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Dirty tricks of the gentleman’s game surface again

Mahavir Rawat

The grand success of the Indian Premier League from the very first year had induced a fear in the minds of the cricket administrators that the razzmatazz of such a league was bound to attract people who are always on the prowl for match fixing. Though the IPL has a very stringent system in place to check the menace of match fixing, it is no secret that this code has been cracked many times. So when domestic cricket leagues mushroomed all over the country, it was a festive time for match fixers.

The Karnataka Premier League became one of the more popular domestic T20 leagues because it was televised on a premium sports channel. But people who were part of it knew that something was fishy from day one with some of the franchises. And now it is all out in the open.

Chidhambaram Gautam and Krishnappa Gowtham are two very different players whose names may sound similar, but right now they are in very different phases of life. It is very important to set this demarcation because both of them play for Karnataka but while Gautam has been arrested for match fixing, Gowtham is right now enjoying the best phase of his cricketing career.  This demarcation is important to keep in mind because match fixing is the biggest crime that you can ever do while playing any sport. It is a direct attack on the very soul and charm that sports brings to life. 

As match-fixing rocked the Karnataka Premier League, the state cricket association announced the suspension of the Belagavi Panthers franchise, whose owner Ali Ashfaq Thara is among the six people arrested so far in connection with the scandal. The announcement came on a day when Gautam, a first-class player who turned up for the IPL teams like Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians, and his former Karnataka teammate Abrar Qazi of Bellary Tuskers were arrested for allegedly accepting money to spot-fix matches in the KPL. No doubt that Gautam is easily the biggest name to have emerged in the police investigations into the KPL. His breakthrough season was 2012-13 when he made 943 runs at an average of 118 with a couple of double hundreds.

A top cricketer once told me that the biggest proof of match-fixing is the scorecard of the match fixed. It is the only way to establish that the script which was written was really executed. And the score board does prove that the players did play as per the
script.

As news broke about police accusing Gautam, more skeletons began to tumble out of KPL. Doubts were expressed by dubious behind-the-scenes happenings in KPL. “Couple of years ago, a senior player in fact was so disturbed that he nearly decided to walk out,” says a cricketer. Last year, another captain even chose to announce his final playing eleven after taking the field in the team huddle. He was suspicious of some of his teammates and thought this was a better way to tackle it.

A player talks about how his suspicions about the league cropped up when he saw “fans” from as far away as Haryana come to Hubli, in Karnataka, to watch the KPL matches. “I was thinking we aren’t that big, why would they come from so far? Definitely fishy, illegal betting and what not…”

So far six people have been arrested over the scandal that came to light with the arrest of Thara recently.

“Based on the initial investigation report, the KSCA has suspended the owners of Belagavi Panthers, one of the franchises of the Karnataka Premier League (KPL). In case they are found guilty, their franchise will be terminated,” the Karnataka Cricket Association said in a statement
here.

The KSCA said that any other franchise, players, match officials and support staff who are arrested with a prima facie evidence of their involvement in any illegal activity will be suspended immediately and if found guilty, appropriate and stringent action will be taken.

I guess whatever happens now will be damage control. The suspicion on leagues and cricket overall among fans has gone one notch higher. As always, the actions of a few have again tarnished the game. But what is more worrying is that people involved with the game are now no more surprised at it and talk is just one more vice of the game. There are people who blame the team owners for this mess. It is a notion that they buy teams just to make money. But I blame the players. The team owners never played this beautiful game. They never perspired on the field. They never dreamt for playing for this country. So how can the players allow someone else to tarnish the game that has always been part of their lives?

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