'Fixing has got to be a criminal offence'
Sambit Bal: Rahul, the last three months haven't been easy for you.
Rahul Dravid: Yes, towards the end of the IPL it was a difficult period. Difficult personally and from a team perspective as well. So in a lot of ways, relating to the IPL and personally, it has been a tough time.
SB: Take us through those first couple of days. Describe your emotions when you heard about it.
RD: There is not really one emotion at a time like that. You go between anger, sadness, disappointment, you feel bad. From our [Rajasthan Royals] point of view, I thought the IPL was going really well. For a team like that to be at that position at that stage, to be pushing for the title, was fantastic. I thought, not just from Rajasthan Royal's point of view but from the whole IPL's point of view, till that point it was a really good IPL; good crowds, some good cricket to watch. The standard of cricket was good. So for that to happen was really disappointing from everyone's point of view.
SB: You really involve yourself in building this team and get personally involved with a lot of players. So was betrayal an emotion you felt very strongly?
RD: It's not just about me personally. While I'm the face of the team and probably the most high-profile player in that team, there are a lot of people in the team and a lot of people who have done work behind the scenes, not just to get the team together but to set up the whole team, set up the franchise. A lot of people work behind the scenes to make the IPL the success that it was.
Obviously you do feel bad because you know some of these players at a personal level. You've spent a lot of time with them in the dressing room. But you also feel bad for the lot of other people as well, those who've put in a lot of effort to try and make this a success. And you can sense a lot of people do feel let down, I guess it's a natural feeling. A lot of the team-mates of the players concerned, a lot of the coaches, the officials, people who have spent many hours talking to the players not only in the team but within the states, the state associations, local associations … So there is a feeling of being let down, part of it is personal. But it's not only about me, a lot of people felt let down.
SB: So what happens to a team at that point? You had qualified already. How easy or difficult is it to get your mind back to doing what you ought to be doing?
RD: I think it's difficult, it's not easy as there's not a lot of clarity at that stage. Now, today, there's a lot more information that has come out and there's a lot more in the public domain. But at that particular point of time, especially when we had to play a game two days later or a day later actually, there was a lot of confusion around the group - nobody knows if people are really involved, there are lot of rumours flying around, the police is involved, what is going to happen next, is the tournament going to go on? Are we going to be able to play? Are only the players who have been mentioned [involved]? Are there other people? What could we have done better? What should we do now? So I guess at that point of time there are just so many things going on. It's hard and never easy to sit back and focus on the cricket. Which is what you'd expect us to do and want us to do. So especially that game against [Sunrisers] Hyderabad, it wasn't about cricket but it was about us trying to get the group together and trying and getting on the right track and luckily from our point of view we had already qualified for the semi-final.
SB: Do you go back and look at some of the events? What went on here, what went on there? Do you start doubting more people around you?
RD: I think your first instinct is to try and trust people but there's no doubt that when something like that happens and there's no clarity about which games, what happened, it's but natural as individuals and players in a team that you do discuss - "Could they be talking about this game?" It's hard, that's the difficult thing about spot-fixing and why it's so different from match-fixing. Spot-fixing, that's why it's so hard to control or police in some ways, because if someone if he decides tomorrow to get out or an individual decides to bowl a no-ball or a wide or give a certain number of runs an over, there's very little you can do and very little somebody else can do around it. If somebody on the personal level decides to [do something, it's hard to decipher], because this is normal - I mean giving runs or getting hit for sixes in Twenty20, it happens all the time. There are a lot of very good people who I would never doubt who have also been hit for sixes, bowled wides or got out early.
So it's very hard to start doubting people and doubting specific things and events. If you go down that road and start doubting everything, then you're going to go crazy because there are so many things that happen on a cricket field - it is a game of glorious uncertainties. I would never like to play the game like that and I would never want to go back and start doubting everything as it would take away the joy of the game for me.
SB: You're someone who has played with a certain amount of integrity and honesty and when you see something like this it must make you really angry. Did you think at that time, maybe, cricket isn't worth playing?
RD: There is anger. Like I said earlier, you go through emotions, there is anger and you feel let down. Especially in India, in fact not only in India, there are so many passionate fans of this game, who truly love the game, you can read and hear about the sacrifices they make to be able to watch us play cricket matches, wherever, in different parts of the world. Waking up at wee hours, following the game, writing about the game on the web. Today, because of the web you get to see just how many fans this game actually has and how passionate they actually are. You feel angry for them. You feel angry, when things happen, that you have let down people like that, you've let down the real fan and you've let down the people who truly care about this game and give you unqualified support, and that's where you feel that sense of anger.
