Hyderabad: Cricket is at its lowest ebb. Things have never been worse.
It appears now that players are fixing games and at least one international umpire has been caught sharing info with bookmakers to make a quick buck too even as a team principal who sits in the dugout has been conspiring to derive pecuniary advantage out of his privileged position in the game.
All we need now is for BCCI to be run by bookmakers — Bookies Control Cricket in India — so that they can fix every aspect of the game rather than be content with small session swings.
About 20 years ago, when the betting scandal was just breaking out, it was suspected that while a few players were given gifts initially to share team and weather information, some others were betting on the game from their perch even as some greedy ones among umpires were in on the take.
The added dimension here is a team owner — a new term since the only ones who owned teams in international cricket belonged to the national cricket boards or federations before T20 and IPL came into existence — has also been trying to put his hand in the bookies’ till.
The game may have had its origins as a medium of gambles. As it evolved, cricket assumed a grand image as the gentleman’s game. “It’s not cricket, old chap” was taken to be gospel truth when it came to deriding something that went against the noble principles of a genteel game.
Now, there are rogues among players, umpires and owners who are trading on their insider knowledge to try and make a few easy bucks.
The stories that are popping out of the thousands of pages of the Mumbai police’s chargesheets are intriguing. They show the insidious power of bookies and how easily they can penetrate the structure and gain access to the elite who are only supposed to be taking wickets and scoring runs with the skills at their command.
The old amateur spirit may have died in the game long ago. But it has been replaced by a demon of greed that has eaten away the vitals so that only a skeleton is left.
There is nothing sacrosanct in the game anymore. Anyone who has placed a bet on cricket is a bookie of sorts since only in the old Indian betting system was it possible to bet against results rather than laying only on any one outcome.
Picking up a cue, international websites like Betfair offer the same privilege now, which means technically the world is full of cricket bookmakers since there is no real distinction between the bookmaker and the punter anymore except that the bank always wins in this business.
There must be something to the belief inside Indian cricket’s charmed circle that in its recent history only two players have been above board in everything they did while a finger could be pointed at everyone else.
Things have come to such a pass that the average fan must feel cheated because there is no way he can trust anything that he sees on the field. Those of us who used to enjoy putting a few bob on the game have stopped looking at cricket as a mental challenge because we don’t know who is on the take and whether he is playing to win or lose.
It’s sad that things must come to such a pass that the old frisson at the thought of how great cricket could be, especially when games became so close that it was a test of character far more than one of skills.