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Pakistan cricket mess is a wake-up call for BCCI too

The BCCI should proactively put in place systems to ensure that Indian cricket remains clean and players do not fall prey to the temptation of slush money and a glitzy life. Full coverage | Is it all smoke, no fire?British cops to quiz Pak tainted players

india Updated: Sep 01, 2010 10:22 IST
HT Sports Bureau
HT Sports Bureau
Hindustan Times

"What the Pakistanis and Pakistan do is their problem. Why should we react in a knee-jerk fashion just because the Pakistanis are corrupt?" a BCCI official asked the Hindustan Times, when asked whether the Indian cricket board planned to ramp up monitoring of players' activities.

Not everyone is convinced that this is the right attitude.

India generates about 70 per cent of the global revenues generated by cricket — legally. By all accounts, it also generates a disproportionate amount of the money that cricket generates illegally as well.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Board of Control for Cricket in India does not register its players' agents, does not monitor them, nor does it have any plan to do so.

It keeps no tabs on its players, and any “friend of a friend" has easy access to players' rooms. Young players are not given guidelines on how to handle the people who hang around them.

"If a player appoints an agent, how can I stop him?" the BCCI official said.

"They (agents) get them business, advertising, sponsorships… how can we interfere with a players' right to basic freedom of trade? If he is led astray by an agent, then that's another matter."

Asked why the BCCI wasn't worried by the number of people who had nothing to do with cricket freely mixing with cricketers during the Indian Premier League, he replied: "Future IPLs will be spick and span."

"Mingling will be cut down, there will be no late night parties, models or actresses. People won't be able to pay a lakh a ticket and party with players.

Cricketers can concentrate on cricket. At this point though, all we can say is that India's players are clean and the presumption of guilt of a player is unfair."

But it was precisely this kind of unfettered access to Pakistani players that allowed middleman Mazhar Majeed to corrupt young Pakistani players.

Noted television commentator Harsha Bhogle told a television channel that India had been come out of the 2000 match fixing scandal relatively unscathed because it had been lucky to have players of impeccable integrity — like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath.

With so much money sloshing around the system, however, young players can easily fall prey to temptation.

Several former players have suggested that the BCCI start counselling youngsters on how to invest and spend money, how to handle the media, the attention and the glamorous life they are exposed to.

"It's not always possible to monitor every activity. Youngsters should be counselled from an early stage," said former captain Anil Kumble.

Meanwhile, several other measures to stamp out match fixing — suggested in the wake of the 2000 fixing scandal — are followed only intermittently.

Under the rules, mobile phones should not be available to players in the stadium or during the time of play, especially in the dressing room area; and secondly, access to the players' place of stay should be controlled."

The first has been implemented for the most; the second not at all.

Interestingly, during the Asia Cup in Dambulla this June, Pakistan teenager Md Amir, one of the three players named by middleman Mazhar Majeed to England's News of the World tabloid as being involved in spot-fixing, was caught on camera holding what looked like a cell phone.

This was later denied officially, and it was (rather vaguely) said that what looked like a mobile was actually Amir fixing the grill of his helmet. Incidentally, this game is one of the four that Majeed claimed he "fixed".

This incident has shocked the cricketing world. It should serve as a warning signal to the BCCI — to put in place rules and systems to ensure that Indian cricket remains clean.

How a tapped phone in Delhi first brought the match-fixing racket to light

It was early March 2000. Officers from the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch were desultorily listening in on two gentlemen whose phones they were tapping. This was an investigation begun in November 1999, into a Dubai-based extortion racket.

"Nothing is happening," one officer stated casually. "Just a lot of abusive language… and there’s some talk about cricket".

Just ahead of that intercept, the investigation was on the verge of being closed.

However, KK Paul, the then joint commissioner of police (crime), figured there was no harm in keeping the taps on and requested permission for the same.

In March, Paul, a cricket buff, curious at the mention of the game, began to listen in himself. What he heard then, quite by chance, would go on to change the rules of cricket and rewrite its history forever.

The two men in question were in the middle of a heated discussion about a cricket match, obviously the just-concluded first ODI between India and South Africa in Cochin. South Africa had made 301 and India, quite against the odds (pun unintended), had chased it down, making 302.

One man was insisting there wasn't a problem because the other had got the result he wanted. The other was incensed and reportedly kept asking "301 kaise banaya?"

South Africa, the implication was clear, were never meant to get to 301.

A month later, on April 7, the Delhi Police sensationally released transcripts of a conversation between then South Africa skipper Hansie Cronje and an Indian businessman (he owned a teen clothing boutique in London) called Sanjeev Chawla, where details of who was playing and who was not, the players in on the scheme, and the amount already paid to Cronje and his allegedly crooked team-mates were discussed.

Match fixing in cricket, till then, had periodically been speculated upon as a grave possibility. Equally frequently, it had been denied and those who suggested it existed were mockingly labelled conspiracy theorists. The Cronje tapes blew the lid off it all.

First Published: Aug 31, 2010 23:02 IST