The dark side of cricket has shown its face. Again… Just when we had forgotten that it existed. Just as we reveled in how much glory and money a sport can bring – through masala version of the game – we had forgotten that betting existed. And so did match fixing. Oops, it’s called ‘spot fixing’ now.
A few cricketers, including once India’s fast bowling hope Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, were nabbed by police when they were with ‘arranged’ women – allegedly supplied by bookies who offered them money to perform according to their wishes in an official IPL (Indian Premier League) match – for spot fixing. A sad day for cricket enthusiasts, no matter what nationality you have…
Yes, neither is this the first instance of ‘fixing’ in the sport, nor will it be the last one.
The first ever cricket match to be fixed – according to records – was in 1817, almost two centuries ago. Interestingly, the incident happened at what we know as Mecca or Cricket – the Lord’s Cricket Ground – where the first instance of ‘fixing’ was staged. William Lambert – the first man in cricket history to score a hundred in each innings – was banned after being charged with ‘trying less hard’ for England against Notts. The reason behind the charge and the accuracy of the verdict is not the point to be discussed here. But, the point is that ‘fixing’ is an old issue and IPL is not responsible for it. It is greed of money and betrayal of sportsmanship that causes fixing. Not many cricket fans have forgotten Hansie Cronje – now dead – who became the most infamous villain for South Africa from being their national hero once.
The reason for my problems with IPL is not mere fixing. The reason is: It is making cricket vulgar, obscene. At least, for the purists like me. If it was real cricket, one would not mind money flowing in the game like water in the Niagra Falls. But it is crass commerce, with corporate houses throwing in millions of dollars for their own branding and television cameras zooming in on everyone just to increase channel’s TRP.
How else do you explain 40-plus year olds playing the most intense format of the game, especially when they just play cricket 45-days-a-year? It is purely for marketing sake, as these players draw crowds in thousands and make commentators speak hyperbole at the top of their voices. To someone who understands cricket, you don’t need to scream, stress on every word in the sentence, using every possible adjective that the English language has to offer. That too, just to describe an ordinary shot, or a wicket or a single… Sometimes you wonder whether they need a microphone or not, looking at the decibel level of their voices.
How else do you explain lines like “This is a green pitch, but not very green” or “Very athletic Dale Steyn, has a good arm to throw”. Tell me one great fast bowler who hasn’t been athletic. It’s akin to saying a gold medalist in 100 meters can run ‘very fast’.
How else do you explain 19 year olds and others, fitted with earpieces and microphones, talking to commentators ‘on air’? How does it help their cricketing skills, their focus in the match? In a frenzy called IPL, we forget that the youngsters are kept in team so that they could learn, and grow up to become mature cricketers in future.
I’ve met some journalists who’re into betting on IPL matches (Yes, Nepali nationals), through bookies. One quipped, “It’s good that IPL is being staged when our salaries don’t come on time.” But that’s only about journalists, the smarter lot, those who calculate and put money on teams judiciously (at least some of them)… What about the fans, who bet on their fav teams, often emotionally. Emotion doesn’t have logic, often a route to waste money. If emotions can lure fans into making money, why wouldn’t it draw cricketers to the luxury? As said earlier, it’s greed that spoils things.
You get sad, whether or not you’re a purist, when the game is coming into disrepute. A non-cricket-sports-fan asked me, “What is wrong with this game?”
I’d take this opportunity to reply. There’s nothing wrong with the game, only with the people who choose to milk the sport, extract money from it, and have no love for the game. Sadly, the lines are synonymous with most cricket administrators across the globe. In Nepal, in India, or anywhere…
PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 18th May, 2013.