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House, job, cash... anything!

Junior selector says parents will stop at nothing to buy their sons a spot on a cricket team, reports Heena Zuni Pandit.

cricket Updated: Sep 24, 2008 23:39 IST
Heena Zuni Pandit

The man is unshaven, obsequious, yet haunted. He is at the Bharat Nagar ground here on a mission. He wants to make his son the next Virender Sehwag. Or MS Dhoni. And this, he believes, is where the first step to fame, glory and unbelievable riches is. The selection trials for the Delhi squad for the u-16 schools nationals.

"Sab bikaau hai," says another gentleman casually, unperturbed by the fact that his son, a student of Vidya Jain Public School, has not made the shortlist. "All these selectors are same," he continues. "I have a shop of electric appliances and winter is coming — everyone needs a geyser."

Of course, this cool confidence and the subtle offer of the bribe of a free geyser stems from the fact that the man is a novice. According to Sanjay Bhardwaj, main selector for the nationals, geysers are low on the totem pole of bribes offered. He's been offered a house "anywhere" by a builder with commercial properties in Delhi, a job by a local Delhi MLA and huge amounts of cash to include a son or a nephew in this young state side.

We all know that cricket rakes in the moolah: Bhardwaj is living proof that that those megabucks can be got in more ways than meet the eye, if someone so wishes.

Even as this reporter watched, he received a phone call from another Delhi parliamentarian, with a "request". Bhardwaj put his cell phone on loudspeaker. The 'request'? "Sir, we go back a long way and I am always at your service. Zara dekh lijiye bachche ko…" Just as a frustrated Bhardwaj hangs up after asking the MLA to speak to the boy concerned about whether he's actually good enough before calling, the phone rings again. It doesn't stop till he switches it off. "It never stops," he says angrily. "I have been told I can ask for 'anything, in any form' in exchange for even a second look at someone."