Event ReportsPublished on Jun 15, 2013
A former Ranji cricketer and writer has suggested regulation of betting through a comprehensive legislation to clean up fixing-scarred cricket. He has also voiced the need for converting the BCCI into a corporate entity along the lines of Cricket Australia.
Need to corporatise Indian cricket body
Former Ranji cricketer and writer, V Ramnarayan, has suggested that regulation of the betting industry through a comprehensive legislation, in line with the recommendations of the FICCI, could help clean up the game besides bringing in crores of rupees to government.

Initiating an interaction on the topic of "Match-fixing - past, present and future" at the Chennai chapter of Observer Research Foundation, Mr Ramnarayan said this additional revenue could be used to fund more stringent anti-corruption programmes.

He also suggested that the apex Indian cricket body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), employ psychological-profiling on contracted players, as is the norm with most corporate employers. He maintained that the BCCI was still the best-run sports body in India, but conceded the need for change. He proposed the idea of converting it into a corporate entity along the lines of Cricket Australia, in the interest of greater transparency and accountability. He also suggested moral training at an early age, instilling the importance of fair play in young cricketers.

"The rules of the game were codified in order to settle gambling disputes," said V Ramnarayan. He believes that the phenomenon of match-fixing is dogged by a few persistent misconceptions. That match-fixing is of recent origin and that its epicentre is in the Indian sub-continent.

Quoting from tomes such as "The Early History of Cricket", he said fixing outcomes in a game of cricket has been a part of the game since its origins amongst the English aristocracy. Indeed, according to the aforementioned volume, in the 18th century, the nobles organised cricket matches so that they could gamble on the result. And fixing was an inevitable consequence. Billy Beldham, one of the finest cricketers of his age, was quoted as saying, "Matches were bought and sold regularly. Gentlemen who meant honestly lost a lot of money to rogues."

Ramnarayan also dismissed the notion that match fixing was something unique to cricket, quoting numerous examples from almost every major sport where high profile players had been involved in fixing matches. The 'Black Sox scandal' in baseball, the 'Calciopoli affair' in Italian football and most recently the ATP's well-documented efforts to rid tennis of the blight of rigging were some of the major instances of match-fixing in other sports, Ramnarayan said.

He said that contrary to popular belief, the fixing of entire matches is rather rare compared to spot-fixing of the kind unearthed recently in the IPL as manipulating the outcome of a match would require the collusion of an entire team whereas spot-fixing is significantly easier to pull off.

Having represented Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy, Ramnarayan asserted that during the course of his career he had seen many instances of matches being fixed. But the fixing he spoke of was markedly different from what we know to be fixing today, having more to do with sporting rather than monetary gain. Teams conniving to arrive at a mutually-beneficial result, perhaps to the detriment of a third team, was a common occurrence, according to him.

In his view, the kind of fixing we see in cricket today emerged in the 1980's when big money first started pouring into the sport. He named a laundry list of cricketers who had since either been accused of, or admitted to being involved in the fixing of matches. Luminaries of the sport such as Mark Waugh, Allan Border, Wasim Akram, Rodney Marsh, Denis Lillee, Mohammed Azharuddin, Martin Crowe and Arjuna Ranatunga were all implicated in one way or another, showing that match-fixing was rampant in every major cricket-playing nation.

"People have and will always do whatever they can get away with," he said, contending that the pressure on young cricketers emerging from poorer backgrounds is immense. He believes the selection system with its inherent unpredictability means that a cricketer has an extremely limited time-frame in which to succeed. This pushes the more insecure among them to resort to fixing in order to maximise their earnings, for once that time-frame has passed, a cricketer's ability to earn plummets rapidly.

(This report is prepared by Visvak Sen, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune)

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