Fears of IPL becoming the launchpad for the mushrooming of state-level leagues without safety checks to prevent corrupt practices have come true. Two months ago, the BCCI’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) initiated an inquiry into Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) after some owners came under the scanner. Even as the inquiry is on, another scandal has surfaced. The league conducted by the powerful state unit of Karnataka has seen the arrest of two senior state players, one of whom was considered for national honours.
Every ACU chief would routinely sermonise on having match-fixing legislation, backed up by law to legalise betting, to end corruption in the sport. It has also been revealed by the ACU chief that over a dozen cricketers informed them about suspicious characters approaching them during the year. What came out of the inquiries is not known. It only shows how bookies continue to mesmerise cricketers.
When the disgraced IPL chairman and commissioner for three years, Lalit Modi was preparing the blueprint for world’s most popular league, one of the doubts expressed was illegal betting leading to spot-fixing, if not match-fixing. Modi agreed that no major league can escape illegal bookies penetrating the system, yet he thought BCCI was powerful enough to check such practices. He thought putting the fear of God in the players would do. The BCCI honestly believed that players would not risk their future when they were getting unbelievable sums. But what it did not realise was, not all get paid as handsomely.
Betting is a natural instinct. Even if it is not for money, just for fun to make a point that their understanding of the game is right. Shopkeepers, drivers and peons were attracted to the IPL and would ask “sir which team has a better chance of winning tonight” so that they could put some money just for the heck of it. That’s how it starts and soon they are all consumed by greed. These days you find bookies operating from every park and street corner. They thrive under “protection” of the law enforcing agencies. Only when they go out of hand, some are brought to book.
The networking is mindboggling. Some people indulging in betting knew little about the basics of the game. All they knew it is an avenue to make money. They start with betting on the result, but graduate into spot-fixing or other fringe bets like top-scorer, highest wicket-taker, number and run-outs.
Eventually, it was the spot-fixing in the IPL that engulfed the cricket administration leading to the Supreme Court setting up the Justice Lodha Committee to redraft the BCCI constitution and form a new governance model. Speculation over the involvement of some reputed players continues as their names remain in a sealed cover with the apex court.
Just like some leading players who got away from the 2000 international match-fixing scandal, some IPL players accused of spot-fixing were released after courts absolved them for want of evidence, though by then their careers were as good as over. Nobody bothered when bookies distributed money to punters at local and national events, be it cricket, table tennis, tennis and football. Now that the networking has gone beyond imagination, it is not easy to gain control over the illegal system which has turned monstrous.
After all the court battles, a cleaner system is supposed to be in place and the IPL Governing Council is apparently planning to introduce a “power player” concept to substitute a player at the fall of a wicket or at the end of an over at any point in the game. If approved, the bookies will have another component in their bookings!
(The writer is a veteran commentator. Views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)