With every passing day, the IPL is getting murkier and murkier. Everyone seems to be involved and that will lead to the sad fact that no one will be convicted in the end. The momentum was derailed the moment Lalit Modi was removed from the post. That goes well with the perennial Indian penchant for removing the person and not the problem.
Match-fixers went, fixing didn’t
Remember the match-fixing scandal of the 1990s? It came like a storm and threatened to uproot the foundations of cricket. Fans lost faith in the system and viewership declined. Many swore not to watch cricket for life. Past victories and defeats were analyzed threadbare.
India in Zimbabwe
After the usual public furore, media sensations, head honcho assurances (a regular pattern for every cricket scandal) and the ineffective Chandrachud Commission, the BCCI decided to “retire” some cricketers and closed the chapter.
Was that an effective way to address the issue of match-fixing? No. The BCCI would have us believe that they removed the offenders (no less than two former captains) from the system and that would fix it. It didn’t make any difference to the system and new players moved in.
The result is that match-fixing has become a permanent fixture on the cricket calendar - allegations keep popping up every now and then.
Fitness and discipline problems
Another recurring problem is of fitness and indiscipline. That’s one of the main reasons why we are not as consistent a team as Australia or South Africa. While many dismiss that as an “Asian” problem, the fielding of the Sri Lankan team gives lie to
These issues were raised very strongly by former India coach Greg Chappell. It was one of the reasons why it snowballed into a major conflict with former India captain Sourav Ganguly. The BCCI was nervous as the scrap dragged on, but heaved a sigh of relief when first Ganguly was removed as captain and then Chappell stepped down.
Then a fresh and young team won the 2007 T20 World Cup. And all was right with the world. No one felt any need to cleanse the system.
Despite having trainers and physios, the issue wasn’t paid the attention it should have been and by the 2010 T20 WC, the same team looked totally unfit and lethargic.
And now the IPL…
The IPL looks headed for inaction for precisely the same reasons. Shashi Tharoor was at the centre of the storm and the Congress sacrificed him. So the Central Government did its duty. Then the spotlight shifted on Modi and he was removed. Now all the news stories are around Pawar. And guess what? He is weeks away from becoming ICC President after which he will be virtually untouchable.
With all the major players out of the way, nothing will happen. What about all the dozens of other culprits and the hundreds of crores that were allegedly misappropriated? That can wait… indefinitely.
One doubts whether there will be any major breakthroughs by IPL4. And if that is also a roaring success, then everything will be swept under the carpet for good.
Post Script: I still believe that the BCCI did the right thing by sending a second-string team to the Zimbabwe tri-series. Among the seniors, those who were doing well would have just added to their run tally. Those jaded would have got even more jaded.
Rohit Sharma got a couple of centuries and Virat Kohli has an ODI career average of 50+ with a strike rate of 80+. They are crucial for the future. Pragyan Ojha had a decent outing while Suresh Raina got used to a new kind of pressure.
FIFA World Cup
Some also lamented India that India fell to No. 3 in the ICC ODI rankings and MS Dhoni lost his top spot. In any other year, that would be a cause for concern. But right now the 2011 ODI World Cup is round the corner and nothing else matters. If you win that, then you will be called World Champions for four years no matter what happens!
The board continued the game plan by dropping Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan. It was amusing to hear of some referring to this as a “punishment”. Sometimes dropping a player actually bolsters his career. If both of them take it in the right spirit, then they could return in time for the World Cup with their huge six-hitting ways.
If the BCCI continues with such strong and even unpopular moves, then some of the problems mentioned above could be rectified.
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.