Spot-fixing, corruption and other weeds in the IPL
A look at the latest controversy of the IPL - the spot-fixing saga.
The ugly head of match-fixing or rather it’s more adaptable, and newer version, spot-fixing has once again shown up throwing the world of cricket into a pandemonium. The latest act of alleged corruption has been found in the cash strapped Indian Premier League and also in other Indian domestic competitions. In a sting operation carried by India TV, five players, namely T P Sudhindra, Mohnish Mishra, Abhinav Bali, Amit Yadav and Shalabh Srivastava were alleged to have been involved in malpractices and have been suspended by the BCCI for 15 days after an emergency GC meeting today.
The fixing ghost is back. T Sudhindra and Shalabh Shrivastava are alleged to be involved in fixing and have been caught on tape trying to bargain a price for the heinous act. The other three players are in the dock for suspect malpractices that goes against the IPL Player Guidelines. There are two entirely different issues here and they must be treated separately. The first two are accused of fixing is the worst possible allegation that can be leveled at a sportsperson. The others are alleged for violating their contracts, trying to negotiate more lucrative deals. In the case of Monish Mishra, he alleges that he is paid more than the stipulated sum by his team, Pune Sahara Warriors, which they have vehemently denied in a press release.
Fast bowler, T Sudhindra was the highest wicket-taker of this season's Ranji Trophy and plays for Deccan Chargers. Shalabh represents the Kings XI Punjab team in the IPL and he has come out in the open saying that he is innocent and that he is being framed. Whether that is true, only time will tell. Both these players according to the sting have accepted to fix matches for a sum of money and one of them had even said that he had bowled a fixed no-ball in Ranji last season. The tales that the hidden video footage plays are horrific and if the tapes are verified to be true, then the dark cloud of match-fixing that now hovers over, will descend yet again on Indian cricket.
In 28th August, 2010, the world of cricket was jolted into a rude shock by an expose published in the English Tabloid, News of the World where three Pakistani International players were caught on tape agreeing to fix. Captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were the names of the players mentioned and all three who were integral part of the Pakistani test team, found themselves in the middle of a big storm.
The ICC was quick to act and in February 2011, it imposed upon the three tainted players sanctions which many believed to be harsh and needed. I on the other hand thought it was an atrocious decision on ICC’s part and that the players were getting away with minimal punishment. Captain Salman Butt was banned for 10 years, of which 5 was suspended, while Asif for 7 years with 2 years suspended and Amir handed a 5 year suspension.
The decision to bowl a small no-ball might not have had any effect on the overall result of the game, and might not have harmed anyone. However the effect it did have was that the game of cricket was yet again engulfed in shadows of confusion as it was a decade earlier with revelations from Hansie Cronje and Mohammad Azharuddin.
Eventually all three players and the bookie, Mazhar Majeed were tried under British law, and an English court found them guilty of fraud in November 2011. All three cricketers were jailed and it seemed that justice had been rewarded. However the effects of the nefarious actions of the three Pakistani players resonated aloud, like a stone tossed into a pond of still water would, disturbing the very fabric of the game. The sentiments were best expressed by Justice Cooke who presided over the case,
The spot -fixing scandal left a lot of question unanswered and the success of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC and its role in keeping corruption came under the scanner. Now less than 2 years since that debacle that shamed the game, another one arises and this time it’s the Indian Premier League that is in the limelight.
The IPL has always been in forefront and a controversy’s favorite child due to various reasons. The vast amount of money involved in the tournament meant that it indeed was target to such practices, but however till date nothing of concern has emerged. The occasional rumors of fixing were whispered by journalists wanting to make a name for themselves and fans who believed that every twist was a well devised plan. However nothing concrete emerged and these rumored allegations were blown away like dust in the wind.
This season of the Indian Premier League had been in my opinion the best and nearly every other match has been a tight finish. The result of 40% of the matches have been decided in the very last over, and most of them even going down to the very last ball. In my various interactions with fans and spectators of the IPL this season, I came to see a strong undercurrent of suspicion among many of them. Take the Chennai versus Kolkata match that Chennai won after Bravo hit a six of the very last delivery. The equation then was 5 runs needed of the last ball and bowler Rajat Bathia who till then had bowled a brilliant over, bowled a loose full toss that was settled in the stands by Bravo. Despite the win, Chennai fans were circumspect over the result and some of them believed the match to be fixed. Was it? Surely not! However the impact of past instances of fixing have been so widespread that every result that goes away from the normal expected lines as it often does in sports, is treated with a sense of suspicion.
Manchester City won the Premier League title this season and won it in their very last match against Queen Park Rangers by the skin of their teeth. The result was unexpected and after 90 minutes of play, Manchester United fans would have started to uncork the champagne and settle in for a long night of partying but fate had a cruel twist and the in next 5 minutes, ManCity scored twice! Football like cricket has had its fair share of fixing incidents, but no one, not even a Manchester United fan doubted the authenticity of that win.
