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The BCCI's decision to impose a life-ban on Sreesanth for his alleged involvement in match-fixing, has evoked mixed emotions from players and fans alike. While many have welcomed the board's tough stance, others have been left perplexed by the fact that such a harsh punishment was handed even before the Patiala House Court's verdict was out. Nirmal Shekar, writing for the Hindu, too believes that the board might have jumped the gun in order to find a scapegoat.
A lynch-mob mentality has always come in handy for men in power in this country -- no matter whether it is politics or sport or whatever. Law may be blind, but in the BCCI's case scapegoating is done with great relish and with eyes wide open. There is absolutely no attempt here to build up a case for Sreesanth & Co. But the law should take its own course. The Board believes it is a private body ... and it cannot pronounce judgments on critically important ethical issues when cases are pending in courts of law.
The BCCI's internal probe regarding the spot-fixing scandal has raised questions about the credibility of the board and the manner in which it conducts the IPL. In his column for the Mint, Ayaz Menon says that, even as legalities and rules fall in a grey area, taking cognizance of public sentiment is an important step for the BCCI, if it has to assure the public that it stands for the benefit of the game.
Recasting the dos and don'ts for administrators, franchise owners, their friends, players, et al in the IPL is an immediate imperative. Appointing an ombudsman and a couple of independent members on the governing council would have great value too. There are just too many loose ends to make for full credibility, as has become evident over the past six years--this could be detrimental to the brand value of the IPL. Taking cognizance of public sentiment would be an even bigger step in the right direction. I am not in favour of cricket coming under the control of the government, but being open to scrutiny under the right to information (RTI) law is not necessarily a bad thing.
In Caravan magazine, Prem Panicker comments on the culture of a 'moral safe-house' within the BCCI, a result of the fact that the board has done little to guard itself against corruption as was evident from the recent instances of conflict of interest within the board.
The problem is rooted in the fact that in the years since 1996, the BCCI perfected to a fine art the business of cricket, and brought unimaginable wealth into the sport, without any revision of operating procedures to guard against corruption. Thus means, opportunity, and the ability to rationalise aberrant behavior--the three classic elements of the fraud triangle--came together. And to this, the BCCI systematically added a fourth element as a safety net: over-arching political patronage.
With the IPL facings its toughest credibility test, the Indian Express' editor-in-chief, Shekhar Gupta, highlights the flaws in the governance of the tournament, including the conflicts of interest that border on corporate fraud and "cricketing permissiveness". The controversy, he says, has presented the BCCI with a critical choice where they can either make the IPL a serious cricket league or reduce it to a mere spectacle.
Some controversy hits the IPL every year. But this controversy is by far the most crippling. Because this has put the credibility of the very league in doubt. It has brought criticism and apprehension to the minds of all kinds of stakeholders, from politicians, who want to nationalise the BCCI or ban the IPL, to Pepsi, which may want out as its lead sponsor. This time, the BCCI cannot blame a mere individual and hang him. Nor can it rely on the old cynical and lazy notion that cash will solve all problems. It has to clean up not just the IPL, but itself, make a promise of transparency and offer itself voluntarily to some kind of an impartial, outside oversight, if not RTI
The sting operation on the umpires show that the problem of match-fixing is not just limited to the players. However, a likely solution to the problem is hidden in the grainy video shown in the news channels, argues Sandeep Dwivedi in the Indian Express.
For years old-timers have moaned about the fading importance of on-field officials but in these depressing times the need of a virtual eye on all actions that influence the result can't be overstated. Umpires may feel redundant because of the advent of infra-red imaging, ball-tracking technology and super sensitive sound receivers on cricket fields, but when trust is lost, second opinions aren't just advisable, they should be made mandatory.
Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, questions the lack of consistency in the penalties handed down to Salman Butt and Danish Kaneria. Butt was convicted and sent to prison, but still has a chance of resuming his cricket career after serving his ban. Kaneria - not convicted of any offence in court - was given a life ban by the ECB and the door for a possible return to cricket remains shut.
None of this means that the inequity, in terms of Kaneria, is wrong but rather it is the relative leniency bestowed on Butt that is at odds with the seriousness of his misdemeanour. Despite warnings Kaneria kept the worst of company and at the very least was the cynical ringmaster of a circus intent on maintaining immense corruption within the game.
The Mervyn Westfield case proves that the spot-fixing malaise is not restricted to players from any particular country, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian. Inconsequential domestic matches will only encourage temptations, he says.
On the broader front this tawdry episode might resonate with county committees and the England and Wales Cricket Board when they reconsider – yet again – the Morgan report. Westfield's demise came about in a meaningless match at Durham, which happened to be televised and which was therefore available in the subcontinent. It was the ideal game for a spot of fixing since no one beyond Chester-le Street and Chelmsford cared a jot about the outcome.
Sir Paul Condon, in the Daily Telegraph, says the ICC should also consider punishing national boards if their players have been found guilty of being involved in corruption.
So what is the best way forward? The ICC must have the courage to support its current anti-corruption infrastructure. More resources may be necessary to monitor the growing volume of matches and tournaments. The ICC must insist and ensure that every national board, team management and tournament organiser has accredited measures to prevent and detect malpractice.
