A great game should not suffer   (24 Jun 2000)

Indians did not take much interest in matches during the recent Asia Cup in Dhaka. This may be because of the Indian teams losing to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But, this alone was not the reason for detachment of Indians from the Dhaka series.

It appears that due to past incidents and certain unsavoury happenings cricket lovers are gradually losing interest in the game, which is a very dangerous indication. A great game should not suffer because of certain individuals and crooks.

Cricket is in our blood. Irrespective of age, people watch it in our country and probably that is why it is the most commercial game in India. There may be anguish and hatred against cricketers, but it should not be against cricket. One should not forget that probably this is the only game in which India has earned fame at the international level on several occasions.

If we have lost some tournaments, we have won several of them. Who can forget the 1983 World Cup match, when India won.

I do not hold a brief for sinners of the game or do not intend to defend those who tried to cover them up. But, in every society, if there are good people and bad elements too.

Good governance always cleans up bad elements as quickly as possible. In this case too, in the world of cricket, the guilty and betrayers of our nation must be identified immediately and punished.

South Africa has instituted a commission, which is day and night recording evidence. It seems that the commission will, within the stipulated time-frame, submit its report. It will be a reprieve for those not guilty, but under suspicion. It will clean up cricket in South Africa shortly.

In our country, the Central Bureau of Investigation should hasten investigations and submit its report as early as possible. If this investigation continues like the Bofors gun deal probe, there will be so much mudslinging that people will curse cricket and not the culprits. The game will be the loser, and not those responsible for the mess.

Those like Manoj Prabhakar have also lost public sympathy. Nobody considers him above board. His whole act seems to be as if among the thieves, who exposes whom first. One who can bargain money for making disclosures should not be considered genuine. At the same time it is wrong to believe that all cricketers are clean and are unnecessarily being blamed.

Some players are so greedy that they can stoop to any level. As media and cricket circles suggest, these names are quite obvious. It will be better if the focus of inquiry is on them, as it will save a lot of time of the investigating agencies.

So far it seems that three-fourths of the Indian team is absolutely clean and players like Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Robin Singh and Rahul Dravid are of high integrity. For three or four persons, why should the entire team suffer the ordeal of investigation, which includes tapping of telephones, surveillance and media accusations?

However, one cannot give a clean chit to anyone after the Hansie Cronje revelations. He was a very serious looking captain, who used to command tremendous respect globally. Nobody ever expected such behaviour from him. Today, he is disgraced, taking shelter under religion.

The manner in which disclosures are being made by South African players, it seems like he got carried away by Satan a hundred times, unless the Delhi Police mentioned the name of Hamid, a conduit. On several occasions, he had offered money to all players of his team and he has been into this for more than four years. Pat Symcox, in his confession to the Kings Commission, said that a current member of the Indian team, who is internationally reputed, had offered him money for matchfixing. The CBI must swing into action to find this man.

Finally, the Indian board and CEOs of the corporate world must not make present players billionaires. Let them be millionaires and their earnings through commercials should be deposited in funds, where they get the interest. After they call it a day, the money should be handed over to them. A billionaire with a lavish lifestyle, looking after several business interests and establishments, cannot play on the field, in scorching heat, with total concentration.