Cricket was always considered a gentleman’s game, played in the right spirit and proper attire. Okay, there were few aberrations in the past, like in what is referred to as the body-line series, targeting the body than the stumps to get the batsman out! That was more to curb the greatest batsman of all time Don Bradman, who was at his rampant best! But generally, the game was to be enjoyed with family in tow for over five days, with even a rest day thrown-in! They were days before the instant-fixes that the game has been turned into! Obviously, this has attracted the jackals on prowl, looking for easy prey!
Though cricket originated in England with the Ashes series considered crème-la-crème in test cricket played between England & Australia, the sub-continent is where the passions have to be seen to be believed! When India & Pakistan play, it is more than a game that is at stake, like more than the sum of all parts! Also Sri Lanka, with a smaller population, is able to hold their turf against the best now. Add to these, Bangla Desh, a recent entrant, trying to square with the rest. So the following is over a billion people, willing their heroes, and some able to rise above the rest & winning games single-handedly, even!
Soccer has following across the globe, but has managed to be free from match-fixing allegations. Maybe, it is better organized, with checks & balances, and top players well rewarded. But in cricket, the match-fixers are able to net those even, who were thought to be infallible like former South African captain, Hansie Cronje, and couple of top Australian cricketers, who were guilty of minor infringements.
The ongoing row would shake the very foundation of faith & hope on their heroes. That even the captain & top few players of Pakistan are under scrutiny is too much to stomach. Also, they were willing to collude with run of the mill bookies for easy money could be a knock-out blow to the ordinary souls that used to get their fixes by fixating their lives on their heroes’ exploits! They would be prepared to accept repeated failures, hoping them to be future stepping stones to success, but the news of match-fixing would have blown away the safety valve from their daily humdrum, harsh lives!
The power of money in sports is killing the hen which lays the golden eggs. Earlier times, top players lived ordinary lives, were paid a pittance, but still played their hearts out for their countries! Now, the players are feted, assured of great rewards, with other avenues to make money from product endorsements etc. Their lives have become glamorous, moving with high society; taking them to the stratosphere, but also lifting them off the ground realities! Also, some top players live it up, especially in India, and the natural urge to catch-up with the best, with savvy fixers on the prowl, would net easy preys.
The poor man in the street is shell-shocked, having been snatched the cup that gives him the wherewithal to weather his life! Even those with occasional interest, cannot make any sense of the lows that the game has hit, with wild accusations flying around, with Pakistan cricket chief, accusing England of similar crimes! It is difficult to separate fact from fiction, with the beautiful game of cricket hijacked away from the spectators who lived their life around this sport & now brought down with a thud!
How to fix the match-fixing issue is crucial to bring back some semblance of sanity to the game & the followers! There is no doubt the ills of society is reflected in this sordid episode, with accusations flying high & low; all are guilty is the rhyme to deflect blame from real culprits! As stones are thrown from every direction, the humble cricket fan is caught in between! Money cannot buy happiness, but can be the root of all evil! Sadly, the whole issue has degenerated to mud-slinging, the real action outside the grounds! We need sane heads & united action, without raised passions, to curb this cancer from delivering the mortal blow to this beautiful game, referred to, ironically, as the gentleman’s game!