India Today - - UPFRONT -

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

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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