Like they say, there can be no smoke without a fire. It’s time the paying public decide that enough is enough. If big corporate houses are queuing to sponsor matches, it’s because the reach of the game is far and wide, and the benefits to the sponsors manifold.
This article, written by Martin D’Souza, first appeared in Bombay Times on April 27, 2000. With the #Trousergate controversy blowing up and swift action being taken, I visited the piece and found that some things remain the same… including my lack of interest in the sport I once adored. It’s been 18 years now and I have followed cricket sporadically, and am glad to have done so!
Imagine Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly walking in to open the innings with Wasim Akram and Shoiab Akhtar set to open the bowling for Pakistan.
Imagine that it is the final of some Cup and the only people in the stadium beside the players are the officials, scorers, drinks’ guys and the umpires.
Imagine Sachin cracking the first ball he faces from Akram to the cover boundary and instead of the roar of approval there is just pin-drop silence as he trudges back to face the next delivery.
Also imagine that there is no mention of the match in the morning papers.
Imagine cricket is dead!
With gentlemen no longer playing the game, and bookies and ‘higher-ups’ deciding the outcome of the match much before the first ball is bowled, the day isn’t far when cricket will be played in empty stadiums. Talk about cricket to any once-eager enthusiast and the response is amazing. The hurt and bewilderment is there, plain enough for all to see.
With every passing day, the betting scandal gets murkier and murkier with no one coming forward with solutions to clear up the mess. There are only allegations and counter-allegations. Everyone with a cricketing connection says they will give out the names at the ‘appropriate’ time. And now we have former Pakistan skipper, Imran Khan saying that a ‘suspicious character’ (bookie) had named a few Indian players for alleged match-fixing during a tour to India way back in 1977!
With fresh skeletons tumbling out of the closet every day, where do we, the paying public, stand? If cricket today is almost a religion in the sub-continent it is thanks to us, the spectators, who spend hours together before the television sets following the fortunes of a match, or thronging the stadium braving the scorching heat to procure tickets. How many times have we not jumped for joy after an Indian win and felt dejected for days after India has lost a match? The instances are countless. Now comes the numbing blow that those losses may have been manipulated!
When Hansie Cronje’s name first cropped up in the match-fixing scandal, he denied having anything to do with it. But then, sleep eluded him and he came out with the truth that he had not been ‘entirely honest’. South Africans were stunned as the confession opened a can of worms. Dr Ali Bacher who has been instrumental in South Africa’s cricketing success has initiated an inquiry, the result of which should be out by the end of May. This only goes to show that the South African Board is hell bent on bringing the guilty to book.
In comparison, how honest has the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) been? The Justice Chandrachud Committee set to look into the match-fixing issue in India after Manoj Prabhakar’s allegations, and the Justice Quayyum exercise in Pakistan, seem to be an eyewash.
Like they say, there can be no smoke without a fire. It’s time the paying public decide that enough is enough. If big corporate houses are queuing to sponsor matches, it’s because the reach of the game is far and wide, and the benefits to the sponsors manifold. But come to think of it, what will the sponsors gain if televisions are off and stadiums empty during matches?
Manoj Prabhakar wants protection and only then will he reveal the names of the ‘offenders’. Pataudi and Bishen Singh Bedi want the CBI to take over the investigations. The BCCI were to take a decision to make the Chandrachud report public in a meeting on April 18. Inderjit Singh Bindra says that Jagmohan Dalmiya is in the grip of the mafia and loan-sharks. Dalmiya says that Bindra is demented. Azhar says matches can’t be fixed. Jadeja says Cricket is a religion. Mongia asks, what is fixing? Sachin says no matches have been fixed….
I say we have been taken for a ride. What do you say?
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