would be well advised to bring the curtain down. While players need to be educated in a more intense fashion about warding off this disease, they must be given extraordinary insulation. What if players are being threatened to co-operate with the evil forces? Do they enjoy enough guarantees that they will not be targeted if they lodge a complaint? Only players and the establishment can answer that. However entertaining and financially attractive the IPL is, it’s not more valuable than dear life.
Cricketers over the years have been lost through weird reasons. The Wisden Book of Cricketers’ Lives has instances of players falling from windows, horses, trains and even a cliff - Australian batting great Stan McCabe for example. Cricket does not want a situation where a young player is killed in evil nexus.
We can’t be naïve and not think about the fear aspect. It is here where the BCCI’s anti-corruption unit and the police should be brain-storming the most even as investigations continue.
Where indulgence by choice is concerned, no matter how many role models young players see around them in the dressing room, it will always boil down to their conscience. What better and sadder example than the spot fixing scandal. Which button is clicked up there is what matters. Old values never go out of fashion and apart from players, team owners/officials should follow the straight and narrow.
Fixing is the most confrontational of all problems in the game. I reproduce below the conversation Australian journalist Phil Wilkins (who broke the first story on cricket corruption in 1995 involving Salim Malik’s attempts to bribe Shane Warne and Tim May) had with his source:
Source: All the players are talking about it. It’s got to get out.
Wilkins: Not another rebel tour?
Source: No, bigger than that
Wilkins: You’re kidding!
Sadly, ‘bigger than that’ has become bigger than everything else.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor