Crony Capital Fixes Cricket, the Celebrated Game of ‘Glorious Uncertainty’

IPL cricket is in the eye of a match-fixing scandal. The teams now have more than 11 players – big money and bookies have become the invisible players who rule the game. This degeneration of cricket is inextricable from the rise of speculative capital. As speculation has driven capitalism into crisis, it is also vulgarising the field of sports and culture.

Kerry Packer, a media tycoon challenged the traditional copybook cricket and “gentleman’s game” spirit by introducing a parallel brand of Pajama-cricket in the late seventies. Multi-camera production enriched the telecast as Packer announced “I don’t want to show the bums of the cricketers”. The mid-over breaks provided the opportunity to advertise consumer goods and sponsors rushed in. The money spinning machine made the boards and players cash-rich. Cricket was transformed from an artistic game to a sequence of televised sensations.

How can such a high-value popular event evade the hawk eye of gamblers? From the early nineties cricket provided greater space to the betting syndicate. Salim Malik, former captain of Pakistan was first found guilty of offering bribes to Shane Warne for underperforming. Watching Sreesanth being picked up by police, one may recall Kapil Dev’s tears on television pleading innocence to the nation. The then Prime Minister Vajpayee stepped in to terminate the dispute: “We don’t have too many youth icons; this might misguide our young generation.” Dev was exonerated.

Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma, Nikhil Chopra, the list of tainted stars is not short. The Hansie Cronje incident shook the cricketing world. After confession, the protean skipper lost his place in cricket, but could have been a key witness to nab the nexus. But his mysterious death put an end to the expectations. Cronje’s coach Bob Woolmer in an assignment with Pakistan was murdered in his hotel room at Jamaica. The probe was a farce! The maverick coach was writing a book on “match-fixing” with a special chapter on spot fixing. Salman Butt, young Pakistan captain with two promising fast bowlers Mohd Asif and Amir walked into the trap and were suspended.

From the very first episode The Indian Premier League was shrouded in the mystery of corruption as astronomical money was quoted in the auctions. Bollywood stars owning the city based franchisees, gelled with the glamour of the game to make IPL the most sought after “reality show”. It’s just not cricket, this cricket package entices huge non-cricketing masses to promote the consumerist culture. Lalit Modi, who imitated the economic model from American Basket ball, was soon found guilty of massive financial irregularities and had to be removed. Shahrukh Khan, Shilpa Raj Kundra or Nita Ambani, are projected as owners of the teams, where the ill-gotten money of various chit funds and real estate giants is at stake.

The future of Sreesanth, a lanky youth from Kerala who played a pivotal role in India’s first win against South Africa in Tests overseas displaying terrific swing and pace bowling is doubtful! But the system that entices cricketers to commit such guilt continues unperturbed. Who sponsors the Indian National team? Sahara India owned by Subrata Roy, a man in the SEBI net as a defaulter of crores to his depositors. Three idiots are caught, but the nouveau riche sons of wealthy BCCI remain behind the curtain. The bookies are lesser known ex-cricketers pouncing on the situation to make money. As a senior journalist of a renowned sports channel puts it “everyone is a “chor” here. Look at the cycle, all owned by chit funds; television to franchisees. Anyone who is clean is under threats like the ones Bollywood stars receive from underground dons! Look at the Kolkata Maidan, where after the Sarada scam, the footballers of Bagan are not getting their salaries. Two East Bengal officials have been interrogated. Funds are diminishing and the futures of players are at stake. In IPL the money involved and the nexus are much bigger…”

No doubt, the character of crony capital has reduced the game of “glorious uncertainty” to a pre-determined vulgar package leaving the future of the game and the players increasingly uncertain…

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