In future, if cricketers are found guilty of corruption, consideration should be given to punishing national boards and if possible tournament organisers, if they have been negligent with regard to the guilty behaviour.
In the National, Osman Samiuddin says the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit has done more than its critics think to curb corruption in cricket, and needs our trust.
James Lawton, in the Independent, says that while member boards or the ICC may not have done enough to eradicate corruption in cricket, the sport should have someone to meet Mohammad Amir and tell him he can still make use of his gifts upon his release.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan remains at the head of those unimpressed by the decision of the ICC to ban Amir for a mere five years. Vaughan says there should be no quarter, that Amir has forfeited the right to play the game for which he was so superbly endowed. He speaks, persuasively enough, of the need for a deterrent.
Yet the value of a deterrent has always been in direct proportion to the means of enforcement and how does that sit with the feeble record of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit in the Pakistan affair?
The same paper carries a report on the "demeaning conditions" at Wandsworth Prison, where three of the accused could be in for a tough time.
In the Express Tribune, Imran Yusuf writes that the lack of apology from the PCB after this scandal shows that the game is being run by people who don't really understand the meaning of sport.
We are made mugs for getting up in the middle of the night, lunatics for investing deep emotional attachment, and fools for arguing with friends in deadly comic earnestness our take on a team’s strategies.
Paul Kelso, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says the convictions of the three Pakistan cricketers are a hollow victory in the battle against corruption in the game.
In the Daily Mail, Paul Newman says cricket has reached its tipping point vis-a-vis corruption and now has an ideal opportunity to eliminate fixing.
In his column in the Daily Mail, Nasser Hussain wonders if he'd played a match during his career that may have been dodgy.
An editorial in the Guardian hails the investigations into the spot-fixing scandal as a major breakthrough, and calls for greater powers for the ICC to tackle corruption.
Agents and players may been sentenced in this case but the bigger criminals are still at large, says Richard Williams in the same newspaper.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck writes: "Never forget that at the time of his criminal activities Salman Butt was captaining his country. Never forget that he was at the pinnacle of his career and at the top of a huge cricket community in a nation of 180 million people. Never forget that cricket is one of the few consolations available to the poor of that nation. Never forget that Pakistan is a troubled country with a fractured history, and that cricket is its national game. The scale of the betrayal is numbing."
How much money do people want? It is a question that can just as easily be put to dictators with their billions, bankrupt bankers awarding themselves fat bonuses, politicians rorting the system, squillionaires avoiding tax and the rest of the fallen. Sportsmen do not exist in isolation, are not God's special creations. They are corrupt because the world is corrupt.
"Three cricketers have been pursued for corruption. They have not only been banned from the game, they now face time in jail. As deterrents go, there cannot be a more daunting one for future cricketers who may be tempted," writes Osman Samiuddin in the National.
And for the three individuals, is there sadness that they are lost? There was when the scandal first broke and there was when they were then banned from the game, particularly at losing bowlers as gifted as Amir and Asif. Their careers had already been broken by the time of the trial.
But now their lives stand to be, which evokes an altogether different, indescribable emotion. It can only be captured by the news of the birth of Butt's second child, a boy, born about an hour before the verdict was delivered; a life created just as one responsible for it was all but finished.
Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph: It is thought that, when Mr Justice Cooke passes sentence on the three Pakistan players towards the end of this week, Amir might escape a prison sentence on the grounds that he pleaded guilty; and his youth - he was officially 18 at the time he bowled two deliberate no-balls in the Lord’s Test last year - will also be taken into account. But the stigma will remain: Mohammad Amir fixed. And maybe the cricket world should not feel compassionate towards him but, rather, that the ban and the sentence to come are right.
"An easy quid begins to look a whole lot less easy when a sportsman stands to go to jail for it," writes Greg Baum in the WA Today. Sportsmen frequently are called hardened, but not in the sense of criminals, who factor the risk of incarceration into their dealings.
In the Guardian, Vic Marks says: The trio's guilt comes as no surprise to former players. Indeed, a "not guilty" verdict from Southwark would have been far more depressing for the game. A simple photo from that Lord's Test match of August 2010 was as eloquent as any barrister's summing up.
There was Pakistan's captain, Butt, at mid-off as his bowler entered his delivery stride. Any cricketer knows that a mid-off fieldsman would be focusing on the batsman at this moment, in anticipation of the ball being hit in his direction. Where was Butt looking? At his bowler's feet, checking, presumably, that he would indeed bowl a no-ball, as had been agreed with the News of the World's "fake sheikh", Mazher Mahmood.
"Maybe Amir, dazzled by the quick money which his father and brothers could not expect to earn in their lifetimes, would have fallen in almost any circumstances. He could have said no, but with what encouragement, what support, what suggestion that he had another choice?" asks James Lawton in the Independent. "These are the questions that must haunt the cricket authorities, particularly as represented by the Pakistani cricket board and the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit."
Also in the Independent, Stephen Brenkley revisits the day the spot-fixing scandal broke.