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What has the spot-fixing scandal really taught us?

Suresh Menon | | Updated: October 7, 2015, 5:24 PM IST

It is possible that Indian cricket will plumb greater depths before things begin to change for the better. Unlike on the last occasion - the match-fixing scandal of 2000 - there is a move to fix responsibility, a law might come into force under which future transgressions might be judged, and there is the possibility, distant, remote, overly optimistic that the BCCI might accept that transparency and accountability are not evil but necessary. On second thoughts, perhaps that last is too much to hope for, and belongs in fantasy land.
But at this stage, with more revelations likely and desperate cover-ups the order of the day, what lessons have we learnt? We have been shaken out of our complacency, our firm belief that these things happen only in Pakistan and know that a spot-fixing scandal could strike anywhere at any time without any warning. But what do we really know?
We know that it is impossible to expect the BCCI to function with dignity in the face of a crisis - the various politicians are too busy spinning everything to their advantage, looking for the opportunity in every crisis to further their own interests. It has long seemed illogical to fans of the game that the body which is entrusted with running it is unable to bring to its job the kind of passion or sense of responsibility the average fan feels for the sport. The BCCI never feels hurt where cricket is concerned, and that is not a good thing.

We know not to expect leadership from either the officials or the players; one lot is too busy trying to confuse issues, the players have been muzzled for so long they cannot speak even if they wish to. Discretion is the better part of player contracts. Past players have either been bought over by the board as commentators, managers and such like or by the one-off bonuses that have turned out to be such a good investment in this crisis. There are too many people beholden to the BCCI - players, administrators, media men - for a concentrated action from within.
We understand that it will be impossible to root out the evil of spot-fixing. It is impossible to monitor the actors involved every minute of the day, and there is no way of telling if an apparently innocent dinner with a friend is not a meeting for a fix three months down the line when the player is paid to bowl a no-ball in his second over (fourth ball). This is perhaps the most important lesson of them all: human greed cannot be legislated against.
We know that legalizing betting cannot be a full solution. Big betting involves black money, and if betting were legal it would involve taxation. Legal betting might make a small dent in the structure of betting and corner shop bookies, but frankly, nothing more. This is a cash-and-carry business which will not stand up to legal scrutiny. That is also partly its attraction.
We know that however much they scream and shout and get things wrong and fall on the wrong side of decency, television channels are probably the one reason that many otherwise hidden facts come to the surface. There is something about the rat-a-tat style of functioning that keeps the public informed of the shenanigans.
We know that in every such scandal, the theory of 'Plus one' operates. If a Ranji player is caught, add plus one, and it is possible a Test player is involved, plus one, an official is involved, and plus one till political bigwigs and party fund collectors - the chain is a long one. It is not in anybody's interest to probe too deeply or too efficiently.
It is impossible to believe that there are no honest and good men in the board who can be trusted to run cricket. But they are silent either for lack of numbers or because there are other things at stake or since they see no percentage in speaking up. For evil to succeed, it is only necessary for good men to keep quiet. We have known this from Biblical times, but we learn it afresh every generation.
We know that the fans are depressingly indifferent to the scandals. Full houses in the final IPL matches might be an indication that those guilty of bringing the game into disrepute function in an atmosphere where anything goes, and where getting caught is the real crime.
We know that something - faith, spontaneity, trust, something - has been lost, but a good win, perhaps in the ICC Champions Trophy is all that is needed to restore everything to its place. The BCCI knows this too, hence the stout stonewalling.
First Published: May 29, 2013, 11:28 AM IST

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