If anything, the recent sting operation that had five contracted cricketers alleging wrong-doings in the IPL has merely shed light on the tip of the iceberg. The five players, since suspended pending a BCCI investigation that has a deadline of 15 days, only articulated the whispers that were doing the rounds for over a year. For all that, I suspect that as in the past, this incident too will get a burial as the creases get straightened out and we will be told that everything is hunky-dory again.
As in the many scams that have gripped our country in the recent past, the big fish will swim away while the small fry like these five players are, get a slap on the wrist or, if the BCCI is in the mood, then they will become the sacrificial lambs.
After all, cast a glance back to the time when Lalit Modi was booted out and was subsequently investigated. Even the BCCI and IPL came under the scanner. The Indian investigators publicly disclosed that they believed IPL was a vehicle for money laundering. The sleuths unearthed off-shore accounts and dummy companies through which money flowed, and despite the sensational disclosures, there is a deafening silence a year later.
Obviously, the BCCI is at a pains to project the view that IPL, or for that matter, Indian cricket is free of any kind of fixing, but rest assured, the tournament will never be rid of suspicion. The BCCI, well fortified as it is with a clutch of influential politicians holding key positions, refuses to submit itself to RTI and by extension public scrutiny. That being the case, it will survive.
While the five players have hinted at spot-fixing and such naughty happenings in the IPL, the crucial “disclosures” have been to do with the player salaries. As always, in the highly commercialized world of Indian cricket, and especially the IPL, it is bound to be money at the root of all evils, whether alleged or perceived.
In the past, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey were in the eye of the storm that they raised by doing an Oliver Twist act of asking for more, whether directly or by implication. The BCCI came down on the duo like a ton of bricks, suspending Jadeja for one full season and slapping a four-match ban on Pandey. The matter ended there when the BCCI should have dug deeper and punished the franchises concerned.
In professional football, where the moneys are far bigger (and so also the scams), the authorities do not think twice to punish the teams and not just the players. At least, some corrective action is seen to be taken in contrast to Indian cricket where the authorities only react but fail to take steps to prevent recurrence.
The IPL auction, for instance, is governed by some strange rules, particularly the “tie-break” where the franchises involved may submit a sealed bid based on which the player in question is “sold” to the team. Incidentally, the excess amount that the franchises bid is never disclosed. That being the case, one can only construe that franchises are not averse to offer more goodies to retain the star players while dissuading them from shifting camp.
Even otherwise, the moneys involved in IPL are mind-boggling, at least from cricket’s perspective. And such high stakes tend to attract the undesirable elements while the very format and structure of the league is certain to excite the bookies. There have been reports of millions of dollars riding on the IPL through illegal betting, something that can never be confirmed, but cannot be dismissed as loose talk in the light of all that has happened in world cricket.
Ever wondered about Munaf Patel’s 10-ball, 21-run over the other night? It sent the eyebrows into a higher orbit than Gayle’s sixes. Here was an international bowler looking like a novice by sending down three no-balls and a wide besides feeding the batsmen the juiciest of deliveries to hit. Worse still, Munaf argued with the umpire and for all his bowling sins, there was not a squeak from the authorities or the team management. I am not casting aspersions on Munaf, but you cannot dispute the facts.
I feel that there should be greater transparency in IPL, especially on issues concerning finances. Also needed is more discipline among players many of whom are guilty of mouthing foul language and expletives on the field, and yes, not to forget, the disgusting habit of spitting. It will help present IPL in better light.
At the moment, there seems to be far too much of winking and nudging, and I will be surprised if anything substantial comes out of the current BCCI investigations. Perhaps, the five players will be strung up and it will send a message to other cricketers to enjoy the ride and not rock the boat!