THE PRODIGAL SON
Even for Kerala, where nothing shocks anybody anymore given the deadly dose of our daily brutalisations, Sreesanth’s situation was a clear shocker. As the second Malayali in decades to get into elite cricket, he was a favourite son of the soil. He was the blue- eyed boy of the media and the state, a handsome eligible bachelor, a kind of young celebrity Kerala hasn’t had for a long time. People were proud of him and enjoyed even his foolhardiness. The news of his arrest was greeted with disbelief and dismay. It was like the shock of watching an icon crumble even as he covered himself with glory. The media went in for the kill with surgical glee. They were especially excited because they enjoyed the visceral challenge of demolishing with one hand what they had built up with the other. Of course they were also toeing the line set by the national big brothers— upholding the hypocrisy about IPL and what it has reduced cricket to.
Even those who had no interest in cricket sorrowed for Sreesanth because he was so young and a whole great future lay before him. The news of MCOCA brought in a fresh wave of sympathy. Gods had a heyday with people flocking to them for their favourite cricketer. This must have been their first brush with a cricket problem. The only thing Malayalis didn’t do for Sreesanth— but which is quintessentially Malayali— was to hold a demonstration against the government for whatever happened. Even V. S. Achuthanandan seemed not vibrant enough perhaps because cricket is not exactly his cup of tea. On the other hand, the reaction from those who wished to show off their ‘ moral’ correctness was swift. They discarded and disowned him without even waiting to hear the rest of the story.
If Sreesanth is indeed guilty, that makes him, at best, a gullible victim of the very industry he is working for— the Indian cricket industry. If the allegations of spot- fixing turn out to be true, what it means is that the cricketers were simply not half as clever as their bosses. The green horns had merely ended up supplying celebrity value to the police that was a hundred times more explosive than what they garnered from the usual, rag- tag, made- to- order ‘ terrorists’.
Sreesanth, at the end of the day, is a boy from the backwoods and does not possess the sophisticated tools to understand the world of the very, very, big money the IPL represents. If he indeed did what he is accused of, one doubts if he thought if he was doing anything unnatural. He was joining the crowd. This is not to condone his acts if he did commit them, but to understand the mechanics of bamboozling empires built on dishonest premises and, shall we say, filthy money. This is why one would describe Sreesanth and the other accused as victims, not criminals per se. What stands exposed is not just the IPL kala bazaar but also the Delhi Police’s attempt, full of dangerous portents, to entrap the cricketers and bookies in MCOCA. It was sheer good luck that a fair judge was in court and gave the accused bail.
That Sreesanth carries a burden of behavioural problems is not a secret. But the massive bashing by the media and as a result by sections of the public he and other accused were subjected to, seems disproportionate. More than the alleged crime of spot- fixing, what seems to be the crux is that their arrest has placed a large question mark on the IPL industry itself. The holy cows of IPL have been cornered by the arrests. There is no need to hide the fact that the electronic media in particular is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the IPL. Getting arrested seems to be the most unforgivable crime Sreesanth & Co committed because thereby they unwittingly opened a peep- hole into the sordid world of IPL finances. The hole will be plastered over soon but look at all the inconvenience caused.
Considering how Suresh Kalmadi could nearly swallow the whole Commonwealth Games and is at liberty rubbing shoulders with the high and the mighty, the hue and cry about Sreesanth & Co seems unreal and hollow. They are minuscule fry, mere cogs in the wheels of the Indian cricket factory. If they did what they are accused of, they were duping themselves and also getting duped because obviously they had no idea how entrenched and powerful the people they copied were. Kirmani said, “IPL is a circus of sorts.” It is a circus that has taken millions of Indians for a big ride. But the ringmasters in the cricket business and their partners in the media and the corridors of power know that we, the people, will never learn. Paul Zacharia is a Malayalam writer
and political essayist