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IPL : Paisa phek tamasha dekh

IPL : Paisa phek  tamasha dekh
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'I have told them Rs 60 lakh for one over of 12 runs.' 'No, I don't think that's possible. It will be too much.' Should I say yes?' 'Ok�I will move my...

"I have told them Rs 60 lakh for one over of 12 runs." "No, I don't think that's possible. It will be too much." Should I say yes?" "Ok�I will move my wrist band as an indication. He will tuck in a towel before bowling the second over." "Brother, give us some time before starting the over as we can start our booking." "Pichhle saal bhi to hua tha aisa, hisaab kar lenge." Excerpts of a taped conversation which expose cricket's disgusting underbelly of greed, deception, million dollar boys, big bucks grubby deals, heavy betting and spot-fixing in the on-going IPL. Paisa phek tamasha dekh!

It all started with the Delhi Police eves-dropping on hawala channels when it stumbled on IPLgate where hawala was used for payments to three Rajasthan Royals cricketers Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan by bookies for spot fixing three matches. The three players and 12 bookies were arrested on Thursday last. Not only money, the players and two bookies availed of 'escorts' service. Alas, the tip of the iceberg as with each passing day the scandal is getting bigger. Underscoring a betting nexus encompassing the shadowy underworld of Dawood Ibrahim aka D-gang, including his brother Anees Ibrahim from Dubai-Karachi-Mumbai, moving from the pitch into the pockets of other T20 players, matches and honey traps et al.

A mephitic cloud of corruption sans rules, boundaries and cronyism under which it prospers. Recall, spot fixing came to light in 2010 when a media exposé nailed three Pakistani players. Last year five players were suspended after being caught on camera, offering to fix IPL matches.

The moot point: With money becoming the driving force of the sixes, bumper, silly mid-off, first slip, LBW, googly etc has IPL clean-bowled the gentleman's game? Will the BCCI now demonstrate adherence to the professed zero tolerance principle? Will it crack the whip and ban those found guilty? Will we now have a sports legislation under which the offenders will be punished? Will the Government and its law-enforcing agencies act tough to make sure cricket does not lose all credibility?

Undeniably, brand IPL has taken a huge hit but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has only itself to blame for making IPL a glitzy dumbed-down entertainment with the sole aim of making money, leaving plenty of room for shady dealings. The tragedy is that it continues to fool itself and the people. Said President Sreenivasan, "The IPL is not fixed. The fault lies with the greed of the players," Really?

Pertinently, it has become a mammoth corporate conglomerate which lacks transparency and is all about wielding power and money. Worse, it has become another pocket borough of our netagan. Wherein crores are spent in deals over-the-table and under-the-table in keenly fought elections for the control over the BCCI. Imagine, its kitty is virtually the same as the budget allocation of a Union Ministry.

The tragedy of it all is the players have been protected by the Board for far too long and that has helped breed a sense of complacency. It is as if the BCCI is protecting the players to protect brand IPL. We now have an opportunity to prove that's not the case.

Can it simply fob off its duty? No. It failed to put in place various checks and balances and was caught napping. It has no investigative mechanism or policing system to keep tabs on the players, their off-field activities along-with their agents and hangers-on. Nor is there any comprehensive database of known bookies.

The onus is equally on the team owners. Cricket is not about looking glamourous, getting their two-minute-fame in the arc lights and giving sound-bytes to the media. In today's tech-savvy netzins world they have to keep an eye on their team.

Especially against the backdrop that IPL cricket has entered the age of sponsored gambling where 'free-market' forces have taken control of the sport. Reverse sweeps, ramp hits, dropped catches, no ball, 'tanked, thrown' and last ball finishes have become humdrum in the course of an IPL season.

Sadly, the scandal once again accentuates the ugly reality that cricket has less to do with sport and turned into a game of sab se barha rupiya. The decline in the game's standards is in direct proportion to the increase in the players' affluence. When a game is no longer a game but a commercial deal, why crib?

Tragically, the heady mix of glitz and glamour plus an insatiable craving for instant riches, bulging bank accounts, bankruptcy of scruples, shady whispers of underworld funds and omnipresent fixers appear to have taken control of the wheels of the IPL juggernaut. As succinctly encapsulated by ex Union Sports Minister MS Gill, "This is not cricket"! Think. The IPL brand in six years old and estimated at a whopping $6.13 billion, how?

As we come to grips with Spotgate, the time has come to rid cricket of rotten elements and restore fans faith who have been taken for a walloping ride by the player-bookie nexus. Are they seeing a legitimate match or a charade? Are all the matches fixed? Thereby, not only inviting ridicule but putting the game's edifice at risk.

To deter fixing, we need better and more surveillance, policing and strong sentences for those caught in the crime. As things stand, the BCCI should start by making the IPL's financial structure transparent, monitor closely the player-agent role, fix accountability, and think of imposing a life ban. Suspension of players will no longer do.

Clearly, rigorous imprisonment if proven guilty is the only measure that will ensure future generations aren't lured into the trap. We need credible proof that action has been taken to cleanse the game and the Board is willing to dig deeper to ensure corruption does not recur in future. Nothing else is acceptable and it is time the BCCI and law enforcers realise this.

Remember, the world over, a significant amount of underworld networks' income comes from gambling. The fixes come in only to tilt the odds decisively in favour of those putting it in. In India, this problem is compounded by another factor: Gambling is considered illegal here. This should change.

Betting and gambling need to be legalised. One, it would take organised criminal syndicates out of the mainstream betting market. Two, once betting becomes legal, any charge of fixing can be taken up in court.

Whether the game can regain some of its lost lustre depends on the BCCI and how serious it is in stemming the rot. Rather than focus only on spot fixing, it needs to fix everything that is wrong with the game so that it can begin a new innings. Mere words won't do. The BCCI will have to take a serious, hard and honest look as its flagship brand IPL which is at stake and rescue it from the Octopus-like grip of deceit and money. Whether or not it grabs the opportunity will determine the future of brand IPL. Will it survive as a credible competition or will it go down in history as a brand that corrupted cricket and cricketers forever? As the banality of evil!

Poonam I Kaushish

� INFA

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