Need to frame a law under IPC to book and punish those involved in match-fixing/spot-fixing. All the players, officials, umpires, officials of the Associations, outside people and the Board should be included in the proposed Act.
The last fortnight has been a period of turmoil for Indian Cricket. Three players of Rajasthan Royals were caught in match-fixing and have been suspended. Bookies from India and abroad are involved in the nefarious activity of spot-fixing and thousands of crores of rupees are allegedly involved in these transactions. Raids are being carried out by Mumbai Police and Delhi Police all over the country. Hordes of bookies are being arrested from various parts of the country.
This has put the Board of Cricket Control India (BCCI) and Indian Cricket in a big crisis. It is not easy for the BCCI to come out of this and the worst thing that has happened is the involvement of Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of the BCCI president N Srinivasan. In this entire episode people from various walks of life, mainly players, business men, actors, Board officials are involved. The raids are still continuing and God alone knows how many more people are involved.
Spot-fixing is an action taken by the bowler to either bowl or no ball or bowl loose deliveries to enable the batsman to score runs easily. Overs are fixed accordingly and heavy bets are taken by the bookies and thousands of crores of rupees are exchanged. From the reports which we are getting, it is obvious that the entire syndicate is being operated from outside the country and some information is that the centre could be either Middle-East or Pakistan.
The most serious situation which has arisen is Gurunath Meiyappan has been alleged to be involved in betting. He is the owner/promoter of Chennai Super Kings, though now he has been disbanded as CEO of Chennai Super King (CSK), by India Cements Ltd., the original owner of CSK. However, it is a fact that Gurunath Meiyappan was representing CSK in all official meetings and was always present in the dug-out of the players during the matches and was also present during press briefing.
The involvement of Meiyappan has created a major controversy in the BCCI and the ICC. Because of these people the 6th IPL 20-20 tournament is marred with controversies and criticisms. All the fun, excitement and entertainment enjoyed by the cricket lovers has become dim after this fixing controversy has arisen.
There were reports that bookies and match-fixers were very active in the IPL. This was in the knowledge of the IPL Governing Council and also in the knowledge of the BCCI. In the year 2000, match-fixing controversy took place and a few players were banned for life and some for five years. That was the right time for the BCCI to take up the matter with the Sports Ministry and the Law Ministry to frame a low to cover betting and match-fixing as unlawful and a law could be enacted for punishment of those involved in it.
(The writer is Vice President of Delhi and District Cricket Association and also is Former Test Cricketer, former MP)
I suggest that the following actions should be taken by various authorities to curb this menace.
(1) Frame a law under Indian Penal Code (IPC) to book and punish those involved in match-fixing/spot-fixing. All the players, officials, umpires, officials of the Associations, outside people and the Board should be included in this Act.
(2) All agents/Managers of the players should be registered with the BCCI/IPL Governing Council.
(3) The conduct of the players should be the responsibility of the owners/franchises of the IPL and also of the BCCI, when they play international matches.
(4) On the ground, during the match, the owners of the franchisee teams (in IPL) should not be allowed to come in the dug-out or near the players. They should be allowed to meet the players before the start of the game. Dedicated players of the owners should be in the dedicated area in the stands of the stadium.
(5) The movement of the players should be observed not only on the ground, but also in the hotels, especially in the private parties which take place, involving players, guests and officials. Each franchisee along with the anti-corruption official appointed by the ICC should have a Manager (past international player), who should accompany the team throughout the tournament.
(6) For the international matches, I strongly feel a permanent, fearless, straight-forward, honest Ex-international player should be appointed for a minimum period of two years. At present, to secure votes, Manager of the team changes from foreign/domestic tour to the other. As such, the players do not take the Manager seriously and discipline of the team is at stake.
(7) In the IPL, the action of players be stopped forthwith and the players of the franchisee/agents/owners should be allowed to deal with the players directly through their agents/managers. As mentioned above, agents and managers of the players are to be registered with BCCI.
(8) I strongly feel that in IPL matches, U-19 players should be avoided. They are immature and should wait to play international level matches. Hence only players who have played Ranji Trophy and above should be contracted in the IPL.
(9) The players signed for the IPL and also with the Board should continuously be educated and warned regarding fixing, betting or any other activity detrimental to them and cricket.
(10) I am of the opinion that at the moment, the IPL duration is too long. The tournament should finish in 35 days (30 days for the league and 5 days for the play-offs). This will give more time for the domestic matches which at the moment are being ignored because of the schedule of IPL.
