Between Wickets | Cricket

When a crime emerges, the law must catch up quickly

C.M. Gautam and Abrar Kazi were arrested by the Central Crime Branch in connection with the match fixing and betting scam in the Karnataka Premier League.

C.M. Gautam and Abrar Kazi were arrested by the Central Crime Branch in connection with the match fixing and betting scam in the Karnataka Premier League.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Despite the television coverage — or perhaps because of it — T20 and T10 attract unscrupulous seducers more easily.

The shorter the format of the game, the greater the chances of it being misused by fixers and their ilk. The full story of the Karnataka Premier League’s ignominy is yet to emerge, but what we know is depressing enough. A former Karnataka captain, C.M. Gautam, is allegedly among those who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, which is a polite way of saying it. His teammate Abrar Kazi has been named too.

Despite the television coverage — or perhaps because of it — T20 and T10 attract unscrupulous seducers more easily. Perhaps it has something to do with fans’ indifference to match results. The increase in tournaments transforms a game of bat and ball into one of dollars and cents.

Authorities have suggested that the approaches made to some players in the KPL might have been handled by international players. If this is true, then pulling at the KPL thread might unravel other domestic tournaments too. There was a cloud over the Tamil Nadu Premier League too recently before a committee ruled there was no evidence of fixing there.

Human greed

You can have Anti-Corruption Unit officers, provide regular sessions to players on how to deal with approaches, and harp on the examples of players who have fallen from their perch because they succumbed to temptation. But you can’t legislate against human greed.

And until you have a law against fixing, there is precious little that can be done. It is two decades since fixing arrived at India’s doorstep, and some Test players were shown to be involved. But those caught still have to be held under the ‘cheating’ Act or, as in one case, the anti-terrorism law. This is ridiculous. The legislature lacks the political will to make fixing a criminal offence punishable by law.

As lawyer Nandan Kamath put it in Wisden India Almanack, “Match manipulation sits in plain sight of Indian cricket administrators as well as the country’s legislators. It has been seated there for over two decades. Yet not a single cricketer or official has been successfully prosecuted (although they have faced punishment).”

Big paydays

Between the lack of will on one side and the lure of big paydays on the other, the shorter formats of the game wrestle with credibility.

Spot-fixing has been characterized as a crime without a victim, unless the victims are the thousands who pay good money to watch an honest game of cricket with its ups and downs not being stage-managed. But there are other victims too: the sponsors, the television channels, the media, none of whom would like to be associated with a dodgy product.

Gautam is 33, knows that he is not in the reckoning to play for India (he transferred from Karnataka to Goa). The temptation to make a pile before hanging up the boots may be difficult to resist. In some ways, he is the ideal candidate for an approach, as someone who, cricket-wise, has nothing to lose. According to the Bengaluru police who are investigating the case, honey traps and blackmail are the standard tools of the operation. Young players with chips on their shoulders for having been ignored are seduced too. They see it as a way of getting back at the system while making some money.

Higher standards

Cricketers who are likely targets cannot be rushed out and locked up in five-star hotels or holiday resorts as our politicians are. This is not being facetious. If cricket reflects society, then we cannot complain if the cricketers mirror the behaviour of our so-called leaders too. Selling their souls to the highest bidder is common practice among the latter, so why should we hold our sportsmen to higher standards?

The reason is simple. We expect more from our sportsmen (and women — a woman player was approached and alerted the authorities earlier this year) because they engage in a field of human activity that is pure fantasy. We have set aside sport from, say, politics, because by common consent we need a space where the sun always shines, the sky is blue and everything is perfect. It is a fantasy, of course, but we need such fantasies to make up for the harsher realities in other areas.

Meaning to life

Sport is the most meaningless thing we do which gives life meaning. It is unreal. So when a sportsman allows reality to creep in and awaken us to the fact that the fantasy has been punctured, we are unhappy. We get depressed. We hold our heads in despair. We want those who step beyond well-laid out boundaries to pay for it.

We would like to be certain that a catch was dropped because that is the nature of the game, not because someone is, metaphorically, pulling the strings somewhere.

There will always be temptation, as there will always be greed. The authorities cannot eliminate either. But they can ensure giving into temptation may not be worth a player’s while.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:24:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/when-a-crime-emerges-the-law-must-catch-up-quickly/article30088062.ece

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