Friday, March 22, 2013

Soiled Whites

I was speaking to a young batsman yesterday, as I was keen to find out how he’d fared at the crease in his weekend TNCA league game. He’d got to 30 odd, but was then instructed to not get much more. So a few uncharacteristic wild swipes later, he was back in the pavilion. And the team had scored something close to a hundred and fifty lasting approximately half the allotted 50 overs. The opponents happily hammered the bowling, aided as they were by fielders helpfully placed well within the circle, and got to their target quite easily.

I enquired further only to face some very disturbing revelations. Apparently both teams were owned by the same individual. One team had won all its games thus far, and would be promoted if they won the last as well. The other had won enough not to be relegated, and the result would not affect its standing for the next season.

So instructions were passed around and a charade was played out. One team knew they had to lose, and the other knew they were going to win. The game was over in half a day and the boys were back home for lunch. Dissent meant you’d probably never again get a chance to play.

I was curious to find out if this was just a one off occurrence, and so I called a couple of senior cricketers who have played at the first class level and still ply their skills in the state league. They were quick to tell me that this was common practice. Nothing unusual about it.
Next, I crossed the border for a chat with an ex-player from the KSCA league. Same story, just a different language.

Now seeing that international players are being sent to jail and banned from the game for years for unethical behaviour on the cricket field, I found this a most intriguing education being handed out to young, impressionable players of the league.

At a very young age, they are being taught to systematically cheat. They are also being taught that deceit is permissible. And guess what, these are youngsters who aspire to play for the state, and then for the country.

Nobody dare speak out. The fear of retribution hangs over your head. These are influential people running the system, and no player has the courage to mess with them. They might just reduce your cricketing dreams to nought.

What about the umpires? What role do they play in this game? I honestly don’t know, and can only guess. In all probability, there’s some sword hanging over their heads as well.  
Sure, we could console ourselves by arguing that this is an insignificant level of fixing. After all, nobody is making money. Really? I can confirm that teams placed in higher divisions command a higher price tag when compared to those below them.

It's bad enough to see this happen even once. It's absolutely pathetic to see it flourish in broad daylight. The players don't have a choice. It's the men who call the shots who are calling the results as well. The boys only want to play and don't want that taken away from them at any cost. I wonder what chance young Mohammed Aamer had. He was only 18.