BCCI and ICC cannot wait for the next big scandal. They must act to rescue the game
It is telling that almost all fixing scandals in cricket,including the latest,have resulted either from police investigations or media sting operations. The anti-corruption units of the ICC and BCCI have played reactive roles in each case,promising action after the scandals have broken out. The current expose comes exactly a year after five players were suspended when they were caught on camera,offering to fix matches during last seasons IPL.
While this hints at the passivity of administrative bodies,it also suggests how tough tracking a spot fixing offence can get,given the pervasiveness of the betting industry and the difficulties of zeroing in on acts of transgression. Despite sports reputation for unpredictability,suspicions of a tanked or thrown result surface mostly when something unusual happens during the course of a game. The idea of what is unusual,though,has become especially nebulous in a format like Twenty20 cricket. Reverse sweeps,ramp hits,dropped catches and last ball finishes,even those that end with a no ball,have become mundane in the course of an IPL season. At last count (end of Wednesday),22 of 66 games this IPL season (only cases of chasing teams winning or ending less than 10 runs short after 20 overs are taken into account) have gone to the final over. For instance,R.P. Singhs no ball,which handed Chennai Super Kings the win,or Kieron Pollard dropping David Hussey thrice in a row during a low scoring game Mumbai Indians eventually went on to win,raised eyebrows. The compacting of the game to play itself out in 40 overs instead of 100,or over five days,the formats dissolving boundaries between sport and entertainment,and the licence to be unorthodox,mean that an instance or a passage of play that would traditionally have been considered atypical is now par for the course in the shortest format of the game.
So far,BCCI initiatives have been restricted to hectoring cricketers on fixing and making them aware of the possible fallout. If the board is to keep intact the credibility of the IPL,an event that not just fills its coffers but is also considered the BCCIs flagship product,there is a need for more substantive action. Measures could include making the IPLs financial structure more transparent,and monitoring more closely the roles of player agents,apart from stronger deterrents like life bans.