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Cricket no longer gentlemen’s game

Cricket no longer gentlemen’s game
With the arrest of the tainted trio – three players from the Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals, S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – by the Special Cell of Delhi police, cricket as a national sport in India has been dealt a massive blow. While the shamed franchise has decided to file FIRs against the three players arrested for spot-fixing, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has set up a panel to probe the scandal. However, even as N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, expressed the intention to get even the agents for the players accredited by a BCCI Anti-Corruption and Security Unit official, the board has ducked the actual questions that need to be asked at this juncture. The questions involve looking at the larger picture and busting the widespread bookie-player-corporate nexus, which is much, much bigger than merely catching the smallest fries in the equation and putting them behind bars. That the three players, now suspended by the BCCI, have been charged under Section 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, thus raising a muck storm of accusations and counter-accusations, is only the tip of the iceberg of the betting racket that is the IPL. Money has been thrown around at every nook and corner of the maze of IPL, and even last year’s edition was dirtied with some of the domestic players accused of spot-fixing. Hence, BCCI’s claim that it won’t hesitate to ‘act ruthlessly if the players are found guilty’ falls flat because it doesn’t address the crux of the problem.

While the sports ministry mulls over a new stringent law to deal with the betting scam hitting the IPL, it will not be enough to cleanse the system of the crony corruption that squanders money and sustains the billion-dollar betting industry surrounding cricket in India. While it is true that the IPL is a private affair and involves franchises competing against each other, in the backdrop of a heady concoction of money and glamour, the fact that IPL is a brand built on the notion (no matter how nebulous) of a ‘rising India’ is reason enough to reflect on how the scandals are going to affect the credibility of the game. Otherwise, all the frothing and foaming over the disgraced players, who really are the smallest cogs in the gargantuan wheel of corruption, would amount to scapegoating the easiest in the chain of culprits. It remains to be seen whether the probing bodies have the teeth to expose the actual beneficiaries of the spot-fixing scam, whose reach and power might well exceed the authority vested in our investigative bodies themselves. Obviously, turning Sreesanth and his fellow team-mates into national sporting villains and collectively baying for their blood will not solve the problem, particularly in a context wherein the BCCI president himself is the owner of a very successful franchise in Chennai Super Kings. Shouldn’t the ownership structures themselves be looked into first before we start hurling aspersions at the most vulnerable in this game of extreme deception and money laundering? 
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