Betting rackets and match and spot fixing are never too far from the mega bucks game of cricket particularly its glamorous and uber lucrative T20 version. At the end of every game, there is a bit of doubt among cricket fans as to whether what they saw was all kosher. Much of it was not, if the recent arrests of pacer S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan are anything to go by. The three were picked up by the police for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing of matches in which the Rajasthan franchise of the T20 tournament was part. The T20 may be considered more entertainment than sport by many purists, but even so, its aficionados can hardly be pleased that beneath the glorious game lies a web of grubby deals by players overwhelmed by greed. The Dubai-Karachi-Mumbai betting nexus is suspected to be involved in fixing many matches in the tournament which means that the shadowy underworld has moved in on to the pitch and into the pockets of some players. This unbridled betting can have the most ghastly consequences like the kidnapping and murder of an innocent teenager by his own cousin who had run up debts with bookies in the T20 matches and was hoping to collect a ransom for the boy. The Delhi Police has done the public a service by bringing to light the dark underbelly of the T20 league, though the charges against the three are yet to be proved.
That the three players have been named a day after a one-year ban was lifted on three other players — Mohnish Misra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali — shows that it is not the first time betting has dragged the game down. One of the problems is that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not done enough to ensure that such events are prevented. The T20 league, right from its inception in 2008, has been under the scanner for different financial irregularities. The income tax department has been investigating cases of tax evasion by certain team franchises, the CBI had taped conversations between bookies and league officials in 2010, teams have been accused of money laundering by sending funds through tax havens and so on.
The players are in many ways considered youth icons. But many it would seem have been knocked off their pedestals. Whether the game can regain some of its lost lustre depends on the course of the current investigation. Rather than focus on spot fixing, the time has come to fix everything that has gone so wrong with the whole game. Then perhaps T20 can begin a new innings altogether.