The sponsors aren’t lining up to be a part of the seventh season of the Indian Premier League. The Chennai Super Kings (the most successful team in IPL history) has been hit by the betting and spot-fixing scandal that hasn’t even spared the BCCI president N Srinivasan, and TV ratings are expected to take a hit too with the elections in India and all that Modi jazz.
The players, well, they don’t care – they play a game, rake in the moolah and a few rotten apples can’t be allowed to spoil the party for them all. The teams are worried but they would be more worried if the IPL shut down completely, but it hasn’t. Sunil Gavaskar, the interim BCCI president for the IPL, takes the tough line but he has no real power.
In the UAE and in India, fans are lining up for the tickets and of course, the coveted passes are always in demand. Bollywood stars are flying to the UAE to watch the opener. The ad and brand gurus will tell you India likes tamasha and that is what the Indian Premier League is. It’s entertainment and not cricket. In the UAE, the IPL has managed to find its way to the front pages of the newspapers bringing back memories of Sharjah in its heyday. In India, the pages are full of IPL news.
Here is the simple truth: We don’t care if the India Premier League is fixed. We don’t care about it as long as we don’t know how it is fixed. In fact, we now watch matches trying to figure out just what part was fixed. That is a new game, that is the new IPL and it’s just as exciting.
Sport has been fixed through the ages – athletes dope, they cheat, they dive and try to fool the referee/umpire all the time… they try and eke out every little advantage they can. It is an undeniable truth.
WG Grace is known to many as the ‘father of modern cricket.’ In his era, gambling by players on match results was widespread in England. Grace, himself, was widely known to be a habitual sledger - of rivals and umpires.
In his book, It's Not Cricket, Simon Rae described Grace as “tyrannical, domineering, intimidating” and a frequent cheater who would try to fool umpires and rivals with his comments.
In fact, Grace’s most famous quote comes from an exhibition match when, upon being bowled, he reset the stumps and told his hapless opponent: “These people have not come to watch you bowl. They have come to watch me bat.”
Of course, fixing is a lot more sophisticated now. It may involve towels, satellite phones and other leading technologies. It may also involve team owners, Board administrators and players attempting to cover up for their friends. It is far more difficult to spot unless you are a noob like Mohammad Aamir and overstep the bowling crease by the proverbial mile.
Which is why when we now sit with friends to watch an IPL match we not only marvel at the shots, the great catches and the superb bowling but we also try and figure out which parts of the game were fixed and that is far tougher to do because unless the fix is caught you will never know.
Imagine for a moment that India had won the recent World T20 tournament in Bangladesh. In the final, Lasith Malinga dropped a sitter to give Virat Kohli, then on 11, a life. The Indian batsman went on to make 77 and was the top-scorer for India by a big margin. So if India would have won, how many of us would have thought that Malinga’s drop was the fix?
The percentage would have been huge no doubt because as cricket fans we have seen the sport being hit by many fixing scandals over the years. Each time the ICC comes out and tells us they are taking measures to ensure that it won’t happen again. Each time the BCCI comes out and bans cheerleaders. But then again, fixing finds a way back to the surface. So much so that in the minds of many fans, fixing is part of the cricketing furniture.
We are all constantly second-guessing ourselves during matches – in our heart of hearts we hope that it is all real and pure but a part of us is never sure. We tell ourselves – this isn’t cricket, this isn’t the game we love, this is a new game. That’s how we attempt to ‘fix’ ourselves and the game we love.
Updated Date: Apr 16, 2014 12:47 PM