Greedy, greedy gamblers

I have written about this some years ago but it bears repeating.

Nearly 15 years ago when the Hansie Cronje scandal had hit the headlines round the cricketing world, a top ranking police officer had told me there were only two honest men in the Indian cricketing team — Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly. They had never fixed a match and, in fact bookies were afraid of even approaching these two because they told them off in no uncertain terms each time the bookies tried and threatened to inform the authorities. The cop did not exclude any one else and I was shocked because there were many more iconic players in the team at the time – Ganguly and Dravid had not even made it as captains then.

“What about the rest? They are national heroes!’’ I protested.

“Well you think these were not?’’ he said, naming some past cricketers who had been very big names indeed. They all used to throw their matches but betting was more a cottage industry at the time. Soon the underworld got wind of it and got into it in right earnest. “We know who is honest and who is not. But we cannot always name the wrong ones and sometimes the laws are so structured that there is little we an do about it.’’

Much as the Delhi police has caught three Rajasthan Royals players in a spot foxing racket, the Bombay police too had not been probing cricketers to begin with. It was chasing the underworld for other crimes and stumbled upon their conversations with cricketers by accident. It took some time and effort for them to expose the racket and from what he told me I understood that it all began at a time when cricketers were underpaid and not earning in millions as they do these days. So I fail to understand why these three IPL players should have been so greedy and risked their careers and reputations when they are already hugely overpaid for league matches and could have gained little else by fixing their games.

It is ironic that this had to happen to one of the two honest men in Indian cricket – it would not have been easy for Dravid as he realised his team members were involved in spot-fixing. Stands to reason that that is now the new modus operandi of bookies for as the police officer told me more than a decade ago, a whole game cannot be fixed or thrown without the complicity of the coach and the manager and taking into confidence almost the entire team. Obviously, that era is now past and one bookies now have to look for people with low moral fibre and a high greed quotient. There will always be that kind in every walk of life and society.

I was not present at that event in the 1970s, one must blame the late actor IS Johar for starting it all for a lark. He was good friends with some one I am related to closely and I was told that at a party thrown for the Indian and West Indies team one evening, he just placed bets on who would win and who would lose the test match the next day. All bets were on West Indies winning and that team co-operated in whole measure with Johar. So India, which was expected to lose, won that match the next day.

But look at where West Indian cricket is today: they are hardly a formidable team and barring one or two players who are there on individual merit, we see no legends coming out of that part of the cricketing world any more.

India now is among the top cricketing teams of the world as West Indies was in the 1970s and for whatever it is worth I would hate to see our team go the same way. And this I say as no big fan of cricket, including the IPL which I think is a sheer waste of time and money and leaves me cold besides.

Yet I am shaken up by the scandal and can understand the emotions cricket fans might be going through right now. Moreover, this is one area where we dominate the western world. So why should we throw it all away? Why should we confirm their stereotype of us as `grubby, greedy Indians’?

Wasn’t it Mahatma Gandhi who said there is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed?

Well, the Indian Premier League just proved that.

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