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The game-changers and twilight of a sport

The game-changers and twilight of a sport
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What was conceived as a gentleman's game with all British sensitivity has drifted to a new low. It has long become a commercial enterprise, a...

What was conceived as a gentleman's game with all British sensitivity has drifted to a new low. It has long become a commercial enterprise, a corporate business, glamorous entertainment and last but not the least �the punter's delight. It is anything but what it was intended to be in its earliest avatar. It has all the trappings of a sex appeal, musical extravaganza and an investor's treasure trove.

Many of its best players are millionaires not alone by sheer virtue of their artistic ability, but also by their entrepreneurship skills of selling their faces. The sponsors are turning into billionaires. The then IPL chief Lalit Modi had his own aircraft. The game has become a status symbol for some, a common man's routine, and madness for several in India. The cricketers' glamour outweighs that of Bollywood with an international tag to it.

Now, it is time for the game changers who reduced a thriving adventure to a new low. Sex carefully dressed as the sidelight entered the lives of cricketers and the game has gained a special lustre and spice to an otherwise sweat-inducing endeavour. And then the ear-splitting blare of high decibels.

The largest thrust has been that of the punters. They are playing the magical role of Irving Wallace's 'Almighty', making business on its unpredictability, and then manipulating and controlling it and eventually creating a result for a price. Gone are the days when the great gamble of the game and the erratic speculation was their investment. Not anymore. They can now regulate the game to suit their business deals and the happenings in the middle can be handled for a price. They can now design a well-organised screenplay that can be sold across the world through players for a price. It is a well-ordained plunder. It is not the genius of the players anymore, but the genius of the businessmen to subvert the game.

A gentleman's game had long lost its sheen by becoming a matador's kill, thanks to greedy youngsters who wouldn't mind swindling the dignity and splendour of the game, the magical presage to a gruesome monotony of spilling millions. For a player who cannot see a better tomorrow, this is the shortest route for material gratification and instant success. Those who drift into wilderness after a short stunted career want to make that extra buck. They hasten to graze the extra hay while the sun shines.

Sreesanth is a proven brat and his tantrums in the middle are legendary. He behaved on several occasions as a rugged street brawler. His fight with Hashim Amla in 2006, his beamers against Kevin Peterson after exchange of words at Trent Bridge (2007) when he had to forgo half his match fees, his cantankerous arguments with empires in T20 game, and the slap of Harbhajan Singh are but a few instances.

It is shocking that three youngsters --Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila- who were in the portals of their career chose to hit the rock bottom. Even more startling is that Sreesanth was with a woman companion in a SUV outside his hotel and in a highly inebriated condition when he was accosted by police. When he was intercepted by a team of policemen, he mistook them for accosting him for drinking and challenged them, saying that he knew the Kerala and Maharashtra Chief Ministers. He dared them to talk to them offering his mobile. And then he was arrested by the Delhi Special Police Cell in connection with the spot-fixing scandal. His two colleagues Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila as also 14 other bookies were arrested forthwith.

In the IPL season the betting money is to the tune of 47,000 crore. In the final match some 1200 crore change hands. On every IPL match six to eight hundred crore of bet money will be exchanged. Spot-fixing has become a specialization- an area of rare research - there are stunning 120 ways to spot-fixing in any match!

The meticulous method improvised by the bookies and players will make James Bond movie look like a pedestrian rock show. On May 5,9,15 when Rajasthan Royals played with Pune Warriors, Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai Indians- spot fixing was at its choicest best.

On May 9th alone, at Mohali, Sreesanth gave 14 runs in an over- and as a cue he kept his towel in his trouser pocket and dodged for a while to bowl to give enough time to bookies to take the bets. Police presented the video footage of the second over to the press. For this act, he received 40 lakh.

In April, a telephone number fell into the hands of the vigilance cell, when they stretched their dragnet and recorded more than hundred hours of footage - conversations between the players and bookies, play in the middle, various modus operandi employed in the process etc. During raids, the police seized 51 mobile phones, 5 laptops and a recording apparatus with loaded evidence.

The game is taking a steep turn for a dangerous transition. What was a sedate, peaceful, and relaxing pastime is becoming a gruesome, nervous, money-spinning charade. The fine travails of Bradmans and Viv Richards are being shelved to give vent to womanizers and gamblers, a transition unheard of and unspeakable. A When dignity and sensitivity are priced for marketing, when police and crime investigators and income tax sleuths take over the sport, it is time to expect the twilight of one of the finest forms of sport.

The game has become a status symbol for some and madness for several others in India. The cricketers' glamour outweighs that of Bollywood with an international tag to it

(gmrsivani@gmail.com)

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