Where only three involved in match-fixing?
August-September is traditionally the ‘Silly Season’ for the English media. With the Parliament and the courts fleeing from London’s wretched summers there is little hard news to report, meaning that stories that would otherwise be buried suddenly make the headlines.
India’s summer, of course, begins far earlier than its English counterpart. Which means that our own ‘Silly Season’ is already in full swing. And this year we in the Indian media have received a bounty in the form of the Indian Premier League.
The mark of the ‘Silly Season’ is a lack of proportion, and we must return to this point later. Right now, let us focus on what we know.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. Ajit Chandila. Ankeet Chavan. Are they the ‘Three Idiots’ of Indian cricket? Or just the three scapegoats? Whichever it is, this drama cannot end with an ‘All is well’.
Much of it simply does not add up. The illegal gambling market in India has been estimated at running into thousands of crores, and the Indian Premier League is supposedly a bonanza for bookies. Are we really supposed to swallow that all this money is centred around the nefarious activities of two obscure Ranji-level cricketers plus Sreesanth?
Sreesanth played his last T-20 match in Indian colours at Melbourne on 1 February, 2008, appeared in his last One Day International in the World Cup final, on 2 April, 2011, and was last seen in a Test, against England, in August 2011. He has not been central to Indian cricket for the better part of the past two years, and his age — he turned thirty earlier this year — was always against his making a comeback.
Does anyone believe that gamblers and bookers would be dealing in thousands of crores on games featuring Sreesanth and his teammates in the Rajasthan Royals team? This question can have three possible answers.
First, contrary to what everyone believes, the illegal gambling market in India is not worth thousands of crores, but is a fraction of that, a very small fraction.
Second, cricket gamblers bet not just on the Indian team and on Indian Premier League matches but on every obscure first class match up and down the length of the country, possibly even on all the minor club-level encounters. This may be true but do these encounters attract enough of an audience to justify spending crores of rupees?
Third, this mess is not limited to Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila, and Ankeet Chavan, but has spread to include other, more famous and better connected, names, both cricketers and non-cricketers. If so, we may never unearth all the facts.
Let us go back thirteen years in time, when allegations of fixing rocked Indian cricket. Many names popped up back then but the two men who made the headlines were Mohammed Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje, and that made sense because they were not two obscure cricketers but the captains of India and of South Africa respectively. (Even Ajay Jadeja, whose name appeared in the scandal had captained India in a few One Day International matches.)
The money at stake was small potatoes compared to the immense sums paid to cricketers in the Indian Premier League auctions. Cronje said that he had been offered U.S. $30,000 to lose a Test; there was also talk of U.S. $200,000 for the team if the South Africans lost a limited overs match.
To put those sums into perspective, in 2012 the Rajasthan Royals bought Sreesanth’s services for an annual payment of U.S. $400,000. Obviously, inflation must have cut away at the value of the American greenback since the Cronje years in the 1990s but it is still fair to say that Sreesanth’s legal salary was far greater than the illegal amount offered to the entire South African XI. And by all accounts cricketers’ incomes are dwarfed by the illegal gambling market.
Can we accept that only Sreesanth, Chandila, and Chavan were involved in gambling running into hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crores?
Having mentioned Azharuddin and Jadeja, please recall that while the BCCI barred them from cricket — a life ban in the case of the wristy Hyderabadi, five years for Jadeja — the punishments were lifted by the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Delhi High Court respectively. It is anybody’s guess whether the Delhi Police can make a case in the courts, and whether those can stand the (inevitable) appeals in higher fora.
Please note that I do not disbelieve the Delhi Police; all I say is that, until a judge pronounces a verdict, there will always be a question on whether accusations meet the burden of proof.
And finding such evidence may be hard unless the police forces in the various cities provide at least a semblance of cooperation. Thus far, we have seen the Delhi Police flying to Mumbai. Which was followed by the Mumbai Police flying to Chennai. I suppose we shall now see the Chennai Metropolitan Police flying off to Kolkata, and so forth. Meanwhile, there is news of the Delhi Police and the Mumbai Police having a tussle over security footage from the hotel in Mumbai where Sreesanth was staying while he was arrested.
Expanding tentacles of IPL fixing
Show the will to make the game full proof?
When any disease assumes fatal form, surgery becomes unavoidable. Therefore, it is the collective responsibility of all, especially the BCCI, Government of India and the families of the emerging players, to make the game full proof.
