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|April 18, 2000||
Simply stunned!Harsha Bhogle
Often, the aftermath of an explosion is deadlier than the first blast. And the stories now emerging are doing no one proud.
Two in the last two days have left me stunned. And this in an atmosphere where nothing should really surprise anyone. (Catch Trevor Chesterfield on Cricinfo now saying that Javed Akhtar’s decisions against South Africa in England a couple of years ago upset Cronje !! Anything to pull the subcontinent in!)
The first was the story that broke in the Daily Telegraph which told of how the South Africans had three team meetings to mull over an offer to tank the Amarnath benefit match. To me, that is as big as the whole Cronje affair because it tells me that their first instinct was not to say `no’.
Remember the captain had the option of turning it down immediately. Instead he chose to put it to the team which, as any salesman will tell you, is an initial sign of acceptance. Then, the team discussed it at length and that suggests they were weighing the risks with the returns.
If there is something that goes against your moral values, you turn it down immediately, you don’t look at the price tag that comes with it.
The fact that they chose not to go along (and you have to give them that benefit even though the scores were similar to what the fixers were asking for!) suggests that reason prevailed but the fact that they considered it is in itself staggering considering that for the first couple of days after the story broke, they were the old-fashioned paragons of virtue!
I am amazed though that the cricketers in question should want to come out with this story now. You would have thought that South Africa would be particularly conscious of the beating its major sport had taken; that collectively South African cricketers would want to protect the image of the sport that is doing, or certainly aims to do, so much to bring about racial integration.
So an offer was considered in 1996. Considered seriously. Were any more made? It is a question that might have been bandied around before at social get-togethers, even occasionally in print as a means of expressing disbelief. But surely it needs to be asked seriously now. And given that the world has been looking very suspiciously at matches involving India and Pakistan (and sometimes, justifiably so you must admit), can they now pose the question of South Africa. Did you choke or did you tank?
And the latest issue of India Today talks of how Cronje and Chawla were making telephone calls to the same person in South Africa. That suggests a well planned conspiracy and as far as I am concerned the crucial element, even more than the original Gibbs and Boje affair, is the well kept promise of opening the bowling with Derek Crookes.
And to think that the entire machinery was trying to convince us that a man of his faith, of his religious leanings, was incapable of putting a foot wrong! To be completely honest, this bothers me greatly.
Through the early days of the revelations it was this Western honesty / Christian faith angle that kept coming through. And you could almost sense an attempt to paint the subcontinent in stereotyped colours.
It is this complete, and total, lack of desire to even consider the fact that a man from the “Western honesty / Christian faith” block could be guilty that bothers me. At all times there was a disparaging view of the subcontinent simmering beneath and if that is the view that a major part of the Western media is still going to take, it is a bit disquieting. What has changed?
Don’t get me wrong on the “Western honesty/Christian faith” issue. I am not saying that doesn’t exist for I know any number of very respectable people who conform to that block. I am just concerned that so many apparently open minded people used that as a shield to block the acceptance of reality.
This doesn’t mean the sub-continent is clean. What would I give for that to be true and yet I would not wager a paisa on it. This is where it began, this is where it was nurtured and this is where I fear it will take the longest to exit. If it ever does.
Mail Prem Panicker
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