June 10, 2000

Administrators are largely to blame for the mess

The significance of a cryptic remark by one of the visiting South African journalists some years ago did not register until the 'Cronjegate' emerged recently. There were always cynical asides made about a few match results or failures of leading cricketers. For one who obviously has the game at heart, all these were nothing but malicious gossip. By sheer accident the Delhi police stumbled onto a 'tapped' conversation between a bookie and the South African captain, Cronje.

The immediate reactions were predictable as everyone accused denying any involvement at all. Cronje took his own time and eventually came around confessing in instalments. Initially he might have tried to bluff his way out of the scandal but a combination of a `Christian upbringing' and irrefutable evidence from the Delhi police ensured that a few facts were revealed from the horse's mouth. Such was his stature that even the Indian police felt sorry about the way the episode came to light. The South African public went berserk and some even went to the extent of questioning the pedigree of the nation, which exposed Cronje!

Cronje's teammate and fellow accused Gibbs stuck by his skipper and repeatedly denied his involvement. Ali Bacher felt enraged that Cronje lied to the UCBSA officials and did his best to salvage the image of South African cricket. He threatened to reveal the details about match fixing and also name the people involved in it. The controversy became epidemic when the enigmatic English all-rounder Chris Lewis jumped on the wagon, stating that three cricketers from England were involved for some time in this nasty business. It was then the ICC came into play and there was strong statements indicating that this plague was going to be eradicated.

What followed was nothing out of character as the ICC took a decision, which was irrelevant to the problem. It is amazing how an apex body could dilly dally on such important issues. Ironically the same body is so prompt and stern on the players with regard to their commercial obligations and behaviour on the field. The players have been reduced more or less to some kind of machines just having to play almost day in and day out. Imposing restrictions on the size of stickers on the bats and the logos on the clothing were dealt with real authority. It is ridiculous to see that the same authority was lacking in dealing with a scandal rocking the very image of the game and also causing anguish to the innocent lot.

One thing that the ICC does well is passing the buck onto the respective cricket boards. Every board was asked to probe into this affair and submit reports to the ICC. The PCCB has sent the Qayyum report, which has received mixed ratings from various people from Pakistan. The strange thing was that different modes of punishments were handed to different cricketers and one cannot understand what formed the basis for the same. Salim Malik was portrayed as the chief culprit resulting in a ban and he seems have got himself into more trouble with one of the newspapers with his boisterous statements.

Across the border, Manoj Prabhakar started his second spell in a very attacking mode. He revealed the name of Kapil Dev as the one who offered him the bribe to under-perform. What a sensation, one thought about it then. He surpassed himself when he surreptitiously taped the conversations he had with several colleagues and the BCCI officials. The BCCI along with the Central ministers decided that the CBI should investigate and report the findings. At the moment the CBI is busy collecting the evidence from everyone concerned and only time will tell how deeply this cancer has spread in India.

The South African authorities, true to their word have started the King Commission of inquiry and some startling facts are emerging from the investigation. Gibbs has testified that he accepted the offer resulting in his omission from the squad. It was generally said that the sub-continent is the haven for this kind of murky business but it has now been proved that greed is not geographically oriented. The 'holier than thou' characters have been exposed and obviously the book was not as good as the title. The current investigation might spread its wings to several other nations and imagine the chaos if a few more big names crop up in the process.

More than the guilt of a few cricketers it is the officials' stand that has been shocking all these years. Administrators across the globe have been informed one way or the other about certain happenings in international cricket. No one wanted to be the first one to bell the cat and suddenly when an accidental revelation cropped up, the officials started to blow the whistles hard enough to burst their lungs. The administrators are to be blamed largely in the sense that weeding this menace in the roots would put an end to it once for all. By their inaction they have allowed things to go beyond manageable proportions. Of coure, the cynics might even say that there is no point in trying to correct or convict a few individuals unless the system is first cleansed of all its fancy notions.