As the 2013 IPL match fixing saga continues, another report hits the news sites: UP police say that IPL’s all-time highest run getter Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla, RP Singh and rising Bhuvneshwar Kumar are under the scanner.
Could it get any worse?
In one way, this is already the worst IPL ever. While the annual tournament has its fair share of critics and controversies, India’s top cricket icons were usually not directly involved till now.
Years back, even as IPL head honcho Lalit Modi and Union Minister Shashi Tharoor fought it out on Twitter, most of the cricketers fought their battles grandly and honestly on the field. Incidents like the Luke Pomersbach molest and assault allegations had nothing to do with the goings on in the cricket field.
This IPL has been totally different. When CSK captain MS Dhoni refused to take questions on the spot-fixing scandal in a press conference, it was probably the low point of his career. While he has been known to smile and keep mum on controversial issues during PCs, this time it was totally different and he couldn’t get away with it.
For one, his CSK compatriot Gurunath Meiyappan has been arrested after betting suspect Vindu Dara Singh named him. Meiyappan’s house has been raided and he is facing tough questions from the police.
Secondly, in the IPL final, despite a blistering unbeaten 63 off 45 balls by Dhoni, CSK was thrashed by MI. The other 10 batsman together made a paltry 53 runs. How the strongest batting line-up in the IPL could end up doing this has anguished many a fan. Raina’s name in reports is quite alarming in that respect.
Keeping silent on spot-fixing is definitely not going to do the trick.
The other suffering personality is the illustrious Rahul Dravid. Dravid is one of the most respected cricketers in international cricket and he led Rajasthan Royals with grace. But he found himself at the centre of the spot-fixing scandal, because three players from his team have been arrested.
The names of other team-mates have also cropped up. Dravid at least had the candidness to come out publicly and speak about how damaging the whole affair was.
The biggest damage was probably done by the involvement of Sreesanth, more so because he has been part of two World Cup winning squads and has made quite a lot of money since his debut in 2005. This was a clear case of greed and nothing else.
To complicate matters even further, we heard of the name of a respected ICC international umpire in the form of Asad Rauf. There were reports that Rauf may have been involved in the murky affair and he has been withdrawn from the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, a new low.
To make matters even worse, the names of many other international cricketers have come up during investigations and now the doubt will always remain in one’s mind. “Was Chris Gayle gifted expensive jewellery by bookies?”, “Sreesanth’s father names Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh in conspiracy” and “I was close to Bhajji, Virat: Vindu,” are some of the farcical headlines that are greeting hapless fans nowadays.
Usually there is calm at the eye of the storm, but here the centre is even stormier. When Modi was creating a ruckus a few years back, the BCCI merely removed him and continued as if nothing had happened.
This time, it is BCCI president N Srinivasan who finds his head on the chopping block. Already there was a conflict of interest as he had high stakes in both the BCCI and CSK. Then he complicated matters by making Dhoni Vice President in his company.
Now his son-in-law Meiyappan has been dragged into the affair. Srinivasan has absolutely no moral right to continue, but he is clinging to his chair by sheer politics. It doesn’t help matters that most of the cricket chiefs are politicians and not respected cricketers.
Brand CSK is also at an all-time low. While there have been so many off-field fiascos, the team also finds itself losing 3 out of 5 finals!
Make no mistake about it. This is now the biggest scandal to hit Indian cricket since the days of Mohammed Azharuddin & Co. At that time people had stopped watching cricket and viewership had gone down.
This is IPL’s 9/11 moment. It remains to be seen how IPL7 will be affected. The sponsors will be wary and viewership is certain to be down after the way IPL6 has gone. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar’s IPL retirement has got buried in all this muck.
It’s finally unravelling at the Indian Premier League!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/