It is all nice to say that fans deserve fairplay, not cheating and corruption. Yet, allegations of betting, spot-fixing and match-fixing keep sprouting in the world of sport, and corruptors seem a step ahead of the sports authorities and the law enforcement agencies.
And it is difficult to catch thieves when hundreds of players are playing the game all over the world, more so in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Afghanistan has just got into the big boys league, having played their first Test match against India a few months ago. Of the big four, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have won the World Cup and all three are troubled by the nefarious activities of their players.
Bangladesh is seen as a rising team, but they, too, have caught up with the other three in matching their high levels of corruption.
It is not that only the subcontinental sides are corrupt, some of the top players from South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies have also faced allegations, charges and got punished.
Some were even jailed, too, while some others were discharged by the courts of law on technical infirmities in the prosecution. A couple of them successfully challenged the charges and got hefty compensations.
The names of players who have been banned or suspended for indulging in corrupt practices is public knowledge. The new element that has crept into corrupting the game is the mushrooming international leagues, the Indian Premier League showing them the way.
Corruption in cricket is back in board rooms and coffee table discussions, courtesy the Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, admitting that he had indeed fouled the English cricket atmosphere with his despicable spot-fixing almost a decade ago, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) charging the legendary Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya with non-cooperation in its ongoing investigation into Sri Lankan cricket.
While disclosing the Jayasuriya case, the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit General Manager Alex Marshall also mentioned something that he, perhaps, thought a revelation, that most bookies operating around the world are Indian, without saying why his agency is unable to fix them.
It took six years for Kaneria to have a change of heart after vehemently denying that he had any role in spot-fixing during an Essex-Durham 40-over NatWest game in 2009 and accusing the jailed teammate Mervyn Westfield of ruining his cricket career by dragging him into it.
Kaneria, 37, who has been banned from playing in England by the England and Wales Board, had a successful career, having been the fourth highest wicket-taker with 261 Test wickets behind Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan.
Kaneria got his script well written and rehearsed to say “he can’t live a life of lies” and like a saint with a past, apologised to Westfield, his Essex teammates and his own family.
The charge against Kaneria is that he pressurised Westfield to bowl an over costing 12 runs, and for that got paid 6,000 pound sterling, though he conceded only 10. For that the medium-fast bowler was jailed for four months.
As if on cue, the Essex Police said they would be reassessing the investigation in the wake of Kaneria’s admission.
Coming to Marshall, he sounded like President Donald Trump, who expressed his helplessness in imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia.
Like Trump, who says placing sanctions against Saudi Arabia will hurt the Americans more than the Saudis in view of their sale of arms and military equipment to Riyadh, Marshall seem to imply that taking action against the Indians will hurt the world cricketing body more than the Indians!!
Marshall, however, had no hesitation in saying that the island nation’s case involves both local and Indian corruptors. He picked 12-20 active corruptors, six of these the players should be careful about, and showed their pictures to the England and Sri Lankan teams which are now playing a bilateral series in the island nation.
Jayasuriya’s case is surmised to be one of a couple of ongoing investigations into alleged corruption in Sri Lanka and many, including former captain Arjuna Ranatunga, believe that it could lead right up to the top of the cricket set-up and players.
Shockingly, the probe relates to the time Jayasuriya was the chief selector for a second time in 2016-17 when Sri Lanka lost the final match for a 2-3 series defeat, raising doubts about the team’s effort.
If what Ranatunga and others say is true then it only reaffirms the role the officials and influential players play in corrupting the game.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])