Ipl7 TO­DAY’S Tight Race for Play­off Berths We Could have Set the Right Ex­am­ple Early On

The Economic Times - - Sports - V Ram­narayan

I re­turned to the pavil­ion proud that, batting at No 11, I had done my part in avert­ing the fol­lowon. A month later, dur­ing an­other match, I told my team­mate that that batting per­for­mance had given me greater plea­sure than all my bowl­ing ex­ploits that sea­son, caus­ing him to burst out laugh­ing: “They were not try­ing to get you out; it was all pre-ar­ranged. If they had led by 200 and had not en­forced the fol­low-on, it would have been ob­vi­ous.” I was shocked be­yond words. Worse, I felt in­sulted that my lit­tle rear-guard ac­tion had been cour­tesy a field­ing side that did not want my wicket. My hu­mil­i­a­tion was, how­ever, noth­ing com­pared to what my brother suf­fered when his two fight­ing knocks on an un­der­pre­pared wicket were de­val­ued by scep­tics, who knew that the match had been fixed by the mu­tual con­sent of the ri­val cap­tains. Throw­ing wick­ets or matches or cre­at­ing ar­ti­fi­cial re­sults via forced dec­la­ra­tions were, by no means, a com­mon oc­cur­rence in first-class cricket in the 1960s and 1970s, but not un­heard of. Only a ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours’ at­ti­tude be­tween two friendly teams at the ex­pense of a third, not pe­cu­niary con­sid­er­a­tions, trig­gered such un­sports­man­like ma­noeu­vres and sul­lied the game. This hap­pened at all do­mes­tic lev­els of the game, from the lo­cal league to the Ranji Tro­phy. I even took part in a league match in which the score­book was al­tered af­ter the bowlers re­fused to give away runs and re­frained from tak­ing tail-end wick­ets to en­able the op­po­nents to gain suf­fi­cient batting points to avoid rel­e­ga­tion to a lower di­vi­sion. Some­times teams had to slow down their wicket tak­ing to avoid be­ing pe­nalised for the slow over-rate; the penalty those days was in the form of match points, not fines, and teams could hardly af­ford that. I be­lieve these are the only cir­cum­stances jus­ti­fy­ing un­der­per­for­mance by any team. I wit­nessed at least one com­i­cal sit­u­a­tion de­velop when the team’s worst fielder brought off a spec­tac­u­lar catch while all his col­leagues were urg­ing him not to go for it. Lef­t­arm spinner S Va s u d e v a n — who led Tamil Na d u to t he Ranji t it le i n 1987—was once an­noyed with me for get­ting out to him when he was try­ing hard not to dis­miss me so he could main­tain the over rate. I had to re­mind him that it was he who had ap­pealed for an lbw. Bet­ting on cricket is as old as cricket it­self, and match fix­ing was­ram­pant­morethan200years ago in Eng­land too. Per­haps the first hints that the men­ace had pen­e­trated cricket in In­dia came in the form of mur­murs dur­ing the 1979-80 tour of In­dia by Pak­istan un­der the lead­er­ship of Asif Iqbal. Ru­mours flew against the Pak­istan cap­tain—of a de­lib­er­ately lost toss (when In­dia cap­tain Gun­dappa Vish­wanath be­lieved he had called wrong) and a first-in­nings dec­la­ra­tion short of the In­dian to­tal dur­ing that se­ries. A wheeler-dealer close to crick­eters boasted to some of us that he was a courier in the sor­did trans­ac­tions, but we re­fused to take him se­ri­ously, in­no­cent as we were, then, of the sick­en­ing drama that would un­fold in the com­ing decades. Granted that ‘ar­ranged’ matches to gain vi­tal points or tank­ing a match for strate­gic rea­sons— as Aus­tralia were sus­pected of do­ing in one of the matches in the 1999 World Cup—are not the same as match fix­ing for mon­e­tary ben­e­fits, but the dis­hon­esty be­hind them is just as in­ex­cus­able. Some of the crick­eters who col­luded to change the le­git­i­mate course of matches in first-class cricket in In­dia in the past were big names in the game. They were set­ting a poor ex­am­ple for the young crick­eters. If more of us had raised our voices in protest against un­savoury prac­tices, even walked out of shady matches, we could per­haps have helped nip the prob­lem of cricket fraud in the bud. I am not naïve enough to be­lieve that the temp­ta­tion of huge bribes is eas­ily tack­led, but young crick­eters should be made aware that all dis­hon­esty will be pun­ished, re­gard­less of the quan­tum of fi­nan­cial in­duce­ment. Ex­po­sure to the his­tory of the game and sport­ing ex­am­ples through lec­tures and films as part of an on­go­ing pro­gramme to ed­u­cate young crick­eters would seem equally im­por­tant. The au­thor is a for­mer do­mes­tic player and a colum­nist for

Wis­den In­dia

Ra­jasthan's Pravin Tambe cel­e­brates af­ter tak­ing a hat-trick against Kolkata on May 5

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