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Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri
Editor-in-Chief - The Sunday Indian

The citizens of the subcontinent stand betrayed, not just because of the shameless conduct of their sporting heroes, but for an equally irresponsible board and a self-centered political class!

Arindam chaudhuri, Editor-in-chief, The Sunday Indian

From the heights of magnificent popularity to the depths of controversies – the game of cricket is going through its roughest patches. The recent betting and match-fixing scandal surrounding the Pakistani cricket team is not only a sad denunciation of the most popular sport, but a huge betrayal for those millions of cricket lovers who swear by the names of cricketers. The latest allegations of match-fixing and spot-fixing by Pakistani cricket players brought back with itself the horrors of the early 2000 match-fixing scandal. The whole belief and pacification about match-fixing getting buried in pages of history (after the year 2000 fixing scandal was exposed) seem to have resurfaced as bigger monsters this time.

It was the same match-fixing issue that ensured a life ban being slapped on the South African captain, Hansie Cronje, who later mysteriously died in an air crash. The same happened to the erstwhile celebrated coach, Bob Woolmer, who again died under similar mysterious circumstances, a day after Pakistan lost to Ireland in the T20 World Cup in 2007. But interestingly, in all these episodes, there has been one thing common; and that is, whenever the issue of match-fixing has come, it has always had an uncanny connection with the subcontinent, particularly with Indian and Pakistani players. So be it Salim Malik and his coterie in the 90s, Inzamam ul Haq during the 2007 T20 World Cup, or Mohammed Azharuddin or Ajay Jadeja, each and every one had either faced a trial or a life ban! And this cannot be a mere coincidence that every time the ghost of match-fixing appears, it tends to engulf this particular region. The roots of this malice lie with construct of both the nations, which is quite similar! In both the nations, be it the political system or the boards which governs the sport – corruption runs in the veins! There is no sense of governance; and as far as accountability goes, no one cares a hoot! The sense of responsibility towards the most important stakeholders, that is its own citizens, is as good as absent and any sense of patriotism is restricted to hoisting the national flag… And it ends there! In such an environment, how can one expect each and every player not to follow their masters and come out clean? Just like in the political system of both the countries, not everyone is corrupt; and just like in both the cricketing boards, not everyone lacks accountability – not every player is corrupt, but then there is no doubt that the incidence and probability of getting addicted to such malice of match fixing is very high within the players.
Another reason which prompts the cricketers of both the nations to behave in such a manner is the construct of cricket as a sport. Its monopolist nature empowers the cricketers and their boards to command an enviable buyers market. And in the given scenario, the terms of trade are abnormally in favour of the cricketer, which he tends to exploit for personal gains. Just like their respective national politicians, whose tenures are limited and erratic and who try to seek every possible dividend for their personal gain at the cost of national resources, with no respect to their portfolio or seat – a cricketer also tends to extract the maximum dividends possible, within the limited tenure that he is in the national team. Just like the self centered politician and the board member, a cricketer is vulnerable to corruption, even while he sports the national badge!

Here, the issue is not about who is involved or which country these players represent, but it’s more important to realize the reasons why all this repeatedly keeps happening in the first place. If trial and banning these players would have been a solution, then this problem would have been solved a long time back. It keeps coming back again and again simply because the root cause of this problem is never being addressed. Professionalism, transparency and accountability have to flow from the top, with strict codes of governance at the boards’ level to ensure that a cricketer follows the code of conduct. And along with sacking the cricketers, let us also start sacking the board members who are equally responsible to make monsters out of our cricketers! It is so unfortunate that cricket is the only sport, which has given the subcontinent its own moments of glory. And today it’s that sporting hope that is dwindling. The citizens of the subcontinent stand betrayed and not just because of the shameless conduct of their heroes, but for an equally irresponsible board and a self centered political class!

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