Monday, May 20, 2013

IPL6: Spot-fixing - What Next?

Disgust, Anger and even a Sense of betrayal - these are the feelings with which I write this blog post. Yet somehow the feelings of shock and surprise are missing. Anyone who believed that the game was completely clean and had no murky dealings ongoing was living in a fool's paradise. Yet, when the story of the arrests of the three players broke, it still did come as a shock. Though the shock can be attributed to the fact that all three players belonged to my favorite IPL team Rajasthan Royals.

In summary, 3 current and one former Rajasthan Royals players have been arrested along with a clutch of bookies. And the rumor mill is on full swing with the "Breaking News" media - both conventional and social diligently spreading all sorts of unsubstantiated rumors. Request them to better wait and watch and not comment while official investigations are on. It is very easy to destroy a reputation built over years of hard work. And mud slinging never helps anyone.

What really boggles the mind is the amount of money involved, some 60 lakh for bowling a bad over !!! Not difficult to see why some of the uncapped players (Chandila & Chavan) with salary restrictions as compared to the others might get tempted. But seeing a current Indian Test player like Sreesanth throwing away his career like this is difficult to understand. I always thought he was a weirdo but his idiosyncrasies were a result of his passion for the game. But guess he lost even that.

Personally I am happy that corrupt are getting weeded out of the game. And the more it happens better it is for the game. Sports does not have any place for fixers. They are much, much worse than the drug cheats who are at least trying to win. Fixers take out the one element which makes sports truly lovable - its uncertainty. Now every single activity will be looked at with suspicion by the watching public (from this IPL - the RP Singh no-ball, Pollard's drops etc). And for cheating the watching public they MUST be punished. Now that the fixing saga is out in the open, the authorities must decide the path forward. Here are some of my suggestions for doing the same.

Stronger Punishments -  Have no mercy on errant players. The law may take its own sweet time but the boards can act tough and give immediate ban the players concerned while investigations are on. For the game to regain its credibility, it would be better to have some innocents punished and not let anyone guilty go unpunished (the opposite of the prevalent legal practice . Also the punishments should be of duration long enough (minimum 5 years) to make them a strong deterrent.

Uncapped players also going into auction - Bringing the Indian uncapped players into the auction pool will certainly help in reducing some of the pay disparity. Also fixing the uncapped player salaries has the added benefit of reducing (nothing can be completely removed) the under-hand dealings between the players and the teams as has been shown in the sting conducted by India TV last year.

Legalize Sports Betting in India - Now this will be a controversial move as it is against  the so-called Indian morals and values (bloody hypocrisy in my opinion). Betting exists and as shown by the payouts to the players, the numbers are mind boggling. Why not legalize and regulate the same? Government will get an extra revenue source. Some of the murky dealings will be reduced. Also the regulated betting agencies can  help in detecting any weird betting patterns. That is how the match-fixing in football tennis has come to light. The revenues can also be used for funding the anti-corruption monitoring.

Disband IPL - This will the one with the most vocal support. Given that many consider it to be the source of all evil in the cricketing world, why not? Though in itself that won't be a solution because most of the problems have been there since time immemorial. Disbanding IPL is certainly not be a feasible solution. Too many genuine stakeholders (Sponsors, TV rights owners, team owners (?)) will be badly affected. And this will have severe repercussions on the entire sport. Turning the entire T20 business into pure entertainment like the erstwhile double wicket & Hong Kong sixes would be better. I would go onto suggest removing T20s from official records. And keeping records restricted to 1st Class & List A games.

Keep the faith - At times like these, it is the most difficult thing to do. Though most likely there are more such morons but HOPEFULLY this malaise is restricted to a few.

These are some suggestions to clean up the mess my loved game is in. There can't be one deterrent to match-fixing but something is better than nothing. And the faster the game comes clean, the faster you regain the lost faith from the watching public.

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

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