Surfacing with just a few cricketers, the tentacles of IPL fixing have so far trapped the bollywood stars, Indian skipper Mahinder Singh Dhoni’s wife Sakshi Dhoni, BCCI chairman N Srinivasan, his son-in-law Mayappan and many others. The heat is also reaching to several big industrialists, political leaders, Union Ministers, etc. The day begins with big stories and ends with startling revelations. The role of underworld too is under scanners. They act through their bookies stationed in all big cities of India. Since everything is fixed in the game and return is guaranteed, some politicians are also freely adopting it as the easiest way to become millionaire overnight.
The biggest tragedy with the game is that nobody wants to own the responsibility for the ills causing it. Everybody shifts the onus on others. Both the BCCI and the Government of India say they have no role in curbing the IPL fixing. But how can they ignore the fundamental questions. Being the supreme body of controlling cricket the BCCI cannot run away from its responsibility. The biggest challenge before the BCCI today is transparency. If everything is transparent, as they claim, why there is opposition to RTI Act. The Union Sports Ministry has also been insisting on it but the BCCI always finds one or the other excuse to run away.
The major argument in favour of keeping the BCCI outside RTI Act is that it is not a government body. But the question is can the BCCI organise even a minor event without the support of government? It is popular belief that if the BCCI is brought under RTI the problem of match fixing can be tackled to a great extent. The BCCI has to decide to whom it is accountable? If it is accountable to the cricket, it must join the RTI club to ensure transparency in its dealing.
Not only the cricket lovers but also the Supreme Court is worried over the malfunctioning of the BCCI. The apex court on May 21 blamed the BCCI’s lackadaisical attitude for all the problems the game is facing today. A vacation Bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Misra said it is the responsibility of the BCCI to ‘maintain and sustain’ the reputation of the 125-year-old game. “There has to be a rational, objective and absolutely dispassionate approach in dealing with irregularities,” the court said. The Bench asked the Board to bring the errant teams and players to book. “Let the gentleman’s game remain a gentleman’s game and not be tainted by irregularities and scams,” the Bench said. “BCCI must conduct a scientific, rational, dispassionate inquiry to ensure that no guilty player goes scot-free by taking to subterfuge.”
The court made these observations while hearing a PIL. “The IPL has become a hub of black money, gambling and obscenity” and it has degraded the nation. As a result, the performance and integrity of players suffered in national and international events. The players have a primary duty to play for the nation and bring laurels to it but they are getting deviated towards spot-fixing, gambling and betting, and are being auctioned,” the PIL said. The IPL has been facing the charges of fixing since its inception in 2008. But the BCCI never took any concrete step to curb it. Just for eyewash, it banned four players in 2012. But the elements, which basically corrupt the players, are still unpunished. When one player is caught, they start trapping the others.
The Government of India too cannot run away from its responsibility. The menace of spot-fixing is growing, but there is no law or mechanism to curb it and punish guilty. Police can nab the ordinary baiters but they do not find the way to act against the baiters in cricket which involves the big amount. The involvement of mafia in the game is deeply damaging the financial fabric of the country. There is a dire need to have a close watch on the terror money being used in this game. Today the government has sufficient infrastructure to intercept even the overseas calls. Then why can’t it intercept the calls of the bookies? It is not just the matter of sport, it is directly linked to the national security.
Both the Government and the BCCI have to act tough against the erring team owners also. The team which is found indulging in wrong practices should be debar for further matches. The activities of some of the team owners are suspicious and require a close vigil.
The families of players also have a responsibility. Cricket is no more the game of elites now. It has purely become the game of common man. Majority of the players also come from middle class families. The families should teach them values and ethics. Whatever is the situation there should be no compromise on the ethics.
BCCI has to answer
p Why there is no anti-corruption unit for IPL?
p Why there is regular lackadaisical attitude towards the complaints against fixing in IPL matches?
p Why it is always seen helpless on fixing?
p Why there is no transparency in the accounts?
p Why the balance sheet is not uploaded on website, whereas majority of the cricket control boards of other countries do it?
p Why the employees of keeping accounts and conducting audit of BCCI and Chennai Super Kings are same?
p Why all Franchises of the IPL keep their balance sheets secret?
p Why no action even after the questions raised by Enforcement Directorate on financial dealings of the IPL Franchises?
p Why the BCCI itself does not ask for stern law for curbing the fixing?