SB: You have been part of two teams that have been involved in fixing scandals and in 2000 you were much younger. How did it affect you then?
RD: The funny thing was in 2000 - and I tell people that - I remember the day I landed in England to play county cricket for Kent was actually the day Hansie Cronje confessed and I remember this so clearly because I landed in Kent and Simon Willis, who was involved in Kent at that time, came to pick me up at Heathrow Airport and the first thing he said was "welcome to England" and the next thing he said was "Hansie Cronje has confessed". Six months I was away from India then and all hell broke loose in India after that, and a lot of stuff happened in the next six months but I felt completely away from it all because I was playing cricket in England and in those days I didn't have access to a computer or wifi and if I needed to get news from India, I remember I had to go to the club office for a computer and then log on to pages. There weren't so many television channels and after some time I just switched off from it. I was just so happy playing cricket in England, that I just switched off from it and when I came back six months later and when we played the Champions Trophy in Kenya, there was a completely different team. The whole thing had passed.
The commission, the inquiries, it was all over. So it was really funny for me, the first time, that I was completely away from it all. This time around it was a little different and obviously with so many news channels, so much of more television and so much of more media involved, you just feel like you are a lot more in the middle of it than I was last time.
SB: But Cronje was a huge figure, an iconic figure, who played cricket hard.
RD: You're right. When you played against him, you respected him for the way he carried himself as a captain. And for a lot of young, aspiring players at that stage, people would look at Cronje and if you wanted to know how to captain a team, he was the sort of guy that you looked up to.
SB: So would you say, in a strange way, you are better prepared to handle this?
RD: I don't know how you equip yourself to handle these things really. I don't think you go around getting a training course on how to handle something like this, but I guess that sense of naivety wasn't there this time. I mean, because it had happened before, that level of shock when that thing broke out then obviously was not there this time, because it had happened before.
SB: Do players think the same way as fans? Does fixing get spoken about in dressing rooms or in conversations that players have?
RD: When incidents happen, like the Pakistan players at Lord's or the Bangladesh Premier League or even last year in India, where there was a sting operation and there were some boys who were managed to fix games or take money under the table, when incidents like these happen and it comes out in the papers, players do talk about it. It does get discussed in the dressing room. It won't be constantly get discussed in the dressing room, like players always taking about fixing, it's not like that. But when incidents happen, people do talk about it, people do mention it and just in general, casual chat that would happen in any dressing room.
SB: So when you're watching cricket as a fan, from the outside, if something strange or unusual happens, does it ever cross your mind?
RD: Like I said, I can't speak for other people but at a personal level if I were to doubt everything that happens in this game, it would take away the joy and the love of the game, from what it's meant to be. It has been my life from the time I can remember, my first memories are of a ball and a cricket bat. So personally no, my first instinct is to trust and believe what is happening on a television screen. I hear, people do come to me, and you hear chat about this might have happened or look at that. But like I said, I've seen a lot of strange things on a cricket field and from people and players I would never doubt, I would bet my life on that fact.
SB: But when you are leading IPL teams, there players are from a different background and there are players you may not know as well as you know an Indian team. In team meetings, is there any kind of counselling or do these things ever get talked about?
RD: They do. We have anti-corruption training before every tournament, before every IPL, before every international series or at least once or twice a year. In fact I don't think there's anybody in an IPL team who has not received that training from the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, and they do a particular job of it. That training module that the ACSU shows and the ACSU officers who come and give that training are actually really good, that's a pretty good module. So from that point of view it is done. We do discuss it at team meetings, that if you do notice anything untoward and if you notice anything suspicious then please report it and these are the lines of how you should go about it. So the structure of what you should do if you are approached is quite clear to every player. I don't think any player can honestly say that he didn't know. That's how it's done. Obviously, from what we've seen, it's not really working.
SB: What about at a lower level? Do you think there should be more counselling at lower level about the values of cricket?
