The trail of unsavoury incidents in the Indian Premier League has not ended with the arrest of three Rajasthan Royals players for spot-fixing. It is devouring bigger names – administrators and team owners alike. The developments have certainly put the credibility of the IPL and the Board of Control for Cricket in India at stake, but some veterans who walked alongside Indian cricket feel that the time is ripe for stern yet prudent actions, and not for knee-jerk reactions.
Jaywant Lele, former secretary of BCCI, feels that strict monitoring of proceedings is a must in cricket, especially in Twenty20, to tackle the menace of betting and fixing. “The nature of the format is such that it gives a lot chances for betting or spot-fixing. Only constant vigil can help us to tackle this issue because spot-fixing is tough to identify as it’s often done quickly with the assistance of minimum number of players. So it’s tough to trace, and the administrators need to be fully alert to the dangers of fixing,” says Lele.
The latest scandal came as a rude shock for the BCCI particularly because of the involvement of an active Indian cricketer – S Sreesanth – and the alleged role of a top Chennai Super Kings’ official – Gurunath Meiyappan – in the issue.
Here, many felt the greed for money than the necessity of it lures players or high profile names into such illegal activities. “It is surprising because these days cricketers are well paid – both in international matches and in domestic games,” says Jagmohan Dalmiya, former BCCI and ICC president and the current president of the Cricket Association of Bengal. “Then we have leagues like the IPL or Big Bash (Australia) in which the players can explore their options. So, I think these days financially the players are secure, and on the face of it they have no reasons to indulge in such unlawful activities. I am so glad that none from Bengal was named in the episode. I think the basic reason for such activities are greed of some individuals,” said Dalmiya, no stranger to controversies in his time at the helm.
Niranjan Shah, former Secretary of BCCI and its current vice-president, agreed. “The entire issue has been quite shocking. It’s definitely greed that forces some players to involve in all these illegal activities. If you look at it, players are paid good money these days. Not just from cricket, they also have a lot of endorsements, many of them write coloumns, many of them are brand ambassadors of various products….so there’s no dearth of money. It’s simply their greed that leads them into contact with nefarious individuals,” said Shah.
So, is it possible to tackle the menace of spot-fixing effectively? “The governing body (BCCI) should take steps to educate the players about the perils of betting and fixing. If you look at it, these days a lot of players are coming from rural areas of the nation. They will take time to adjust to the glitz and glamour of international cricket, and there are chances of them meeting all kind of individuals. So we need to educate them about all that, and need to constantly check as well about the progress of such educational programmes,” said Dalmiya.
Since the day the spot-fixing scandal has come to light, there have been calls to abolish IPL and legalise betting in India. But many felt that both are not the solutions to curb illegal activities. “It’s not about legalising betting or banning IPL, and that way we are moving away from the real issue. Ultimately, players are responsible for their behaviour, and there’s a need to make them aware of the dangers of involving in such activities. It requires a strong campaign from the part of the BCCI for that,” said Lele.
Former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid voiced his agreement.
“I have always said the IPL in itself is a fantastic tournament. There’s a lot of positives about it but there are challenges in the IPL as well as we have seen last week. There is no point – if you completely throw away the tournament, it is like throwing away the baby in the bath water. It’s just a question of correcting some of the challenges it continuously faces.
“The issue of betting is not only about the IPL. It has been seen in the past in international cricket. We don’t stop international cricket because of that. If that yardstick was used, then we should stop all cricket. But I think we need to sort the issues out rather than make big statements like cancel the IPL,” said the former Indian captain.