Only a ‘Swachh Cricket Abhiyan’ can save the gentleman’s game

Updated: Dec 11, 2014, 16:50 PM IST

In the year 2000, when my father told me about Hansie Cronje being caught in match-fixing, instead of being shocked, I laughed and said, “You must be kidding. He is a gentleman.” Minutes later, he switched on the television where every channel carried one common news item, it read – “Hansie Cronje caught in match-fixing, faces a life ban from all cricketing activities.” It shouldn’t have mattered much. But being an avid cricket fan, I was flabbergasted. I still couldn’t believe what I saw. Cronje, then the face of South African cricket and a true gentleman, was caught in a fixing scandal!

Under Cronje's leadership, South Africa had slowly begun to dominate cricket. Cronje, who led from the front and inculcated a sense of confidence within the team, which is now one of the most formidable sides in world cricket. While he was known for his leadership skills, it was hard to believe that a cricketer of his calibre could be lured by money. After denying the charges early on, the Protea later confessed before the King Commission, which inquired into the scandal, saying he had "an unfortunate love of money... I am not addicted to alcohol or nicotine, but I believe this is very similar to an alcohol problem.”

The gentleman’s game had been tarnished. It was a huge blow for cricket fans all across the world who felt a sense of anxiety every time a match was played.

In India, the sport witnessed an all-time low when several established Indian cricketers were accused of similar charges. Then onwards, most of my friends stopped watching cricket and since then, any match which is a lopsided affair, it is ‘fixed’ one for them! While they don’t understand the difference between match-fixing and spot-fixing, they are no longer willing to put their emotions and trust into the game.

But despite all the controversies, the majority of the crowd continues to watch cricket. At a time, when the 50-over format seemed slightly boring, the IPL was launched. It was something new for fans across the world, with glamour and several new faces attached to it. But with IPL, came power, with power came money, and with money came controversies. Since the launch of the cash-rich tournament, Indian cricket hasn’t been the same.

The recent report by the Justice Mudgal committee, in connection with the IPL spot-fixing and betting scandal, has only added more fuel to the existing fire. When it comes to individual players, the BCCI is very prompt in its decision making. But as far as cleaning its own system is concerned, there is hardly any action taken.

The highlight of the entire case is the list of nine names that hasn’t been revealed by the court till now. While the mystery around these names is yet to be solved, the guessing game has begun considering it includes the names of key cricketers.

What was most shocking to hear was BCCI’s appeal to the apex court, about not revealing the names of the cricketers ‘whose careers are at stake.’ The Mudgal committee was appointed for a non-biased inquiry into the matter. So what is BCCI trying to say here?

Moreover, when you think why the court has yet not revealed the names, you are forced to think of the big names involved.

The fans, who have invested their emotions into the game - don’t they have the right to know who these cricketers are? While players are hailed for the laurels they have brought to cricket over the years, they should suffer the ramifications if they have brought shame to it.

Moreover, more than the cricketers, the men who are running the game need to be sacked. The game needs a severe cleaning, from top to bottom.

While the inquiry is still in process, corrupt people tend to think that they can get away with the power and the money they possess. On that note, I would like to remind them about Hansie Cronje’s words while he confessed to being dishonest towards cricket.

"I was arrogant enough to think I would get away with it," he said.