India should legalise betting to stamp out corruption in cricket, said former England captain Geoffrey Boycott who feels the menace of fixing, which has currently dented the Indian Premier League’s reputation, emerges more frequently in the Asian countries.
“The way to stop it altogether, except for the odd one — but we’re getting too many at the minute — is this business of making betting legal in India. It’s illegal, so people do it,” Boycott told ESPN Cricinfo.
“When beer was illegal in America during prohibition, you had all this illegal drinking and all these mafia-type people and so forth involved. And so you’ll get the worst type of society involved in betting, from the bookies and that sort of people, when you have something that people want to do but it’s illegal,” he said.
But Boycott said it would take a lot out of the Indian Government to decriminalise betting given that it doesn’t “like change“.
“Many people have suggested to the Indian Government that making betting legal at cricket, like it’s legal in horse racing and so on, would stamp most of it [corruption] out,” he said.
“But you know what it’s like. Trying to explain to the Indian Government, they think you are telling them something, they don’t like it and they don’t like to change,” he added.
The former batsman and noted commentator felt that the problem seems to creep up more frequently in the Asian region than any other part of the cricketing landscape.
“We don’t seem to get it in other countries. It seems to be around in Asia. And that’s not me being against Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis.
“You know me, I love that part of the world. They are very kind and good to me, particularly the Indian and Pakistani people, where I’ve been a lot,” Boycott said.
“But I’m telling you the truth, it seems to surface in Asia. And once you’ve got all this money floating around in a huge game with millions and millions involved, you’re going to get problems. It’s going to resurface again,” he added.
The Englishman, however, conceded that it would be impossible to completely root out corruption from the game.
“...Irrespective of how many safeguards or preventive measures you introduce, human nature being what it is, there’ll always be the off person that tries to beat the system, tries to do something illegal, that’s always going to happen. It’s not just about cricket. In anything, it’s always going to happen,” he insisted.
“But it is coming up too often and it’s still there. And whether we like it or not, it comes up with Asian players. It came up with the Pakistani lad playing for Essex (Danish Kaneria), didn’t it, the leg-spinner? So it always concerns me and should concern everybody...,” he added.
Boycott said with the police unearthing the latest scandal, it is clear that the anti-corruption units of both the ICC and the individual Boards have been largely ineffective.
“...it wasn’t the ICC or the BCCI’s anti-corruption wing that found out what was happening. All this money is being spent by cricket and they never come up with anything. It’s the Indian police that find it,” he said.
Boycott said one reason for corruption in the game was the huge gap in the earnings of top players and the relatively junior pros. “I think when you have a situation like the IPL, where four players in a team — I know sometimes they have six or seven (such) in a squad — have huge, huge money and then you’re talking about four, five or six of the local Indian players who are not getting paid very much, you have a situation that’s waiting to explode,” he said.
“...when they don’t get paid much money, it’s very tempting.
“You see people getting a million dollars, people like Kevin Pietersen get paid $2 million if they play the entire series, and (if these others) are getting peanuts, then they are open to the bookies,” he said.
Surviving the crisis
Boycott, however, was of the opinion that IPL would survive the crisis if scandals like the ongoing one are not repeated in future.
“When anything like that happens, it does hurt it a bit.
“But I don’t think people are stupid enough to say, ‘Hey, this is all the IPL.’
If somebody robs a bank in Yorkshire, it doesn’t mean Yorkshiremen are corrupt, does it? It’s the same here,” he said.