In less than a fortnight, cricket has suffered twin blows, both at the international and domestic level. First up was Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan’s belated admission of corrupt approaches by bookies. The International Cricket Council immediately suspended him and the game was left in an uneasy state. Worse was to follow and, this time around, it was closer home as C.M. Gautam and Abrar Kazi, two players who represented Ballari Tuskers in the Karnataka Premier League, were arrested on Thursday following their involvement in match fixing and for specifically under-performing and throwing their final against Hubli Tigers at Mysore in August this year. That Gautam, who led Ballari Tuskers, has also played first-class cricket for a decade makes his crime all the more tragic. The wicket-keeper batsman has played for India A in the past while Kazi was always considered a talented all-rounder. The inducement was an amount of ₹20 lakh and the duo allegedly succumbed to greed. The KPL has been under the scanner for a while and the police believe that more grisly tales could be unearthed from the wretched bookie-player nexus. The crisis also drives home the sobering truth that cricket is not insulated from the betting syndicate’s nefarious tentacles.
When the match-fixing scandal first broke in 2000 and scalped big names such as Mohammad Azharuddin, Hansie Cronje and Saleem Malik, the punitive measures then taken, like a life-long ban, were seen as an adequate deterrent. But history has proved otherwise and, in the subsequent years, the inability to conclusively prove match-fixing with strong evidence in the courts has often allowed tainted players to reverse punishments and reclaim their lost space. Cricket’s heart has been repeatedly mauled, be it through the spot-fixing incidents involving Pakistan’s then-skipper Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir in the 2010 Lord’s Test or the 2013 IPL controversy that witnessed the arrests of S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, which eventually forced a clean-up of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The unholy bond between players and bookies is an ill that cannot be wished away, especially in the Twenty20 leagues mushrooming across the cricketing globe. Players are constantly lectured on blowing a whistle on approaches by bookies or other agents of the betting mafia and an immediate ban has always been the reflexive punishment meted out by various cricketing associations. Yet, many have crossed over to the corrupt side and made a mockery of the sport’s moral fibre. It is time for the authorities to get more stringent. Else the list of Gautams and Kazis will grow longer.