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By Chander Shekhar Luthra
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is reeling under a serious credibility crisis, but the powers-that-be haven’t learned their lesson. Thirteen years after the Union government forbade the Indian team from playing in Sharjah, the IPL will be played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this year.
In 2001, the year the match-fixing scandal involving Hansie Cronje had rocked the cricketing world, the BJP-led government had decided not to permit the Indian team to play in a tournament in April that year. The reason? Sharjah had become the hub of betting and match-fixing. Now the first phase of the IPL is going to be held in the UAE. And guess what is the biggest crisis facing the IPL. Err, spot-fixing and betting…
One former BCCI president told dna that he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the news on TV. “I have no idea who took this decision,” he said on condition of anonymity. “It was the BCCI which decided to shun Sharjah after the revelations in 2001. I would like to know and will definitely ask in the next meeting how and when this ban was lifted and with whose permission?” he thundered.
Back in 2009, former IPL chairman Lalit Modi had come up with a proposal to hold the second edition of the league in the UAE. That was also an election year. However, the top brass of the BCCI vetoed Modi’s proposal and staged the event in South Africa.
“Everyone knows what happened in South Africa?” said former India wicketkeeper-batsman Surinder Khanna, adding, “Whosoever came back from South Africa had his own clutch of stories to share. Many of them told me how bookies were all over the place. It is they who helped the IPL bosses successfully host the league.”
Also, the manner in which the International Cricket Council (ICC) hailed the BCCI’s decision to hold matches in the UAE has taken everyone by surprise. After all, why are the custodians of the game rejoicing over India’s decision to hold its domestic tournament in another country?
“We will rather do well by not having the IPL this season,” Khanna said. Adjudged Man of the Series in the inaugural Asia Cup tournament in Sharjah, Khanna knows how cricket suffered because of match-fixing. “It was brought to the notice of Indian government that all matches played in Sharjah were fixed. That basically prompted it to stop the BCCI from going there. I’m surprised the BCCI has now decided to go to a country where bookies call the shots,” added Khanna.
Former India all-rounder Kirti Azad compared the BCCI with a dog’s curly tail that can never be straightened. “In spite of the serious observations made by the Mudgal Committee and the Supreme Court taking cognisance of the same, I find it surprising that the BCCI has decided to stage the IPL in the UAE. This is a tail that can never be straightened,” said Azad, who is also an MP. “The UAE is very convenient option. After all, it’s the pavilion of fixing. Now, they are in the safe custody of fixers. I am sure that some BCCI officials must be rejoicing and celebrating the very spirit of fixing in IPL,” Azad added.
Even though India played two matches in Abu Dhabi in 2006, the last big tournament they played in Sharjah was the Coca-Cola Champions Trophy in 2000. On a pitch where Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya made a mammoth 189, India were bowled out for 54, their lowest total in ODIs. They lost by 245 runs on that fateful day (October 29). No wonder they were duly advised never to play again in Sharjah.
Interestingly, it was Manoj Prabhakar who came out publicly in June 1997 charging one of his own teammates of fixing matches. The BCCI instituted a one-man commission comprising Chief Justice of India Justice YV Chandrachud to find out the truth. Prabhakar brought to light some of the matches, including the India vs Pakistan game in Sharjah in 1991, where the team management asked Prabhakar and Sanjay Manjrekar to continue playing even after the umpires had offered them light. Pakistan won the match in the last over and qualified for the final of the tournament.
The second game was an Indo-Pak fixture in Colombo (Singer Cup) in 1994 where Prabhakar was apparently offered Rs 2.5 million for sabotaging India’s chances. The former all-rounder claims to have thrown the said player out of his room. The match was washed away due to rain.
The India-West Indies match in Kanpur in 1994 saw Nayan Mongia and Prabhakar score 11 runs in 48 balls. Both players were dropped for the next match on charges of indiscipline.
And finally, during the India-Pakistan game Sharjah where both captains (Aamir Sohail and Mohammad Azharuddin) claimed to have won the toss.
All eyes will now be on the Supreme Court hearing on March 25 where any observation against BCCI president N Srinivasan or the franchise he owns, Chennai Super Kings, could make things difficult for the BCCI and its league.
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