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Rediff.com  » Sports » Encourage whistle-blowers to curb match-fixing

Encourage whistle-blowers to curb match-fixing

August 31, 2010 16:42 IST

In the post-IPL age of impressionable minds, when almost anyone can access vulnerable young players, anything is possible, says Sanjay Jha

We fight with impeccable ferocity over Kashmir. Our foreign ministers squabble amidst international spotlight. We often impertinently reject Pakistani-born visas, while Islamabad repeatedly snuggles into the cosy arms of our perpetual adversary, China. Our Independence Day is celebrated within 24 hours of each other. Once we lived in a large undivided mass of land.

In fact, the river from which our 63-year-old country gets its name is in our neighbour's heartland. In the cacophonous streets of Manhattan it is difficult to know if the yellow cab-driver is from Peshawar or Patna and the same blurred line emerges when we look at the unbridled passionate love our respective countries share for their fanatical obsession: cricket. And as it once again transpires with remorseless stranglehold, we share the same ravenous appetite for even match-fixing. 

As the entire world most rightfully trashes the sordid slush money changing hands over the latest work-in-progress novelty -- spot-fixing -- the most tragic sight is that of Mohammed Amir, a strapping young lad who made delicious mincemeat of seasoned Australian players and had the in-form hosts England reeling under his lethal spell, literally.

A strange emotion actually enveloped me; Amir is actually as old as my eldest daughter despite the fact that the television screen deceptively magnifies the raw true-self. All of 19 years, and despite being at the mature peak of teenage-hood, hugely precocious, largely inexperienced, and essentially innocent. But most importantly, always benefiting from positive guidance and continuous encouragement. I know the sheer exhilaration on her face when she is allowed an extended hour of late-night partying with her close friends; those are times I at least momentarily feel like the world's greatest father.

Who mentored Amir? Certainly not the Pakistan Cricket Board. I wonder how Amir's parents must be feeling, seeing their youngest son's face around a donkey's neck, as also his other six elder siblings without a downtown address. There is nothing sadder than the death of a sportsman at the prime of his career. And life.

Frankly, we are all spot-on in our clairvoyant statements; 'We saw it coming. Since 1994, Pakistan has ensured a staple high-fibre diet of match-fixing allegations.' Actually, perhaps barring Imran Khan and Rameez Raja and a few others, almost everyone has featured in that illustrious list including the likes of the peripatetic Wasim Akram.

President Asif Ali Zardari may yet attribute the responsibility to non-State actors.

Young Amir's life has been dramatically transformed forever in a wad of pound sterling notes being counted with rapacious glee in front of surreptitious cameras, and a no-ball. A miss is as good as a mile, they say. This was one long foot over the crease.

It seems almost laughable that one of the most brilliant and charismatic skippers of his time, Hansie Cronje, actually tossed his professional career away for a paltry $10,000 exactly a decade ago. The astronomical exponential growth in match-fixing size reflects clearly a buoyant mafia community. And they are getting increasingly innovative. And ambitious.

Incidentally, an interesting item of great import has been rendered inconspicuous in today's papers in the light of the celebrated Mazhar Majeed's heroic achievements; Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's Rs 210 crore skipper, is engaged in a bitter legal tussle with his former sports agents, involving serious criminal action. Now does that ring a loud bell, or what?

In the 1970s India was obsessed with the insidious 'foreign hand'. Now the Indian hand has become a dreaded Dark Lord in the current expose as well.

There are two instant remedies I suggest to immediately stem the rot: firstly, all international cricket boards must make it mandatory that cricket players can only sign up with accredited agents with the local Boards, who pass a stringent due diligence test for qualification, which should be annually renewed after performance reviews. Currently, almost anyone can easily access young vulnerable players, and in the post-Indian Premier League age of impressionable minds, anything is possible. 

Second, match fixing can be best detected by the cricket players themselves, as besides the continuous proximity from the dressing room to the team hotel, they are blessed with a sixth sense, an instinctive, intuitive prescience of things if they appear a wee bit hazy. Thus, cricket boards need to encourage whistle-blowers to raise the red flag when suspecting anything remotely unusual. Surely, the remaining Pakistani players would have somewhere known that there was something inherently slippery going on. As I believe did the colleagues of Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja once.

The undeniable truth is that like Pakistan (139) we are ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in the world (85) , with over $500 billion stashed away in Swiss banks, which has a miraculous accounting reconciliation with the estimated size of our parallel economy of the same magnitude. Voila!

And of course, our own little garbage dump of a stinking backyard; the IPL mess. As the new ICC president Sharad Pawar gets on to clear the rising scum and the setting sun of the failed London Dreams, he may also consider the 50,000 MT of food-grains wasting away. Some problems are better fixed, I suppose. 

Pakistan is paying the price for having comparatively too little money. And as the IPL scam has established, India for having perhaps too much. 

Sanjay Jha is co-founder, CricketNext.com, author, and consultant. The views expressed are his own

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Sanjay Jha