The time has come for the Government of India to bring into effect the law for match-fixing. Although the Bill is waiting to be tabled in the Parliament since the last two years, there has been no progress on when it will come up for discussion.
The recent incident involving a well-known bookie, Ravinder Dandiwal, is a prime example of how a cricket match held in one corner of India was purported to be an Uva Sri Lanka T20 cricket league match and was broadcast by FanCode.
The sole reason why this could be done so easily is because there is no law in place for match-fixing.
One can be penalised for illegal betting but not for a major crime like match or spot-fixing. This is why so many of the accused and suspected cricketers in the past and their accomplices escaped serious punishment, even after they were blatantly caught in the act. At present most of these crooks who sold their country and team are living a life of self-denial just because the law to put them behind bars is not in place.
‘Strict Punishment Only Way to Save The Game’
Any player involved in such an act should be severely punished and put into a corner to never play the game again.
A strict punishment is the only way to save the game from the unscrupulous characters wanting to make a quick buck for themselves and tarnishing the game in the bargain.
As a former cricketer, I am time and again reminded by detractors as to how low the game has stooped to, as according to them most matches are fixed. I never believed in that possibility but incidents in the last two decades have put a sad question mark to my beliefs.
The fixing incidents that marred the very values that cricket stood for in the year 2000 was a wake-up call for many cricketers and cricket enthusiasts and one felt that cricketers at least would have learned from it. But the regular incidents of such unlawful behaviour that gets highlighted every season around the world has made it imperative that a very strict law needs to be put into place.
One was even more surprised by the statement made by the infamous bookie, Sanjeev Chawla, who after two years was brought back to India from England for investigation for the 2000 match fixing scandal said that "no cricket match is fairly played and that all cricket matches which people see are fixed".
Recently, the former sports Minister of Sri Lanka claimed that the World Cup final in 2011 when India won against them, was fixed by a certain group. Fortunately, this proved to be false and the claim buried for good. However, it did leave an element of bitterness and concern.
In India, cricket is played everywhere, not only in the major cities but also in the remotest villages. The maximum matches are played with a tennis ball and many of them are locally sponsored with star players from their town. Some of these local players are as popular in their respective towns as many of the star players playing for the country.
One gathers that cricket fixing in India, in some way, gets its momentum from these rustic beginnings. These stake holders and followers finally graduate towards the more lucrative pot of gold which emerges from the bigger cricket related stage.
Many of the Indian cricket players come from a humble background and with cricket as their means to success, education does become a mere formality. In their initial years they could quite easily get exposed to unsavory characters, who on seeing their talent, assist them to achieve their dream. In most cases the lure of quick money to get their near and dear ones out of their financial woes, makes them succumb to the juicy offerings. These are players who fall prey when they become senior level players.
Time to Catch Up
England and many of the other countries have safeguarded themselves against match-fixing under the 'bribery and gambling laws', whereas, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka have strictly enforced the law related to all acts involved with 'match-fixing'.
India needs to legalise betting and the Lodha committee's recommendation to the Supreme Court was to that effect. The success that one sees of cricket fantasy sites such as Dream 11 and My11 Circle shows that Indians of all ages enjoy a bit of a flutter in sports, especially in cricket. The game has so many uncertain permutations and combinations which makes it interesting for a punter. The Indian government would benefit immensely if betting did become legal, rather than others illegally benefitting from it.
India will be hosting two major ICC tournaments in the next two years. The Indian Premier League is also one that needs to be played without any semblance of hanky panky. The local Indian T20 leagues have shown that match-fixers are at every street corner on account of the lack of a serious law in place to implicate them severely.
Cricket is now not just a sport in India but a religion as well. Cricketers and all the people connected to the game need to showcase that it is being played honestly. The values and sanctity of the game needs to be held upright. It is, therefore, imperative that the Indian government expedites the introduction of the match-fixing laws.
Indian cricket is now at the epicentre of the game and the responsibility to protect it is very much with them. If not, the famous Indian saying "we are like that only", will remain and cheaters and manipulators will flourish without a care.
(The author is a former India test cricketer. This is an opinion piece published in an arrangement with IANS, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)