Question crossing my mind, as media goes ballistic around the Mumbai Police arrests of alleged “Bettors” (Not fixers, mind you) – What are we so appalled about? Are we over reacting (like most of the days, off late)? Are the fans really cheated, the way some of us and most of the media are making it out to be?
So, I thought let me express “my” thoughts on this just to put things in perspective.
Spot Fixing VS Fixing VS Betting Conundrum:
Spot Fixing: Delhi police intercepts some activities and uncovers a bunch of players who they allege were involved in spot fixing – which means, they agreed to tailor the script for a certain spot in the game (One ball, Over over etc.). This is an offence, clearly where a player agrees to do something on the ground in lieu of money or any other benefits that goes against the team strategy and more importantly contributes to underperformance and loss. What was uncovered was these players agreed about the “spot” beforehand and when the time arrived gave some signal to kickstart the execution, going on to execute as per plan. Thus corroborating the suspicion into a fact. This is what our Pakistani friends Butt, Asif and Amir did some time back. This is heinous and definitely calls for the concerned elements to be scrapped, tried and jailed. We as fans have all the rights to be distressed and Rajasthan Royals have all the rights to feel “bereaved” (Dravid’s words) – for this lets down the honesty with which the larger player ecosystem prepares for and plays a fair contest. (However, what happens if a batsman takes money to commit to start a tirade of sixes at a certain point, and does it 100% as per plan and this contributes fully to the team’s plan and win – then what? Gayle is quite capable of doing that? Does that also attribute to same penalties? It should… no?)
Match Fixing: This is by far the biggest crime of all, when players get paid to throw games (or to put in refined terms, to tailor the script of a game). This is the ultimate cheating, and requires a whole lot of inroads on the part of bookies to create strong connections within players, connections that sway to their whims and fancies, and ultimately are able to land the desired result. 1999 saw uncovering of some of the most unthinkable instances in SA, India and Pakistan.
Betting: This is by far the most harmless and hugely prevalent territory. I say harmless because, this is where you and I can go and put money on the probability of a potential result or event or a sub-result etc. This is legal in many cricket playing nations, thus eradicating the “oh shit” element, however in India Betting is still considered Jua, dirty thing, a huge “Oh shit” element – it is illegal. And thus the entire syndicate controlling betting on anything (Not just Cricket, there betting done on events in Parliament too, am not kidding) – happens underground. Obviously there are no Ladbrokes here, its all run by nefarious & sinister souls. Millions of people engage in betting. This is where odds are fixed for games, for teams. However, key thing to note is this is harmless for the game on the park. It remains so, till some nefarious element manages to make an inroad in either getting more information on games that will help them bet on certain probabilities with more certainty or get a player hooked in their net, who can help them convert probabilities into certainties.
Gurunath Meiyappan, (as it is emerging), is a bettor who bet large amounts, (wither on his team or other teams in the IPL or maybe in other cricket competitions). Does that make him a criminal – yes because Betting is Illegal in India and sharing Insider information is an offence of cheating? That’s it. The implication is just that. Does that impact his team? No. He is what many insder traders in the world are – who when caught are tried and convicted (Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta, Ivan Boesky etc.). Does it mean the enterprise or corporations they belonged too were corrupt? No. Unless, in the coming days it emerges that Guru was not only betting on his team, but also managing the destinies of games in which he had the concurrence and partnership of some or many players. There is nothing on that part, so it would be unfair for us (the fans) to start ridiculing the game, the competition and the players. This is a team which has been winning consistently, and if these wins/successes were orchestrated (some sentiments being expressed) then aren’t all the other 8/9 teams culpable too, for they would have agreed to lose to ensure CSK win?
In fact, I am surprised we are making “Betting” such a large issue. It has been prevalent for more than 50 years in India. You arrest bookies, that’s fine – these are the illegal dens that perpetrates betting, that’s understood. But you arrest bettors, that’s hypocrisy. There are millions in India who bet, will Mumbai/Delhi police go behind all of them? I guess Delhi Police, made it very clear when they admitted with a smirk – “We do not have anything to go after Mr. Meiyappan or Vindoo etc”. Hidden in that smirk, was that small mocking expression which meant – “Are you serious when you are making such an issue out of “Betting” which every tom, dick and haridas is indulging in, in some shape or the other?” For them the real deal was spot fixing.
Now, having said that – An Insider indulging in betting large amounts (With all the strategic info in his back pocket) is a crime (if not heinous, then serious to say the least). Guru is where he deserves to be. What implication it has on the fate of NS, is something g I am not interested in at all. For me these people are insignificant. This is not the first time, when the indiscipline of the establishment has overshadowed the field of talent (Commonwealth, Olympics, Hockey etc. are some others), and to me I am immune to these by now. N Srinivasan is another to join the long list of Kalmadis, Gills etc. Frankly I don’t care. India is run and governed by such people, and we seem to be ok with that. Anything that generates eyeballs in our country will have greedy mongrels hovering all over and around it. These people do not constitute our cricket.
Our cricket isn’t dishonest (mind you 1999 hasn’t been conclusively proven till date. Stories and tales do make rounds, but then those are just stories). To paint the game and cricketers with the same brush as is being used for some names that have made headlines over last 2 weeks would be unfair. IPL is living the life that every rich league across the world had to live. Money, Corruption, Sleaze, will get tagged to these competitions as long as the mongrels lurk around, yet the game prevails because of a strong Kernel (the players, the support system and the fans).
The important aspects are – the game and the players. This the Sanctum Sanctorum of cricket. I have loved this game for what happened within the perimeter of a cricket ground and not beyond it. I still feel all the engineers employed in Satyam were & are world class when RamalingaRaju-gate opened. They created world class solutions and they were and will be some of the best. One individual’s greed for money didn’t make that wonderful organization a corrupt one. So for me I see cricket for what the game brings to me – and I don’t believe that’s corrupt. I refuse to accept it till it’s proven (conclusively) otherwise.
So for me Gurunath is a non-issue – I am looking forward to some “real” revelations (if any) to happen – Especially Players….if any! (or as Arnab is hoping it will be)
One other issue, that cropped up was – should CSK as a franchisee be scrapped? The law 12.3 does say that “Any official/Owner/Member of the team, if involved in activities that bring disrepute to the league will result in the franchisee being scrapped” – aren’t players members? So why wasn’t Rajasthan Royals scrapped when 3 of their players were caught (they later accepted to engaging in the offense)? Don’t the same rules apply here too? Why was Pune Warriors spared last year when some of their players were involved in Spot fixing? Funny, because the entire scrapping suggestion seemed to have arisen after Shri Lalit Modi started barking about it on TV. And we all know which way his ire is directed? Somewhere media houses need to make their discretion around what they should report and not pander to individual battles like these.
Here, an individual is at fault (akin to all the other individuals who have been caught), and the concerned individual is under legal scrutiny. While law takes its own course, the game must continue. This is a team which has rightfully reached where it has, playing good cricket and winning 12 out of its 17 games.
I (being a sucker for the game and a fan of CSK) will be rooting for them. That’s the only way I can show the middle finger to all the nefarious elements who want to harm the game or to people who feel IPL is a stage managed reality show.
C’mon, lions, one more step to take, one more battle to go! Game on!