One day it had to happen – sadly, but for the good of cricket, of us all... one day the dark side of cricket had to be brought to light by the law; the law of the land, not the law of cricket and the greedy people who run it – the law of the land, which has finally passed judgment that certain players, openly named and condemned, committed acts of illegal treachery on the cricket pitch, and deserve to be punished for it.
These players are no longer shadows or rumours or whispers – they are flesh and blood, bowler and batsman, player and captain, dated and caught, in detail, with statistics and words and records. They are criminals and they have been named and caught and now punished.
One day it had to happen – and it finally has.
Seventeen years ago, in 1994, three Australian players, Mark Waugh, Tim May, and Shane Warne, were ready to go to court to prove that Saleem Malik had offered them bribes to fix or ‘spot fix’ a match.
But this effort was swept under the carpet – or under the covers – and rolled over with both light and heavy rollers, and cricket carried on as if nothing had happened. If, at that time, the people who were running cricket had had the guts to face the truth, we may not have ever seen the proceedings we have just witnessed in an English court – but cricket in 1994 was just entering the era of big money, of the Dalmias and their ilk, and the last thing they wanted was for the golden goose to stop laying golden eggs.
Seventeen years of money and more money, cricket and more cricket, gambling and more gambling, more and more Sanjays and Mukeshs off the pitch, and more and more Butts and Asifs on it.
We failed miserably to learn a lesson then; we even failed to learn a lesson now, for it was not the ICC or any country’s board who brought these three players to task, but a court of law in England, totally off the pitch, just as Hansie (Cronje) and then (Mohd) Azhar were not caught by the Dalmias of this world, but by the Delhi police, investigating something which had nothing to do with cricket — or so they thought.
So, in fact, we have not learned a lesson – not yet. The cricket we love has been torn apart from deep inside, and there is no way the people running cricket – the ones playing it, commentating on it, writing on it – did not know the truth. But did they speak up about it? Except for a brave few, the answer is ‘no’ – a sad, definite ‘no.’
And before we start pointing our fingers at a particular country or a particular religion, let us hang our collective Indian heads in shame – almost all of the Sanjays and Mukeshs who plot the ‘spot-fixing’ and pay for it, are from our country.
I can think of no more cowardly way to make a fortune; no more ‘unmanly’ way – than this. To pay people, people playing for their countries, to under-perform or ‘fix-perform’ for obscene amounts of money. You Sanjays and you Mukeshs – are you men? are you human?
When you ride around in your flashy cars with your flashy clothes and watches – how can you feel proud of yourselves?
And we, as a nation, why do we worship those cars and clothes and watches without questioning where they came from?
The three players have sinned, and have been punished. I just want to see Sanjay with them in jail and for much, much longer.
A time was fixed for this to happen — and it did. May we learn a bitter, bitter lesson and play on, for cricket is still the most beautiful game in the world.