By T S Sudhir
The way television networks work, they want a tailormade guest for every subject that is discussed. So when it is political corruption and nepotism, it is often unapologetically Bangaru Laxman’s name that comes to the minds of the programme coordinators. Though in today’s world of the Indian Premier League where corruption seems to come with a Capital C of crores and crores, Laxman’s act of taking one lakh rupees from under his glass table makes the Indian `Political’ League seem like they were playing a silly game of Monopoly then.
I have always wondered why and how Laxman readily agrees everytime a request is made to him to be a guest on any of such shows, where he invariably is presented as the symbol of the sleazy Indian politician. But the former BJP chief obviously realises that is his only USP. After all, living a life of political `vanvaas’ pretty much like his mythological namesake, if only this will keep him fresh in the political mindspace, so be it.
I remember when he was once part of a discussion via satellite from the Hyderabad studio, and he was kept wired up for 90 minutes, he spent his time, clicking pictures of himself on his brand new cellphone ! Presumably they were more flattering pictures than what Tehelka spy cameras had managed. Laxman better be ready with pancake, he will be wired up soon again. To comment on how ethical it is for a politician to be part of the heady cocktail of cricket and corruption.
As I write this, come revelations that Income tax authorities found that many matches of IPL2 in South Africa were most likely fixed. That 27 cricketers and one IPL official were involved in the sordid episode. It is a sense of deja vu for the spectre of match-fixing to rear its head in the land of Hansie Cronje, who you would remember, moved the world’s cricket fraternity with the manner in which he fought his tears at that court hearing. Such an elegant cricketer, who shamed himself before the entire world.
But how would the establishment clean this up? I hope it is not the figment of the imagination of a cricket-hating IT official who suspects everytime a batsman dances down the wicket to loft the bowler for a six, he is throwing away his wicket. Would there be taped conversations between players and bookies? Would they then be corelated to how the particular player or players performed in a particular match? But then, the question to ask is if the authorities knew matches had been fixed, why was nothing done about it before IPL3? Was it to encourage the same 28 elements to dare do it again this IPL season and then perhaps do a “Howzzatt”, while catching them leg before wicket. Too many questions that need answers.
It is almost a decade since Mohammed Azharuddin was thrown out of Indian cricket for life, for allegedly fixing matches. He fought a legal battle against the BCCI that just went on and on, till everyone forgot about it. His efforts at getting the Board to `forgive’ him came to nought and finally he joined politics. He surely won’t be amused with the proverb “politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. But then, he was elected MP from Moradabad in 2009.
Ten years later, there is again a Hyderabadi connection. The city’s Deccan Chargers team won season 2 of the IPL, and these reports certainly cast a shadow over the triumph of Gilly and his boys.
And there is a Bollywood connection too, in keeping with the IPL’s star-owner profile. The Emraan Hashmi film on match-fixing and betting titled `Jannat’ was set partly in South Africa.
But how serious would these charges be? Match-fixing in a city league is not the same as “selling” your country. Is “selling” your city an equally heinous crime? Or in this case, compromising the team owner by not giving your 100 per cent for them, even while earning your pocket money in the summer from them.
A senior journalist suggested on one of the TV shows that IPL should be banned till the entire muck is cleaned up. I agree. IPL badly needs a strategic time-out. And we have seen that wickets invariably fall soon after a time-out.
We do not want to spend three and a half hours to watch a fixed match. We do not want Abhishek Bachchan to ask this on Oongli cricket : “In today’s match, how many players have fixed the match?”
I would much rather give both IPL and Oongli cricket a thumbs down.