Let's all be consistent and fair in our analysis

May 21, 2013, 16:13 IST | Sunil Sampat

A cricket enthusiast's view to the spot fixing controversy

It is very sad that a witch hunt is being conducted in this alleged spot fixing at the Indian Premier League by three Rajasthan Royals players. The media has already crucified the trio.

Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh
Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh share a drink. Pic/Getty Images

Ian Chappell, writing in SUNDAY MiD DAY on the ugly issue has made some interesting points. Most notably, he is suggesting that a ‘really big, perhaps iconic cricketer’ is involved in this scandal and that this person should be exposed. This is a logical step to take if cricket is to be cleansed of this sort of underhanded and illegal behaviour. But let us (and Ian Chappell) be a little consistent and fair.

My memory takes me back to 1981. In a Test match in England, at Headingley, Australia were playing England. The Aussies were doing very well up to a point until Ian Botham played a stellar innings. This gave England only a small lead, Australia were still favourites to win. It is history now that England won this Test match on the strength of great fast bowling by Bob Willis and Botham. Two Australian players, Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh, who were playing in this Test, had placed bets during the game. They bet at the staggering odds of 500 to 1 that their own team, Australia would lose the Test!

These were two very big, iconic players, ironically proteges and once teammates of Ian Chappell. What happened in this open-and-shut case? Nothing at all!
While people are shouting for jail terms for Sreesanth, Chavan and Chandila and also asking for all their records to be erased, Lillee and Marsh continued playing for Australia.

Their records are intact. Lillee is often regarded as the greatest fast bowler ever. Marsh headed Cricket Australia’s academy. Lillee even spearheaded a fast bowling academy in India!

Remember, Lillee and Marsh were playing for their country in a Test series regarded as the holiest of all, The Ashes. Two other ‘iconic’ and ‘big-named’ cricketers, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne accepted money for providing information to a bookie. Wonder what Ian Chappell’s reaction to this might have been.

There is also the very odd case of an England captain, Mike Atherton seen producing some grit from his pocket during a Test match. It was alleged at that time that this material might be used to rough up the ball to produce reverse swing. What happened to Atherton? Arrest, fine, jail? No, he continued as England captain and is now a respectable commentator and writer! Fans will also remember one, John Lever using a Vaseline-like product in a Test match versus India in 1977 to shine the ball he was bowling with.

This is totally against the laws, ethics and morality of cricket. Yet, nothing was done about this incident. Life went on quite smoothly for this law-breaker.

That is not all. In 1959, the great Gary Sobers, in England, crashed a car he was driving. It was a single car crash into a wall. His West Indian colleague and friend Collie Smith died in that crash. Smith was spoken of in the same breath as Sobers in terms of talent. Another West Indies player, fast bowler Tom Dewdney was also in the car and suffered injuries. It is alleged that the trio had been drinking. The net result was that nothing happened to Sobers in terms of punishment. He went on to establish himself as the greatest all-rounder ever in cricket. He was also conferred the knighthood by the Queen!

Cricket hypocrisy has always perplexed - but now does not surprise me. In 1960, South Africa toured England. In the second Test, at Lord’s, their young fast bowler Geoff Griffin bowled a great spell in England’s second innings in the course of which he took a hat- trick. Almost immediately after that he was no balled several times for ‘throwing’. In other words the umpires, both English, found his action to be suspect. This was the same bowler who had bowled in the first Test and also in the first innings of the second Test with a perfectly acceptable action. How did his action suddenly become illegal? Poor Griffin never played Test cricket again.

Cricket, it is said, is a reflection of life itself. We are hypocrites in real life and so in cricket. Let’s rid ourselves of this holier-than-thou stance.

Perhaps it is time to pay heed to the wise words from the Bible, “let he, who is without sin, cast the first stone.” 

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