x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

IPL money not enough to ensure clean event

Asking in a general way why there is corruption in modern-day cricket is like asking why there is crime and criminal behaviour in life.

The IPL has been a moneymaking venture for players with the franchises, who bid and buy them at an auction, recovering the huge amounts of investment partly through selling merchandise. Noah Seelam / AFP
The IPL has been a moneymaking venture for players with the franchises, who bid and buy them at an auction, recovering the huge amounts of investment partly through selling merchandise. Noah Seelam / AFP

In the days after three Pakistan players were found spot-fixing by an undercover tabloid investigation in 2010, much was made of possible motives. An easy line to cling to was that Pakistani players had been barred from playing in the most lucrative league in cricket, the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif did play a season but Mohammad Amir had not. One of them, in fact, had bought property on the basis of payment he was expecting from the IPL, payment which had been grossly delayed.

These pressures, and the fact that Pakistani players were missing out on the money the world was making, could then be extrapolated into a reason for them trying to make money illegally. It is easy to see that making sense.

Except that it overlooked the fact the three were legally earning the kind of money that in their own country placed them among a tiny elite. In no way were they poor.

And that kind of rationalising cannot possibly explain away the pickle cricket finds itself in today.

Because wasn't one of the underlying benefits of the IPL, and every other domestic Twenty20 league, supposed to be that it will remunerate players so well they will not need to resort to corruption?

Sreesanth was on a US$400,000 contract this season with the Rajasthan Royals, and if the allegations are true, then he bowled a poor over – and risked ending his career – for around US$73,000.

Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were not earning that kind of money, but in this age of Indian cricket, few IPL-contracted, regular domestic players can be expected to be badly off.

What came to mind was a statement Imran Khan made after the 2010 scandal. "Greed is endless," he said. "You can't have enough. It is a deficit of the mind."

That seemed like an appealing assessment when he said it but on reflection, is it a deficit or just a sub-condition of modern humanity?

Each individual case will have its own points of reference and motivating forces of course.

But taking together the state of cricket since the mid-90s, for example, and asking in a general way why there is corruption is like asking why there is crime and criminal behaviour in life.

Who really knows beyond that spot-fixing and corruption exists because humans exist. And that is why all the policing and anti-corruption units in the world cannot do anything to stop it from happening if someone wants it to happen.

It will happen again and it will continue to happen as long as humans continue playing cricket.

If we're lucky, from time to time, players and bookmakers will be exposed. Bodies such as the ICC's anti-corruption unit will help educate players, maybe assist in monitoring and collecting evidence and keeping a level of vigilance alive.

But entirely eradicate? Look around: the number of incidents of corruption in sport is not decreasing. It is increasing.

To wipe out would require us to morph into another species and move to another planet.

It does not feel surprising, however, that domestic Twenty20 leagues are the environments in which this seems to be occurring more and more.

It is not necessarily the big money in these leagues that is the problem, but the sense of looser governance around them. And yet cricket is happy creating more and more of them.

The default reaction is to say some sacred trust has been broken when something like this happens, between those who play and those who watch.

It is less dramatic than that, but more unnerving, like being caught on the outside of a big, permanent in-joke.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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