I have firmly believed that the biggest distinction between sports and other spheres of human enterprise is the purity of the contest. That’s why cricket, for me, isn’t just a sport played by wood and leather. Pardon me for being philosophical, it’s a way of life. I will add that being a cricketer means being upright, honest and ethically strong.
So it really pains me to find out that after so many years, the 2013 IPL corruption case still awaits closure. This is an absolutely ludicrous situation where the two banned IPL teams — Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals — are back in the fold but the Supreme Court-appointed chief investigator of the case, BB Misra, is saying that he would have ideally needed more time to reach the bottom of the case. I don’t understand why he wasn’t given that time.
There is another related question that continues to outrage me: Why isn’t there any clarity about that sealed envelope, the one that was submitted to the Supreme Court by investigators and has the names of players and officials facing allegations of wrongdoing? I know that they are just allegations but since we now know that the probe wasn’t comprehensive, to say that the search for evidence was thwarted wouldn’t be wrong.
By sitting on this very sensitive information, the courts are creating doubts in the minds of people. Such are the times that we have doubts galore about the credibility of so many things around us, and where we can clear the doubts we are sitting on it. Don’t we know that justice delayed is justice denied? I don’t subscribe to washing dirty linen in public but in this case, the guilty must be brought to book, be it players, bookies or officials. This game has suffered too much ignominy for far too long. With such uncomfortable thoughts flooding your mind, you tend to think if there is involvement of the high and mighty who are trying to dilly-dally.
This has also affected the way we watch the game. I watch IPL not because I want to but because I want to know what is happening around me. Cricket still remains my life. But there have been moments and occasions when I have asked myself this very distressing question: Is the IPL game I was watching fair and clean?
Despite being conscious of the fickle T20 format, there are times when the mind plays tricks. You find that, say, Team A, that is cruising along, suddenly slumps. As a student of the game, you try to use your cricketing logic. It fails. You find no rhyme or reason to explain what is happening on the field. You ask yourself the same question: What went wrong? It’s not a great feeling when, even after spending a lifetime following the sport, you don’t know the answer.
There is this talk about how IPL is great for our cricket since it gives an opportunity for our youngsters to share a dressing room with international stars. But my worry is different. Here is a bunch with a very disconcerting income disparity. The team’s top foreign professional would invariably be getting something like, say, Rs 14 crore for a season, while this India kid earns about Rs 30 lakh. Ab woh bacha sochega … how does he catch up with this man earning crores? He cannot possibly do so with bat or ball skills. There is this human tendency to find a way to catch up. And as we know, the shortcuts are readily available and there are forces around.
I am reminded of that wonderful line the great Sir Neville Cardus wrote in the ’60s – “Cricket is the only sport that reflects the times we live in”. How true is that! There is corruption all around. We keep hearing about the jails being overcrowded but still the crime isn’t dropping. How can cricket escape?
There’s this line in the famous Peter Ustinov documentary on Indira Gandhi, that sums up the present-day mindset. Ustinov was talking to an Indira Gandhi aide about the anti-Sikh violence that followed her death. The question was on the Indian psyche and the madness that triggered mass-killings. The Gandhi family confidant starts by saying that the Indians were naturally “placid and god-fearing”. I still remember Ustinov’s poker-face reaction: “God fearing fine, but not police-fearing, I think”.
I see a general disregard of law in the country.
The men who are in charge of the game are busy saving their own skin. The SC tells the BCCI to implement the Lodha reforms in toto but there are certain elements who are not happy with things that were recommended. It’s because their personal fiefdoms, that they have built for donkey’s years, are being pulled down. And that’s why they are reluctant to clean the mess in cricket. The cricket officialdom is a sinister coterie. In the BCCI, you can be from any political party, they might be shouting each other down in Parliament, but when it comes to cricket, they are all together. When cricket was being discussed in the courts, they were all quiet. This is such an intriguing atmosphere, we need to understand what is it about cricket that binds them. No one wants the dirt to come out, it suits them.
Even during my playing days, I would fight this rubbish. This is like getting away with murder. Why do you think the topmost court in the land had to step in? There is certainly a lot wrong with cricket. This incomplete probe, those names in the envelope, there should be some clarity. This episode shouldn’t be buried. This is a very serious matter and needs to be probed. And if all is quiet, we need to be provoked.