IPL 2013 spot-fixing controversy: Has Indian cricket digressed from the main issue?

N Srinivasan, BCCI president, would have won the respect and confidence of many, had he stepped aside the moment it was revealed that his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, was under the scanner © PTI

By Karthik Parimal

It was in the middle of May, when the Indian Premier League (IPL) was approaching the terminal in the sweltering Indian summer, that the spot-fixing saga burst into the open. While some — members of the cricketing fraternity, spectators braving all odds to watch the proceedings from the stands and millions of viewers at home — were stunned at what had been unearthed, for a few, it only confirmed what was hanging around heavily in the air since the past five editions. Nevertheless, what transpired in the next few weeks after the three cricketers in question — Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan — were charged for wrongdoing, the root cause of trouble seems to have been placed on the backburner.

As expected, a can of worms was duly opened post the three arrests. From small-time actors to team owners (who’re now being labelled as ‘enthusiasts’), the spotlight has shifted from one grubby palm to another.  It’s no longer just a case of a ‘few rotten eggs’; the disease has spread wider and deeper. To believe there are no more miscreants infecting the beleaguered league, after all the revelations so far, would be naïve, and a thorough flush would have slowly, but surely, revealed more such names. In fact, that is what the head honchos must have aimed to do if they indeed cared for the sanctity of the sport.

It is often said that from the depths of despair comes hope. Many an Indian cricket fan would certainly have hoped for the remaining skeletons to tumble out of the closet as well, for once the issue touches nadir, Indian cricket would hurt and the required cleansing would inevitably be performed. However, perhaps for the second time in 13 years, the plague has been brushed under the carpet. A league of extraordinary gentleman — Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman, to name a few — came to India’s rescue the first time around. Whether their successors can do the same now remains to be seen, but when the administration is opaque, one cannot expect the current bunch of players to solely pull Indian cricket out of this mess.

A Working Committee meeting was held to discuss the ever-growing conundrums within and pertaining to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) a few days ago. Although very few believe the outcome was fruitful, the most appalling part is that the primary issue, one that started this chain reaction, wasn’t broached upon. “What hurt me during the meeting is we should have discussed the system and not just individuals. We should have discussed how to cleanse the system and what wrongs have entered the game of cricket,” said Sanjay Jagdale, who resigned as the BCCI secretary in the aftermath of the turn of events.

The fact that the people at helm failed to contemplate on this problem clearly shows where their priorities lie.
Although beset with difficulties, the crisis did provide an opportunity for Indian cricket to start afresh. Had N Srinivasan, the protagonist and president of the BCCI, stepped aside the moment it was revealed that his son-in-law was under the scanner, he would have won the respect and, most importantly, confidence, of many. Or, he could have let an independent committee investigate and take appropriate action thereafter, based on unadulterated reports. Instead, it’d be fair to say that he set about covering tracks.

Currently, it still remains unknown as to who formed a three-member panel — comprising former secretary Jagdale and two retired high-court judges from Tamil Nadu — to probe the issue. In any case, nothing was spoken of the timeframe that was set to conclude the investigation, by any of the powers that be. It also remains unknown if the panel is still functional post Jagdale’s exit. There is also no news of the Ravi Sawani-led investigation pertaining to the three disgraced cricketers, despite it grabbing the headlines just a few days ago.

As a nation, India has seen a fair deal of political scams, and conspiracies, in recent years. And it’s well known that, in most cases, we’re yet to see a logical conclusion. Almost all of these issues have been swept under the carpet after an initial hullaballoo.  One tainted door opened another, and once a perplexing junction was reached, the matter was duly forgotten. Looking at the pattern, it’s worrying that the current crisis is headed down a familiar, sad path, and if the Indian cricket fan hasn’t been answered, the future of the sport could take a serious hit.

Despite the sombre revelations, the IPL play-offs and final saw packed stands, but perhaps that was because there was a glimmer of hope that good would surface after all that commotion. However, to presume that cricket will carry on despite the infidelity, and the silence of the head honchos at the happenings, would be naïve, for patience and trust, especially after it’s broken once, is not infinite.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal )