It’s not often that the BCCI, which looks, acts and reacts like a younger sibling of the Manmohan Singh-run UPA-II, acts and reacts with alacrity. So let this be said loud and clear that the cricket board’s decision to suspend the five players named by a TV sting operation of purportedly being part of spot fixing and match fixing is a welcome move.
Too many noises, accusations and counter-accusations have been made since that ugly phrase ‘match fixing’ raised its ugly head sometime late last century. And too many times have BCCI officials spoken their standard one-liner — “We have zero tolerance for corruption” — and then done nothing about it.
T.P. Sudhindra (of Deccan Chargers), Mohnish Mishra (Pune Warriors), Shalabh Srivastava and Amit Yadav (both Kings XI Punjab) and Abhinav Bali would “not be entitled to participate in any cricket match played under the aegis of BCCI while under suspension”, BCCI president N. Srinivasan said in a statement on May 15.
I am not, of course, saying the five involved in fixing, or that no one but these five are involved. Not guilty until proven, says the law, and so be it.
What I say is, this was necessary; the Board needed to take some action — and serious action, mind you — to at least appear to be in control after being in denial mode for long. In recent times, recall the Board’s frantic denial of fixing charges for last year’s World Cup semi-final, or questions raised over the semi-final against Sri Lanka in the 1996 edition of the event (where Vinod Kambli memorably shed tears, and a game that the very same Kambli found had “something amiss” as India decided to chase), and last year’s report in The Australian newspaper that “a leading batsman manipulated” some games in the last edition of the IPL.
BCCI’s Rajiv Shukla, now the IPL chairman, who had then said that the “IPL was clean”, now says Ravi Sawani, the former head of ICC’s anti-corruption and security unit, will probe the allegations against the five players found with a ‘corrupt’ mind by India TV.
Incidentally, Shukla had, as recently as November last year, turned down sports minister Ajay Maken’s call for a probe into Kambli’s claims about the 1996 World Cup.
Now, there have been sting operations galore by different media organisations over the last few years, alleging different levels of corruption in cricket, specifically involving Pakistani cricketers, but India and Indian cricket has had do bathe in quite a bit of muck. (Read: Six major match-fixing scandals) So why did BCCI come out of its shell, all raging, scathing and let-me-show-you-my-might force now?
One reason could be what this article calls the reason at least to appear to be in control. And what better opportunity than now? The IPL, mind you, is a relatively soft target, and these uncapped India players even more so. Recall the same Srinivasan or Shukla, now with hard taskmaster tone, when faced with allegations that have anything to do with Team India or its players. Without even bothering to go in a huddle and appear to call for probes and so forth, they close ranks and go in a denial mode.
Mind you, I am not saying any allegation made against any match involving India was fixed. All I say is, not guilty under proven, which implicitly entails a probe, in order to get anywhere close to proving either guilty or innocent.
So the BCCI top shots pick a few soft targets and stake their claim to be the bosses of Indian cricket, which now, more or less, means cricket per se so far as its fiscal strength is concerned.
Not that these ‘soft targets’ can seek the right to be excused on much ground of innocence. It is often said that young sportspersons at an “impressionable” age make “loose comments” in the media. A comically ludicrous notion, I say: if a man or woman can decide to take up sports full time, as a career, in his or her late teens and forego education and other avenues of growth for the rest of the supposedly ‘ordinary’ youths, they can hardly be deemed of an impressionable age. Heck, one doesn’t even need to be a professional cricketer to know sting operations could be just round the corner and that one shouldn’t open his/her mouth about money/fixing/any pecuniary gain without first making a call to the lawyer. You just need to be human enough to follow the media.
So Mohnish Mishra, suspended by his IPL team Pune Warriors with immediate effect, now seems to have found some sudden source of enlightenment and ostensibly ruing his “casual remark” during the sting op “to develop his value”.
A media release issued by Pune Warriors owner Sushanto Roy said Mishra has “apologised for his frivolous and incorrect statements”, and that he made the statements during the sting op by India TV “to develop his value or maybe he wanted to be pompous in front of others during the course of discussion”.
Pompous? Casual statement about purported role in spot fixing? Those are things done by people in their early teens, Mr Mishra. You are 28 years and more than 3 months old. You haven’t played a single game for India, which I presume is your goal, like all cricketers. Sorry, but how could you, in cricket parlance, let your guard down to such extent? Who did you, in your right mind, think would appreciate the fact that your value might appreciate with such “casual” statements? Not even my eight-year-old nephew, and not even his friends of that, well, impressionable age.
I do not want to pick on Mohnish Mishra here. I am simply aghast at all professionals (sportspersons or people in other professions) who take such lines, and if such “casual” statements” in need to be “pompous” and held in high esteem are par for the course for young Indian cricketers, I think more than anything else the BCCI needs to hire a troop of shrinks to impart lessons to our young guns. On how not to blow the lid off the gunpowder keg.
And to BCCI my appeal is, let us not go home smug-faced and satisfied, after chomping a few soft targets for lunch. Let’s face it: there is a malaise bigger and deeper than these unheralded five. So get off your self-righteous confidence and dig deeper.