RD: I think a two-pronged approach [is needed]. My personal belief is that education and counselling at a junior level is really important. As we've seen recently with these incidents, they aren't only about international cricketers but we've seen with the sting operations last year, with what's happened this year, is that a lot of these elements are targeting younger players, domestic players, first-class players. So obviously counselling and guidance has to go to the first-class level and junior level. So I think we've got to start early, we've got to start young but like I said earlier, in answer to your question, that part of it is already being done. I know that India has its own ACSU and even for Ranji Trophy teams this education is given. So I don't think only education can work, [we have to] police it and have the right laws and ensure that people, when they indulge in these kind of activities, are actually punished.
People must see that there are consequences to your actions. That will create fear for people. For example, look back on the doping in cycling. Everyone knows it's wrong and it's frightening having read a little about it and the number of cyclists who were doing it. Surely everyone knows it's wrong. [But] it was an exception not to do it. So the only people cyclists were scared of was not the testers, not the [cycling] authority, they were scared of the police. You read all the articles, the only guys they were scared of was the police and going to jail. So the only way that people are going to get that fear is if they know the consequences to these actions and the law that will come into play. It has got to be a criminal offence.
SB: The chargesheet the police had filed in this case, it has charged them with a criminal offense...
RD: The case is still on and I don't want to make any judgement on whether people are guilty or not, and I think everyone has a right to be innocent until proven guilty. But I'm glad the police are going ahead and doing what needs to be done and taking it to its logical conclusion.
SB: We have seen in both cases that have been exposed in India that it's the police who exposed it. It's not the mechanisms that both the cricket boards put together that finally detected it, and both cases have been accidently discovered. The police were not really trying to find match-fixers but they found it accidentally.
RD: In some ways it's only the police who can do that, because they are the only ones who have the power. For example, the only way you can prove this is if you secretly tape people, if you follow people, and I don't think any administrator [could]; we would never give that power to administrators of any sporting body in our country and we shouldn't. So, like I said, that's the only way you are going to get this is actually. See, for security the cricket authorities already work in conjunction with the police. I mean the police are at our grounds, they manage security for us. So the next step is administrators need to work with the police to manage these issues as well, as they are the only ones who have that authority to be able to do this.
SB: So you are saying that it is something that is better handled by the CBI, the police?
RD: Both sets of people have to work together. I think you don't want police sitting in your rooms all the time, but I think there has got to be a partnership between the law and administrators of all sporting bodies.
SB: Do you think that administrators have done enough? Have they shown enough seriousness consistently over the years, or is it when something like this happens, people wake us and then it dies down?
RD: I think they've tried. We can easily go around blaming just administrators and players. But the fact that the incidents are still happening, it means that it [what is being done] is not enough and we need to admit the fact that we need to work in partnership with the law in this country to be able to actually crack down on this thing.
SB: One thing that happens every time a fixing story breaks is that cricket suffers a serious dent in its credibility. We're not going to go into specific cases because your team is involved and one of your team's owners is involved. But do you think that administrators in our country care enough about credibility?
RD: I think they should. I think it's really important. Like I said earlier, when I answered your earlier question, so many fans and so many people care deeply about this game and it's because of these fans and people we are who we are as cricketers. Administrators are there because of the fans and the cricketers, to run this game. So I think that credibility of a game in the eyes of the public is extremely important.
SB: Credibility of a cricket board or organisation?
RD: Of any authority, of a team, of a board, or a government for that matter. I think credibility, irrespective of what you do, if you are in public life, then it is important.
SB: But the thing about the government is that it can get voted out every five years, but with administrators you can't vote them out…
RD: I don't want to get into the specifics of it, it's not fair and I'd like to believe that there are good administrators as well, people who have done a lot for the game - the game has grown in this country and you can't argue with that. Across the world as well, not only in India. But like good and bad cricketers, I guess there are good and bad administrators.
SB: What would be your message to cricket administrators, not only on fixing but generally on the issue of credibility?
RD: I think, Sambit, cricketers in India - right from the time I can remember, growing up - were always celebrities. I think they still are and we still are. But apart from being celebrities there's a huge amount of respect associated with being cricketers and a certain amount of reverence and honour associated with representing India. In people's eyes, apart from other celebrities in India, I think for sportsmen in India there's a certain amount of regard. Whether [it's because] there's more money now, it's not seen as an amateur thing anymore, and for a variety of reasons things like this don't help - when we are on the front pages of the newspapers and not on the back. Things like that don't help, a certain amount of that reverence and respect and love for cricketers, for sportsmen, can diminish and I think that will be a really sad thing for sport and for cricket in this country if that happens.