During India’s tour of the West Indies in 1997, a bookmaker from India sought my help to entice players to do his bidding, I, despite having heard stories about match-fixing, was shocked to the core. When I wrote about it, no one believed, least of all the administrators, who, like the Pakistani establishment today, were in complete denial mode.
Today, when an 18-year-old kid is brazen enough to indulge in “fixing”, one does not know how to react. Should we hang him or introspect and try to find reasons why an impressionable young boy would risk his career just to make more money.
We obviously live in an environment of greed and venality which encourages players, howsoever young, to give money primacy over integrity. The Pakistani administrators, when they cry foul, are in effect trying to shield themselves and their corrupt ways, which must have led them to exonerate some of those very players who were accused of throwing away the Sydney Test against Australia just a few months back.
In the aftermath of the recent IPL scandal, corruption and sports administrators have become interchangeable words. When everything is up for sale, be it the skill of a player or his aura which could draw people to the IPL parties, who cares for transgressions.
We all rejoiced at the multiplying number of zeroes that were being added each day to the chequebooks of the administrators and players. Regulation and caution were thrown to the winds as who cared as long as we all got entertained!
Greed breeds venality and in an atmosphere where money, no matter by what means it is made, is the only password for fame and success, why should we expect sportsmen to remain above board?
When men, far more mature and experienced in the ways of the world, indulge in sleaze and power games and instead of getting punished, become the custodians of that sport, why do we expect our sportsmen to remain incorruptible?
A sportsperson is as human as we all are and is the product of the society we live in. If he sees around him that money not only buys him comfort, but also respect, no matter by what means it is being made, he is likely to get tempted.
Even though we would like to believe that cricketers make tons of money, the truth is that even in India, millions are being made by only a handful, while the majority are not sure whether their career will last a day, a month or a year.
The reality is that most of the illegal betting syndicates operate from India and the bookmakers are Indian, as was discovered when the match-fixing scandal broke in 2000.
Are we to believe that these bookmakers have become so patriotic that they now approach players from all over the world, but spare their fellow Indians!
Greed, as we all know, is completely secular, apolitical, and free of any gender bias. It does not discriminate between the rich and the poor.
It does not discriminate even between a tremendously gifted 18-year-old player and a blabbering administrator.
To say cricket is in a major crisis will be to make a serious understatement.