Any match-fixers should have statistics wiped out

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Sunday, April 16, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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It was the ultimate irony. The day before the Asia XI versus World XI match was played to celebrate the ICC Cricket week, came the announcement by the Delhi police that they had filed an FIR against the South African captain and some of his team-mates for aiding bookmakers in fixing matches.

The ICC has been trying to globalise the game, but this revelation puts a dampener on that. It has also created a ticklish situation for now the relations between two friendly governments will be under strain and so hopefully every precaution will be taken to have a thorough and proper investigation so that nobody will have the opportunity to caste aspersions on our investigative agencies.

Remember there are people overseas who are waiting for a chance to show India in a bad light as was sought to be done before both the 1987 and 1996 World Cups, but the near flawless organisation of those events shut them up. It proved to them that a developing country could also organise big events and that efficiency is not restricted to the developed countries.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency in developed countries to believe that less developed countries have less integrity than their own. This comes with the arrogance of wealth where the feeling is that the poor, because of their situation, do not have any honesty. Come to think of it, even we who have domestic help are often guilty of that mode of thinking, for when some valuables get lost at home, don't we first suspect the domestic help even though they may have been with us for years?

We do that because we are arrogant enough to think that the less fortunate would resort to any means while we feel integrity is ours by virtue of the difference in wealth.

That is why it is important that every care is taken to see that there is no chance for the doubters to point fingers at our investigative agencies. Even if the investigation is slow, it does not matter as long as it is thorough, for there are reputations built over years which are at stake here.

One says this after the way investigations were conducted after Manoj Prabhakar's revelation a couple of years ago about a teammate approaching him to play at less than his best.

Prabhakar said then as he has subsequently that he brought it to the notice of the then team management, but as yet there is nobody who has actually questioned the team management whether it was done or not.

What is team management? It is a loose term for the manager (a board official) of that team, the coach, the captain and the vice-captain while the team is on a tour.

So the question to be asked is whether Prabhakar brought it to the notice of the entire team management or individual members of the management. If it was the former, then it automatically rules out Azhar and Tendulkar as the 'approacher' and it means that someone else in that team made the offer to Prabhakar, but if it is individual members of the management that Prabhakar told, then it will boil down to Prabhakar's word against the individual's.

The Board should get Prabhakar and the team management together and find out what exactly was said and to whom. This simple procedure has not been followed as people have tried to come to their own conclusions as to who would have approached Prabhakar with the offer.

Here too, depending on each person's likes or dislikes, names have been mentioned (not publicly) and so character assassination has taken place instead of getting all the parties together and trying to find out the facts.

Prabhakar, during the time he played for India, was a hundred per cent player, who gave every effort to the team. But in this instance, he has been less than 100 per cent for a while. It is understandable he has reasons not to name the player. But he could give some clue or a hint like whether the player is tall, short, bearded, mustachioed, slim, fat or some such, just as the former commissioner of income tax has said that a recent' former captain has declared Rs 16 crore in the VDIS scheme.

Thank god for that, or else every living former captain from Lala Amarnath onwards would have come under the hammer. Here too, the speculation about who it is has been unbelievable and no patience shown to find out who made the actual voluntary disclosure.

The simple thing to do would be to wait for the year's tax returns for the 11 plus crores that the person would have made 'official' after the deduction of 30 per cent of tax on the 16 crore should be part of his income and investments this year and surely that would not be too difficult to find.

But then, that requires patience and who has the patience when taking anybody's name and tarnishing it is easy because of the years libel cases take to come to a conclusion.

In the frenzy to scoop others, words have been put into others' mouths, interpretation of statements given in a way that is not always correct but inclined towards sensationalism, and less than hundred per cent commitment to the truth is part of life in today's world in the race to be ahead of others.

But the important thing to remember is: In trying to make your name and enhance your reputation, do not spoil someone else's unless you have incontrovertible proof.

As written in the previous column, if a player is found guilty of fixing matches, his name should be erased from the record books: every single statistic, not just runs scored and wickets taken, but even catches taken. That too at all levels of cricket. It should be as if the player never ever played a game of cricket and his name obliterated from the statistics forever, apart from what the law of the land decides as a punishment.

At the same time, those cricketers who falsely accuse other cricketers of malpractice should also have their statistics erased from the books in the same manner as those found guilty of wrong practices. After all, if they are going to tarnish somebody else's hard-earned name, then they should be prepared to put theirs up for obliteration as well!

Cricket has changed over the years, but who would have dreamt that the 'game' would have changed the way it has !!

Professional Management Group

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