More worms will come out of the woodwork

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Saturday, April 22, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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There is perhaps more mud-slinging than there are accusation and charges of match-fixing in Indian cricket at the moment.

It is very sad indeed that such a huge controversy, and undoubtedly the darkest in the history of the game, should be used as a convenient hate-vehicle to settle old scores and strike an inimical chord by friends-turned-foes, Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra.

In the midst of all this, the presentation in Parliament of the Chandrachud Inquiry Commission report has come as a mere whimper, and that on two counts.

First, with almost every cricket official, newspaper, TV network and website having already procured it and carried it in great detail, there was hardly anything that had remained to be made public. Secondly, the report itself and its findings, as expected, turned out to be as useless as a cricket bat without its handle. The good judge has wasted his time and the BCCI a good amount of money in having the inquiry, which did not even scratch the surface of the issue, leave aside undertake a thorough probe.

The report, as such, does a great disservice to what is indeed an enormous task faced by cricket administrators and the investigating agencies in getting to the very bottom of the cricketers' involvement in several betting and match-fixing episodes which, as it is now revealed, have widespread international ramifications.

The report and its conclusions succeed only in drawing a red herring across the likelihood of the involvement of Indian cricketers. The suspicion on this is high, for the rapid manner in which innuendoes are being fired by former players and officials here and abroad.

Just one break-through of Hansie Cronje's involvement with Indian bookie or bookies in a big betting and match-fixing scandal and his subsequent confession has opened up a whole, big slough of shady deals, in which many cricketers, not to mention officials, may be neck-deep.

It is a world cricket problem now and not one just confined to this country, what with Chris Lewis taking courage to name three English players and their involvement in match-fixing. Then Dr Ali Bacher, who for sometime, immediately after the Cronje expose, had played the role of South Africa's conscience-keeper, has done a complete about-turn and is now pointing out several instances of the past when, according to him, matches were definitely fixed, including a couple of them in the last World Cup in England.

Dr Bacher, who is aspiring to succeed Jagmohan Dalmiya as the ICC president in June, has also pointed a finger at Pakistani umpire Javed Akhtar, who, he claims, was suspended when he gave no less than nine LBW decisions against South Africa in the last Test in England in 1998.

Not to be left behind, Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower has admitted that he was once pleasantly surprised by his team's unexpected victory, much against the known form of the day.

"I do believe that a big betting syndicate exists which controls match-fixing anywhere in the world," he has said.

In Pakistan, Justice Malik Mohammed Qayyum has expressed his tremendous displeasure at his inquiry report not being made public. Unlike the Chandrachud report, the Qayyum report is understood to have named at least half-a-dozen Pakistani players as being involved in betting and match-fixing.

All the spokes appear to be attached to just one hub, as the wheel of big betting and match-fixing moves on from one venue to another, from the traditional to the non-Test playing, the latter being the more fertile ground for large-scale betting and match-fixing.

Being a world phenomenon, it is as much the business of the ICC, as it is of almost every affiliated member-country, to first detect and punish the guilty, then evolve a stricter, if not a fool-proof, code of conduct, as much for individual players, as for the member-countries hosting the matches.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, once a role-model for an ideal sports organisation, is in an absolute mess at the moment. The total ineffectiveness of their costly inquiry, at the hands of one of the highest legal luminaries in the country, showed the apex body to be too lenient to deal with major problems.

The constant crossing of swords on even the smallest of issues between the two factions, the minority Bindra group and the all-too-powerful Dalmiya clique, has made matters worse.

Inderjit Singh Bindra and Jagmoghan Dalmiya had put their heads together, one with his administrative skills and the other with his rare business acumen, to help multiply the BCCI's financial resources many times more through the new-found marketing avenue for the game and the exploitation of the tremendous potential of the world TV rights of major international matches and tournaments, hitherto untapped.

Finally the ambition of having a bash at the presidency of the International Cricket Council did the two friends apart. Both Bindra and Dalmiya eyed the post and refused to come to a compromise as to who it should be..

It is no secret that Dalmiya used an enormous amount of the BCCI funds, and that too in foreign exchange, to procure the support of the 22 associate members of the ICC, at the time of his election to the ICC president's post.

It is this bounty, total residual funds amounting to close to Rs 50 crore, that today form the grounds for public interest cases that have been filed against the BCCI. The apex cricket body's policies on the promotion of the game have also been questioned by litigants in New Delhi and Calcutta.

While Bindra has launched a relentless attack on the BCCI and its present office-bearers, Dalmiya in particular, and is also claiming that he has enough evidence to prove that the BCCI is shielding at least four players who are involved in match-fixing activities, Dalmiya and his cohorts, are, for once, on the defensive.

Bindra's claim that touring team managers had submitted adverse reports against some of the players, vis-a-vis their involvement in betting and close contacts with bookmakers, appears to have some substance, as at least two team managers have been known to have changed their original tour reports at the behest of the higher echelons of the BCCI. One such case was when Bindra was the BCCI president. He may have preserved the original report.

The manager of the Indian team for the last tour of South Africa in 1996-97, Sunil Dev, has several times gone public with statements that he suspected at least three players on that tour to have indulged in betting. Like Manoj Prabhakar, he has refrained from mentioning names.

The BCCI could not have got into bigger trouble than it finds itself in now. It is the price it has to pay for becoming too rich too soon.

The hi-tech marketing ideas of Jagmohan Dalmiya had made the BCCI the richest cricket body in the world. Money became more important for the BCCI than the game itself, with cricketers playing the role of highly-paid gladiators. While some complained of excessive cricket, others lapped it up. With so much of commercialisation, of the game and the players, it was not surprising therefore for more money, of the tainted variety, to find its way to the players through the medium of match-fixing.

Jagmohan Dalmiya's dream of globalisation of the game has indeed been soured by a group, or rather a syndicate, more powerful than he himself could build.

Bust it, or get busted could well be the dilemma facing the cricket administration. A lot is expected to come out yet in this summer of discontent for international cricket.

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