Imagine Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly walking in to
open the innings with Wasim Akram and Shoiab Akhtar set to open
the bowling for Pakistan.
Imagine that it is the final of some Cup and the only people in
the stadium beside the players are the officials, scorers, drinks'
guys and the umpires.
Imagine Sachin cracking the
first ball he faces from Akram to the cover boundary
and instead of the roar of approval there is just pin-drop silence
as he trudges back to face the next delivery.
Also imagine that there is
no mention of the match in the morning papers.
Imagine cricket is dead!
With gentlemen no longer playing the game, and bookies and 'higher-ups'
deciding the outcome of the match much before the first ball is
bowled, the day isn't far when cricket will be played in empty
stadiums. Talk about cricket to any once-eager enthusiast and
the response is amazing. The hurt and bewilderment is there, plain
enough for all to see.
With every passing day, the betting scandal gets murkier and murkier
with no one coming forward with solutions to clear up the mess.
There are only allegations and counter-allegations. Everyone with
a cricketing connection says they will give out the names at the
'appropriate' time. And now we have former Pakistan skipper, Imran
Khan saying that a 'suspicious character' (bookie) had named a
few Indian players for alleged match-fixing during a tour to India
way back in 1977!
With fresh skeletons tumbling out of the closet every day, where
do we, the paying public, stand? If cricket today is almost a
religion in the sub-continent it is thanks to us, the spectators,
who spend hours together before the television sets following
the fortunes of a match, or thronging the stadium braving the
scorching heat to procure tickets. How many times have we not
jumped for joy after an Indian win and felt dejected for days
after India has lost a match. The instances are countless. Now
comes the numbing blow that those losses may have been manipulated!
When Hansie Cronje's name first cropped up in the match-fixing
scandal, he denied having anything to do with it. But then, sleep
eluded him and he came out with the truth that he had not been
'entirely honest'. South Africans were stunned as the confession
opened a can of worms. Dr Ali Bacher who has been instrumental
in South Africa's cricketing success has initiated an inquiry,
result of which should be out by the end of May. This only goes
to show that the South African Board is hell bent on bringing
the guilty to book.
In comparison, how honest has the Board of Control for Cricket
India (BCCI) been? The Justice Chandrachud Committee set to look
into the match-fixing issue in India after Manoj Prabhakar's allegations,
and the Justice Quayyum exercise in Pakistan, seem to be an eyewash.
Like they say, there can be no smoke without a fire. It's time
the paying public decide that enough is enough. If big corporate
houses are queuing to sponsor matches, it's because the reach
of the game is far and wide, and the benefits to the sponsors
manifold. But come to think of it, what will the sponsors gain
if televisions are off and stadiums empty during matches?
Manoj Prabhakar wants protection and only then will he reveal
the names of the 'offenders'. Pataudi and Bishen Singh Bedi want
the CBI to take over the investigations. The BCCI were to take
a decision to make the Chandrachud report public in a meeting
on April 18. Inderjit Singh Bindra says that Jagmohan Dalmiya
is in the grip of the mafia and loan-sharks. Dalmiya says that
Bindra is demented. Azhar says matches can't be fixed. Jadeja
says Cricket is a religion. Mongia asks, what is fixing? Sachin
says no matches have been fixed....
I say we have been taken for a ride. What do you say?