Wary of decay
Attributed with a high susceptibility to corruption, the gentleman’s game requires strict regulations to match contemporary development and keep potential exploitation at bay
Cricket, as a sport has grown by leaps and bounds. The change from the slow pace of the conservative form of a 5-day Test match to the limited-overs version has been a huge success. Spectators on and off the field are following it with a passion for live entertainment that has an unpredictable and unscripted story at the end of it.
There are many who have been critical of the royal game being tarnished, as the shorter version lacks the basic characteristics of what cricket stood for as a sport.
When one looks deeper into what started as a slam-bang affair, it has now materialised into strategy and innovation that cricket would have never seen if it had continued in the same way. In order to progress, as one says, "change is inevitable" and cricket is one sport that is seeing it happen rapidly.
The game has led to innovations in not only batting but also in the area of bowling. This has been true progress in the development of a modern style of cricket and newer and newer ideas and creations are emerging regularly.
The battle, earlier, was between the bat and the ball, but modern cricket warfare has many more layers to it. The popularity and success of the sport have led to professionalism in every cricket related area. An experienced coach, support staff of trainers, analysts and mental conditioning coaches has led to a spectrum of creativity for the betterment of cricket. Every player is now monitored to the nth degree to prepare him to the hilt.
Cricketers, especially the ones playing the limited-overs versions, are not just sportsmen who play their game purely by instinct and intuition. They are now like real-life robots, who have been hardwired to perform tasks that may help not only their own accomplishments but also the success of the team. A bit of natural flair is always the differentiator between good and average, but the structure, on the whole, remains the same.
Unfortunately, the high financial stakes and the commercially lucrative money factor is gradually becoming a very serious threat to the purity of the game. The shorter limited version, with all its uncertainties, has led to a massive opportunity to gamble. The Indian government has failed to realise the extent of money that is generated through gambling, as legalising it would have brought them a very healthy revenue.
The quicker they legalise it the better it will be for cricket. Else, the sport will continue on its downward trend into corruption and cheating. A trend that is emerging rapidly.
A very popular serial in India, 'Inside Edge' is based on the franchisee model of cricket and it has captured the essence of the way things could unfold if some serious action and measures are not taken expeditiously. It has exposed several stories and tales that one has read during the Indian Premier League (IPL) over the last decade and has garnished it with what could also happen in the future.
The mushroomed super cricket leagues have become a breeding ground for tarnishing cricket and cricketers into a crime-based circus. Every day one reads reports about betting and spot-fixing taking place at many centres and countries around the world. In India, the recent investigation into the notorious betting activities during the Karnataka and Chennai super league gets one worried and thinking about the future of a cricketer who is the main actor in this pantomime.
The BCCI has already been at the receiving end of many such incidents relating to gambling, betting, drugs, match and spot-fixing over the years. It is imperative for them to look after and monitor the welfare and protect the present and junior cricketers from it.
The only way to control it is for them to keep a close vigilant eye on every player playing in the domestic circuit. For this to happen, the BCCI needs to set-up a pool of former cricketers at every cricket centre, independent of any local influencers. They have to appoint them as their representatives to educate and to keep track of all cricketers.
The task for a former cricketer is much simpler, as having played the game, they will be able to audit the happenings on the field as well as off it a lot better. Additionally, as a cricketer, he or she would be more approachable for advice and comfort.
Cricket is in a very precarious state where if these issues are not controlled, the sport will lose its credibility. Money has poured into it from all avenues and the return on investment has become an important mantra that an investor looks for.
Cricket betting, one gathers, has got quite progressive with several permutations and combinations being offered to a punter. Added to this are the approved betting sites that are becoming a boon to smaller individual gamblers as well.
India is now ripe for betting but it should not become bitter for a cricketer, who could fall prey to quick, illegal and easy money which is on offer.
Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are strictly personal