The day S. Sreesanth was arrested in Mumbai, a young receptionist of a private company in this north Kerala city, called up her husband and said: “So it is to watch these fixed matches that you stay up late into the night and disturb my sleep?”The husband did not reply. He was too stunned to speak. To think, even.And he is not alone. Every time a cricket fan learns about a match — or an over or a ball, for that matter — being fixed, often by a player whom he has always admired, he feels let down. He feels cheated.Cheated by someone he trusted so much, though he may never ever have met him.
One remembers the day the match-fixing raised its ugly head for the first time, in 1997. Breaking news wasn’t omnipresent those days, so one wasn’t surprised to find that one’s classmate from the schooldays hadn’t yet read the latest newsmagazine that had broken the story on how cricket matches were being fixed, and that too by iconic Indian cricketers.The friend, who breathed cricket and whose brother kept the wicket for the Kerala Ranji team, was crestfallen when he was told about the report. Then he showered choicest of abuses on the Indian cricketers named in the report.He vowed never to watch cricket again. He did not keep his word, of course. Because he could not resist the charms of this most seductive of games, for all the disgusting details of deception.Just as for all the fallen players, there would still be cricketers who could not resist the lure of easy money.Yet, spare a thought for the fan.Cricket fans have woken up at 3 in the morning to listen to commentary on an old Nelco radio, and have bunked classes even to follow non-India matches, long before cricket became the country’s only national obsession. The fans have got up at 4 a.m. and walked kilometers so that they could watch Channel 9’s unique coverage from Australia on the only television in the locality, where the terrestrial signals are hopelessly weak (the cable would arrive only years later).You are happy to sacrifice your work, your sleep, and your wife’s sleep too, for cricket. So you have every right to feel indignant when you realise that you have been an even bigger fool than the foolish cricketer who is willing to risk his career and reputation for a few lakhs of rupees.You could only smile when you read cricket administrators declare that cheating would not be tolerated and that offenders would not be spared. Your memory is not short enough to forget things like the Chandrachud commission.