Wednesday, January 20, 2021

IPL cricketing scandal

Reading Time: 4 minutesThe latest cricketing scandal has exposed a sad lack of moral character among seasoned players, reports Ritam Mitra

Cricket once again finds itself shrouded in controversy, and for the second time in as many years, it is the IPL at the centre of the crisis. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, all representatives of the Rajasthan Royals franchise and members of Ranji Trophy teams, were arrested on May 16for their alleged involvement in a spot-fixing scandal that has resulted in the now customary effigy-burning, widespread street-side protests and the assurance that if found guilty, the accused will be dealt with severely. The only thing missing, as usual, is the promise of a solution.
Spot-fixing, which involves the fixing of an outcome within a match rather than fixing the result of the match itself, famously came into the spotlight in 2010, when a News of the World sting operation secretly videotaped bookmaker Mazhar Majeed promising a set of no-balls on pre-determined deliveries bowled by Pakistani quicks Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif. The following year, the duo, along with captain Salman Butt, were found guilty, and were sentenced to between 6 and 32 months in prison.
Last year, five IPL players were suspended by the BCCI for various offenses, including negotiating fees for bowling no-balls in the IPL, as well as ‘loose talk and unsubstantiated bragging’.
Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan stand accused of agreeing to concede a minimum amount of runs per over. They were alleged to have been promised between US$36,000 and $109,000 per over. While investigating leads that suggested that the Mumbai underworld was indulging in spot-fixing, Delhi police chanced upon evidence that suggested the three players were involved. After keeping the players under surveillance, the investigators waited for the right moment to pounce, arresting them at different locations. Police have filed cases under section 120b and 420 of the Indian Penal Code, relating to criminal conspiracy and cheating respectively, and allege that each player knew of the others’ involvement.
The three matches in question took place on May 6, May 9 and May 15. On May 6, Chandila conceded the agreed-upon 14 runs in the second over of his spell, but failed to give the signal the bookmakers required of him – looking skywards and lifting his shirt. This meant that the bookmakers couldn’t place their bets for fear he’d back out – and they demanded a refund of the money they’d given him in advance.
On May 9, Sreesanth was told to put a towel in his trousers before the start of his second over, and spend some time placing the field and stretching so as to give the bookmakers enough notice to place heavy bets. He conceded 13 runs off his second over – one short of the agreed-upon 14 runs, but bookmakers usually keep a one-run cushion in case things don’t go completely right. On the last ball of the over, Sreesanth appeared to move his hand away from a badly-timed Gilchrist straight drive.
In the final match under allegation, on May 15, Ankit Chavan was asked to give at least 13 runs off his second over. After conceding just two runs in his first over, Chavan gave the signal indicating bets were on for his second – fiddling with his wristband. He conceded 14 runs off just the first three balls of his second over – but the rest of the over went for only one run.
The problem with spot-fixing is that it is so difficult to track. In the spot-fixing scandal of 2010, bookmaker Mazhar Majeed assured the undercover journalist that there would be no signal ahead of the pre-determined no-balls. Meanwhile, the signals in the most recent scandal were so nondescript, they could never have been considered suspicious.
It is no longer an excuse to say players are uneducated about the dangers of spot-fixing, or were forced to do so in order to make a living. It is for this reason that Sreesanth in particular, has raised the deserved ire of the public, given his status as a former Indian Test player and World Cup champion currently on an IPL contract of $400,000 for two months of cricket. It is embarrassing to now hear an interview Sreesanth gave in 2011 regarding the Pakistani spot-fixing scandal, where he says, “Even I know nothing like that is going to happen to Indian players for sure, because I think we are surely, either the way we are brought up…we are much more educated in that process”.
Clearly the education didn’t pay off for Sreesanth. His father may accuse MS Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh of conspiring against his son, but as Delhi police so eloquently put it, Dhoni didn’t put the towel in Sreesanth’s pants.
Spot-fixing cannot be put down to the fact that betting is illegal in India; there is no way to fully eradicate corruption in any major sport. For instance, the Pakistani spot-fixing scandal took place in the UK, where there are legal markets for gambling on sport.
The solution is not as simple as increasing the powers of the Anti-Corruption Unit, or putting stricter penalties in place and legalising betting. The law can only do so much to deter would-be cheats. The sad fact is, human greed often triumphs over good sense in people of weak character – and they’re only ever apologetic if they get caught. It is the height of irresponsibility, selfishness and stupidity for these individuals to take away from a game that has given them everything they have; yet there is very little that might have deterred them other than the fear of being caught. As a comparison, you do not avoid stealing purely because you fear being caught – it is simply wrong.
The most haunting aspect of spot-fixing for convicted fixers must surely then be the thought of cheating hundreds of millions of followers, or having to explain to their children, either now or in future, why they are not playing cricket anymore, or why stones are being thrown at their home and photos of them are being burned by angry mobs. And it is perhaps this moral culpability that must be more focused upon in the players’ education. In the age of social media, it’s become much easier to reach the celebrity; if proven true, these allegations will change the lives of three young men forever.
If found guilty, Sreesanth and his co-conspirators must be dealt with severely. But how many cases will it take to set an example?

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  1. Stunning article, someone give this Mitra Itram person a literacy award stat! He should have a PHD of Linguistics for this sort of writing!


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