I sometimes feel people don’t realize the severity of the crime when it comes to match fixing or its corollary spot fixing. The players have let their team down, let the fans down and disgraced the noble game of cricket by their greed.
When a cricketer steps out on the field of play, he is expected to give off his best at all times. Anything less than that is unacceptable and when a player deliberately under performs and accepts bribes to do so it is an affront to the sport itself and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. Indeed such acts deserve the maximum punishment - a life ban - and I am glad the BCCI disciplinary committee has taken the right decisions with regard to S Sreesanth and Ankeet Chavan found guilty of such acts during IPL 6.
While these two have been served life bans punishments of a lesser degree have been slapped on others depending on their role in the scandal that rocked the popular annual competition.
In a way it is sad to see talent going astray and careers nipped in the bud or midway through. Sreesanth in the ultimate analysis will be remembered as a player who never quite fulfilled his potential thanks first to his obnoxious behavior on the field and then being distracted by the more glamorous worlds of film and television where he exhibited his dancing and singing skills on reality shows. Chavan a 27- year-old left arm spinner was Mumbai’s best bowler last season taking 33 wickets in ten matches and playing a significant role in his team’s 40th title triumph in the Ranji Trophy.
Amit Singh (banned for five years) and Siddarth Trivedi (banned for one year) punished for lesser offences surely had much more to offer during their first class careers and in the IPL.
But one must lay aside such sentimental feelings and think of the harm they have caused to themselves and cricket. As former Indian captain Bishen Bedi put it succinctly there is no room for sob sympathy for anyone who brings disrepute to the game.
It is possible that the disciplinary committee’s task was made relatively easy by the tough tone of the final report submitted by Ravi Sawani who led the BCCI’s probe into the scandal. As Sawani rightly noted none of the players were naive to the propositions of manipulation. He observed that there was no specific mitigating factor that would require any mercy to be shown while sanctioning the guilty players.
As only to be expected Sreesanth is the subject of much focus in the light of what happened in May this year during the tournament. It must not be forgotten that he has played a number of international games and was part of the national team that won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007 and the ICC Cricket World Cup four years later.
He has received the ICC Anti Corruption Unit’s education programme on many occasions. Indeed as Sawani has pointed out all the Rajasthan Royals players who have been found guilty received the ICC Education Programme just prior to the beginning of IPL 6. Obviously all this had no impact on their conduct and under the circumstances the players deserved no leniency whatsoever.
As a cricket follower for over half a century this is what has been worrying me over the past few years ever since the match fixing scandal broke out into the open in April 2000. In its wake the ICC put an anti-corruption unit in place to help curb the growing menace. At every international match steps are taken to see that the cricketers adhere to its recommendations.
But there is no way such steps can be stopped totally without the active co-operation of the players. That is why there is the clause in the ACU’s rules that state that a player should report immediately to the concerned officials if an approach is made by a bookie or anyone else to under-perform for money.
By not doing so the player becomes an accessory to the crime and this is how some players have been slapped with lesser bans.
It is clear that while the ACU is doing its bit in curbing the match and spot fixing menace it cannot be totally eradicated unless the players fully cooperate. It is here that the cricketers have the major role in rejecting the offers and standing fully by their team and the game they stand for. If they put up a united front there is nothing that the bookies or the underworld dons hatching their nefarious schemes and those involved in the betting racket can do.
The problem is that the players like normal human beings are easily swayed by temptation and the lure of money. And it is not that the players are being paid a pittance.
Huge amounts of money are now associated with cricket especially the IPL and one wonders why the cricketers fall prey to avarice and risk their careers and even their future for a few more bucks. That was the over-riding feeling when the news broke out four months ago.
Ultimately one has to agree with the view expressed by BCCI interim chief Jagmohan Dalmiya who has termed the disciplinary committee’s decision as ``a victory for the game.’’
One can only hope that such strong measures will act as a deterrent for future generations of cricketers but then greed is a common human failing.