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The punter and the journalist

Jaspreet Sahni | | Updated: October 7, 2015, 5:40 PM IST

It took close to 14 years, since the Mohammad Azharuddin episode in 1999, for a first-of-its-kind crackdown on the betting mafia, which has had contrasting effects on cricket's two beneficiaries - the 'punter' is in the bunker and the 'journalist' out on the prowl.

No one can deny that India has paid a big price for the delay in cleaning up its cricket. The game is less pleasing, many playing the game have become dishonest, the majority of its administrators are crooked, the experts are commentating under instructions and most of those who loved the game by heart are now in contact with it either to bet (the punter) or to make ends meet (the journalist).

At least three in five persons, especially boys under 20, are into cricket betting: easy, quick money as they call it. You just need a cell phone, access to live telecast and contact number of a bookie, and you are in business. Sip on a soda sitting on a cosy couch and place a bet. The smart get paid the next day, while the not-so-smart pay the bookies. It leaves an urge to continue betting - the winner wants more and the loser wants his money back. The lure never ceases, while Indian youth treads the wrong path.

Fear, if any, is only till the time police are active. The moment investigations hint at becoming laissez-faire (which doesn't seem to be the case at least this time), the dabba finds its voice and punter entries start re-mushrooming in the book.

Will it stop? Difficult to say. Should it stop? Definitely.

The other breed, whom cricket pays, is always kept busy by the 'Gentleman's Game'. These are the Indian media. Politics rules the roost in scandal-hit, newsy India. Bollywood and cricket remain locked in a close battle for the second place - depends on whether a Black Buck is killed, how many crores has a film made, someone hitting six sixes or someone caught 'fixing'.

That leaves a sports journalist no choice but to have Cricket listed on his CV. "It sells," as they say in journalistic jargon, or "it's where the money (advertisers) is." If a scribe in India doesn't know a thing about cricket (which is as rare as spotting a shark in the Ganges), chances are that he will find it difficult to keep his salary account sufficiently funded to clear the pile of EMIs.

But there is a big difference in the thought process of the journalist and the punter. While the journalist hopes the gentleman in cricket wakes up soon, the punter will kill the game if not nabbed.
First Published: May 23, 2013, 5:31 PM IST

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