A bad apple spoils the basket, and so it seems to be in the case of spot-fixing that has resulted in the careers of a double World Cup-hero and a potential international-level spinner, lying in tatters.
With Indian cricket reeling from the spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League, the top minds in the game are in introspection mode, trying to analyse the flaws in the system that led to the ugly situation.
A key man in the racket, according to the Delhi Police, Ajit Chandila is a case in point. Having worked with the BCCI, Stanley Saldanha, the former Maharashtra Ranji player, has studied the cricket system from within. In his time as BCCI’s Manager Game Development from 2007 to 2010, he had come across as a crusader of cleaning up the chucking mess and raising the standard of umpiring. The systems he set up with BCCI’s support, to monitor the offenders, proved mighty successful.
Chandila was an offender as a bowler too and was reported for suspect action during a Ranji one-dayer on February 14, 2010.
From outside, Chandila’s involvement in the fixing mess and being called for chucking seems two unrelated, independent incidents. However, Saldanha has a different take.
Saldanha feels Chandila should not have been part of the IPL in the first place given the doubts over his bowling action. Unless the umpires’ review committee took the onus of having cleared him because he played his next match on October 20, 2010, immediately after Saldanha’s exit from BCCI which was on September 30, 2010.
Can’t be coincidence
Most of the players whose names came up in investigations have played are from Chandila’s teams. Ankeet Chavan, Siddharth Trivedi and Harmeet Singh were with Chandila both at Air India and Rajasthan Royals. Amit Singh has also played for Royals.
Also, it’s no coincidence that as many as three players involved with the bookies happened to be on the list of bowlers with suspect action - Chandila, Trivedi (reported repeatedly by different set of umpires) and Amit Singh. The uncertainty over their careers left them vulnerable, and the BCCI should have been wise enough to let these ‘soft targets’ be part of the system. With nothing to lose mentality, they were ripe for exploitation.
There is a school of thought, had the BCCI been strict with the likes of Chandila and Trivedi, their careers would have been saved.
Earlier, the umpires used to be under pressure from the state associations, now they are under pressure from the franchisees.
Nothing after 2010
During Saldanha’s time, steps had been in place that the umpires had to be strict in the implementation of the rules. Backed by S Venkataraghavan and Javagal Srinath, Saldanha introduced a system where an umpire, who failed to report a bowler’s action, would be punished as per an action plan devised and approved by BCCI. Also, the state coach of the bowler was made accountable.
To the surprise of everyone, some of the bowlers who had been reported in BCCI’s domestic matches freely played in the IPL.
“In our first season of the implementation of action plan more than 100 bowlers from Ranji to various junior teams were identified by field umpires as bowlers with suspect action. Some of them were on the verge of playing for India and many of them were regularly playing for their states for years,” says a source from the BCCI panel of umpires.
Some top bowlers were also reported for suspect action in Saldanha’s clean-up drive. It directly affected the performance of the teams they were playing for. And those who didn’t see the bigger picture were naturally happy when he went.
Being from corporate background, Saldanha was a stickler for rules and naturally, his no-nonsense approach was not going down well with some influential match referees, umpires, umpire coaches and some officials. His contract was ended in 2010.
“If the umpire’s review committee members were true to their jobs, then why were some of the bowlers from the list of 2009-10 are bowling in IPL? There is no change in their bowling actions at all. Some chuck particular deliveries and some look like blatant chuckers,” said a source from the BCCI panel of umpires who still follows the action plan.
“How is that umpires have become so lenient on bowlers with suspect action as none of the umpires called during Ranji Trophy seasons after 2009-2010, when they represented their states?” he asked.
Umpires to blame
“Are the umpires not instrumental in encouraging such bowlers to get IPL contracts, otherwise they would not have played for their states also. Now, some of them landed into fixing scandal.”
Bowlers generally don’t chuck all deliveries. They sneak in an illegal delivery between legitimate ones. A former India pacer was reported for his bouncer, and most of the off-spinners with suspect action are called when trying to bowl the doosra.
“The associations were getting the benefit from such bowlers before the action plan was put in place, now the franchises are getting it,” he says.
According to our sources in BCCI panel of umpires, there is a free hand given to these bowlers with suspect action. It was learnt that there are verbal instructions to umpires to be a little cautious when it came to international bowlers with suspect action. Saldanha, himself, though has no grudges. “There are many wonderful board members who are for a ‘no nonsense’ approach. I am thankful to the BCCI for implementing the action plan during my tenure.”
It’s all back to where it was. The system is in place but not followed strictly. The umpires are relaxed and it is back to the old days when the main intention is not to offend the team of men with clout in the Board.
Hopefully, the lessons will be learnt and in future officials will be able to carry a clean image during BCCI and IPL tournaments by applying the action plan.