Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Sports and Games

Cricketers in jail

On 3/11/2011 for the first time cricketers were sent to jail for spot-fixing. Salman Butt was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment. He was the captain. Mohammad Asif was sentenced to one year imprisonment. Mohammad Amir was sentenced to six months detention. He was 18 years old when he bowled the no ball. Mazhar Majeed the fixer was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment.

On earlier occasions cricketers found guilty of match-fixing were banned for life or for some years. There was no imprisonment. In this case it happened in England. Southwark Crown Court in London sentenced the cricketers to jail. The punishment could have been seven years for accepting corrupt payments. The cricketers got off lightly. Other countries can follow England’s example and prosecute cricketers involved in match-fixing or spot-fixing. In India they can be prosecuted for cheating and criminal breach of trust or treason. There is no need for a separate law for match-fixing or spot-fixing. In England the cricketers were prosecuted for conspiracy to cheat and accepting corrupt payments.

Spot-fixing was exposed by News of the World which closed down some months back due to the revulsion caused by its phone-hacking of a dead victim. ICC’s anti-corruption unit did not discover any match-fixing or spot-fixing. Veena Malik had exposed Mohammad Asif’s connection to an Indian bookie and no action was taken.

Jail term will act as a deterrent to cricketers who want to engage in illegal activities. They may not think much about ban for a few years or a life ban but going to jail is not a prospect they relish.

Besides cricketers, umpires and officials also should be investigated for match-fixing or spot-fixing. There have been dubious decisions or wrong decisions. Sometimes officials interfere in the game. The investigation can begin with Jaywant Lele who had predicted India would lose Test series 0-3 in Australia when Sachin Tendulkar was the captain. Either he was a match-fixer or he knew the match-fixers. The argument that it was a coincidence that his prediction came true is not valid. There are no coincidences.

Too much cricket

There is the story of a man who killed the goose that laid golden eggs. Similar is the case with BCCI.

Recent ODI series in India against England witnessed large number of empty seats in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mohali, Bombay and Calcutta. There was drop in television viewing. The law of diminishing returns was at work. Within six months of World Cup interest in cricket had declined. During World Cup there were long queues for tickets for matches played by India and in some cases there was lathi charge. For the past four years there have been Tests, ODIs and T20s one after the other and people were bound to lose interest at some point.

When IPL began it provided an alternative to people fed up with K serials. Soon K serials disappeared. In 2009 and 2010 T20 World Cup was after IPL. In 2011 IPL was after ODI World Cup which India won and there was less interest in IPL.

Many cities host at least one Test or ODI every year. In those cities people have spent enough money and seen enough cricket. At one time when Tests were few and there was no TV in most parts of India every stadium used to be full for every Test. Then came ODIs, more Tests and spread of TV. Crowds for Tests in stadia declined. ODIs had full crowds. Then ODIs featuring India had full crowds and other ODIs had less spectators, sometimes very few in a stadium. Now even ODIs featuring India do not have full crowds.

Many Indians watch football and car race and interest in cricket is likely to decline. With less people watching there will be less money and that means decline of BCCI’s clout. That may mean politicians and businessmen leaving BCCI and cricketers running BCCI.

Whitewash in England

India lost the Oval Test by an Innings and eight runs on 22/8/2011 and with that lost four Tests in succession after many years. It was in Oval in 1971 India had bundled out England for 101 in the second Innings and won a Test and series in England for the first time. Last time India lost all four Tests in a series was in 1967-68 in Australia. India, who were No. 1 in Tests before the series began, now rank No. 3 in Tests. How the mighty have fallen!

Rudra Pratap Singh who was not in the reserves and who had not played a Test for two years got a chance to play in the Test at the cost of Munaf Patel who was in the reserves and had played in West Indies. India’s poor bowling was made worse by poor fielding. Gautam Gambhir dropped a catch and got injured. Rahul Dravid carried the bat in the first Innings and in the process surpassed Sunil Gavaskar’s 34 centuries and became the third Indian to carry the bat after Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag. He was out to a dubious decision under UDRS in the second Innings. If Hot Spot cannot be conclusive the money spent on it is a waste.

For the first time in the series India scored 300 in the first Innings. Too bad they could not repeat it in the second Innings. England had 291 runs lead and enforced follow-on unlike India in 2007 who did not enforce follow-on in spite of having 312 runs lead.

English players were generous to Sachin Tendulkar and dropped catches so that he may score a century but he was LBW on 91. Suresh Raina scored a pair. Amit Misra scored 43 in the first Innings and 84 in the second Innings and compensated for his failure in bowling.

The series was plagued with injuries. Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Virender Sehwag and Ishant Sharma suffered.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems secure as captain because many players who could have replaced him are injured. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are ex-captains. If V. V. S. Laxman had hit a century he could have been a contender.

The series began with euphoria and ended in despondency. There is ODI series ahead to be followed by a T20 match. Expectations are low and there will be no surprise if India lose all matches.

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