That has been the big problem with fixing in cricket. Despite all the efforts done to curtail its effects, the public still is not fully convinced and the match-fixing saga from early 2000 still remains sour in some people’s mind. It not only clouds the viewers’ judgment and thinking but also slowly takes away the enjoyment one feels towards the game. The words Justice Cook said when delivering those verdicts, now resound loudly.
Fixing a match is not very easy however fixing small insignificant events of a match is and can go unnoticed easily. Due to the very nature of fixing small events, spot fixing has not much impact if any at all on the result of the match unlike match fixing. However we must not then jump to conclusion that spot fixing is less dangerous than match fixing. It is just as dangerous to the game as match fixing and must be considered as equal. If a player gets a life ban for match fixing, then the same must be for spot fixing.
Spot fixing due to its very nature involves lesser amount of risk by a player and this might tempt players to spot fix. After all its basic economics that less risk and more return is good business and spot fixing can easily become a wide spread epidemic. The ICC to combat it must take the most severest of stance available, one which they had an option to do one and half years ago but failed. The three Pakistani internationals should have been banned for life irrespective of any reason as soon as they were found guilty, serving as a stern warning. The ‘harsh punishment’ that ICC passed was not severe enough in my opinion.
Now BCCI have the opportunity to do the very same thing ICC had failed to do. The quick suspension of the 2 Indian cricketers is a good move by the BCCI, but now the board must show that it just wasn’t a PR move to showcase good intention, but actually a move based on good intention. The next few days will tell us how serious BCCI really is, dealing with these allegations.
The actions BCCI have taken so far is promising but it is far from over. The tapes of India TV should be examined thoroughly and if their authenticity is proven and the players agree to the allegations, then there must be absolutely no hesitation on the BCCI’s part in banishing the players from cricket for a lifetime. They must be set as an example that the next cricketer who even thinks of going astray, led by his greed will be reminded of the consequences and think twice. If by chance the allegations happen to be doctored by the TV channel which very well could be the case here, then BCCI must do everything in its power to assure the public that the men in the dock are blameless.
Whatever be the case, the plain matter of fact is that it is time BCCI takes a very strong stance against these allegations and must assure the fans that they are indeed not sweeping this mess under the carpet in pretence of cleaning it up but is actually cleaning it. This can be done only way and that is by being transparent in the way they approach this mess. The success of any organization lies in how truthful they are to their organizational goals and BCCI being the guardians of cricket in India, must ensure that this wonderful product called the Indian Premier League is not tarnished and further more the game does not go into ill repute. One of the many reasons for the failure of the rebel league, Indian Cricket League among many others was the fact that a cloud of match fixing always hung over it. The GC of the IPL will be wary of that. Cricket must never descend to the low level it did on the 28th of August a couple years ago.
One thing the BCCI has been continually criticized about is the lack of transparency in some aspects of its operations. In the 21st century, it is not difficult for someone to stumble upon skeletons in the closet and the best way for an organization to work is truthfully and openly. BCCI since the beginning of the millennium has evolved into a more professional and more successful outfit, and the need for transparency in its working is now greater than ever.
The IPL due to the amount of money it involves is naturally a breeding ground for vice but transparency can eliminate not just that but all such notions. The entire saga with the ousting of former IPL Chairman, Lalit Modi was the perfect opportunity for the league and the board to put its own house in order. Some positive changes did take place, but it was a small step. Nevertheless a step in the right direction. With crisis facing the BCCI yet again, this is yet another chance for the board to work towards that transparency.
The second allegation of black money floating around and franchisees’ paying their players more than the amount set by the IPL could have been eliminated had there been a clear channel of dealing between the franchisee and the domestic players. In the past when players such as Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey were found trying to flout these norms, alarm bells should have rung and the situation revised after careful analysis. However the IPL GC missed all the signs and the flaw in their own system now is widely exposed. The GC can acknowledge their mistakes and try to rectify the system or let it continue as it is. Whatever the decision they take, they must realize that people all over the world are watching their move and will judge its merits and flaws. Ultimately what matters is that the decision that helps Indian cricket is made and the faith in the game and its administration is restored.
The IPL is one of the best things to happen to cricket and its impact on Indian cricket has been deep and very positive. Of course there has been also been negative aspect of the League, but the positives far overwhelm it and there are players and fans around the world who will testify to that. Even cricket fans in England are jealous of the league’s success according to Kevin Peitersen while people in Pakistan are angst that their players have been denied to play in it. The IPL is a brilliant product and now an integral part of not only Indian cricket but cricket as a whole and it would be a shame if it was tarnished any way. It is a product here to stay and the onus is on the Indian cricket board to make sure that they also get the fans to stay. The only way to do is, is to clean the entire yard of the weeds and make sure that no new ones grow.