Greed is eroding cricket's credibility

Jamie Alter | Updated: May 17, 2013, 8:20 AM IST
Greed is eroding cricket's credibility

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." So said the fictional money-loving inside trader in Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street. Watching the revelations of Thursday, it is clear that greed is anything but.

Needless to say in the next five days while Rajasthan Royals cricketers Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan remain in police custody there will be much hypothesizing, pontificating and vilifying. Fingers will be pointed, theories will be bandied about and assumptions will be made. It won't be pretty. But beyond the muck, there are two questions that need to be asked: What pushes cricketers who are getting paid handsomely to chase more money, and are life bans and jail terms really not a deterrent for cricketers?

At the heart of the IPL lies greed - for money and power - and it is that same damning greed that now threatens to strip the lucrative but controversy-marred Twenty20 tournament. How else to explain the alleged involvement in spot-fixing by three Rajasthan Royals cricketers over what the Delhi Police will have us believe - and this they did rather convincingly in a startling, first-of-its-kind press conference - are at least three matches of the sixth season of the IPL.

At the root of the problem is greed, and there is no solution or limit to greed. In the case of Chavan and Chandila, especially, we have two relatively obscure cricketers getting the chance to earn big bucks (compared to their domestic salaries for Mumbai and Haryana, respectively) and share dressing rooms with Indian and international superstars, travel luxuriously, stay in five-star hotels, enjoy post-match parties and perform on a platform beamed around the world.

Sreesanth owes his fame to his career with the Indian cricket team. He has won a World Cup and an ICC World Twenty20 and been part of a team that reached the pinnacle of the ICC Test rankings. Still he wanted more money? Were an alleged 40 lakhs going to make that big a difference to his life?

While the BCCI has said the IPL will go on, the arrests of these three cricketers have stripped the tournament of its credibility. Thus, Indian cricket has also taken a hit - and it's a big hit. So the BCCI is shocked. So N Srinivasan has vowed to support the police in whatever way his board can. He is "shocked" and "truly sad". He also says it's unfair to call the IPL untenable because of a few "bad eggs".

But what of the person who turns to the next cricket match on TV and raises an eyebrow? The BCCI is naive if it expects people to look at an IPL match without suspicion after Thursday. By presenting video evidence - which is peculiar for Indian police - it shows that the Delhi police have credible reason for taking strict action. This is bigger than TP Sudhindra or Shalabh Srivastava. Again, an Indian Test cricketer has been arrested.

So the big question is - have cricket's governors really failed to address a plague that surged to the public's conscience with the Hansie Cronje scandal in 2000? Are we really nowhere closer to eradicating the specter of fixing 13 years after the sport's biggest match-fixing scandal was unearthed?

Apparently, no.

In November 2011, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were sent to prison after being found guilty in the spot-fixing trial. The cricketing world expressed a mixture of shock and dismay. In May 2012, India TV released tapes of its sting operation uncovering potential black-money transactions, players openly flouting IPL rules, and possible spot-fixing.

Promptly, the BCCI conducted an enquiry. Promptly, it reached a conclusion: Sudhindra was banned for life, Srivastava for five years and Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav and Abhunav Bali for one year each. These severe punishments were widely commended and the general consensus was that the BCCI had set the right consensus.

But the BCCI's banning of those five players last year only addressed the problem of spot-fixing. It did not look at why they engaged in illegal activities. A year later, three players have been arrested for alleged spot-fixing. One of them is Sreesanth, an India Test cricketer. He and two other team-mates conducted illegal activities under the nose of Rahul Dravid, one of the finest cricketers ever with a reputation of being the consummate team man and rigidly upright.

In May 2012, the BCCI had the opportunity to set a precedent by which any player of franchise found guilty of illegal activities would be punished. Clearly that has not happened. On the evidence presented by the Delhi police in a startling live press conference - certainly the first of its kind - there are cricketers who feel they can engage in foul play without censure. It is as they are taunting the so-called lines of demarcation set in place by the BCCI and the tournament. In fact, it is a slap in the face of the BCCI and the franchises.

Cricket needs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fixing, in any form. It should be as simple as that: you get caught involved in any form of fixing and your career in cricket is over; for life. A fraternity that welcomes back Marlon Samuels from a two-year suspension for "receiving money, or benefit or other reward that could bring him or the game of cricket into disrepute" cannot expect to stay free from illegal activities. Fixing of any kind eats away at the essence of sport and it cannot be handled by warnings and financial slaps. Cricket has to adopt the toughest of deterrents to protect itself from corruption.

Six years ago, when the IPL began, there was a need for transparency. It did not happen. Today, yet again, we are witnessing the grave pitfalls of that. And that's got a lot to do with greed.

First Published: May 17, 2013, 8:20 AM IST

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