Will democratisation help clean up gentleman’s game?
Cricket has always attracted controversy because of the large amount of money and sponsorships it involves unlike any other game.
As the game changed its format over the years, the scale and proportion of the scandals grew accordingly.
If conservatives shook their heads in 2000 after match-fixing allegations plagued cricketer Hansie Cronje, they are stunned into disbelieving silence after accusations of money laundering hounded stakeholders of the Indian Premier League (IPL) a decade later.
It seems that the sport that united a frenzied nation into a single cheering, nail-biting entity has taken a backseat amid political power play and corruption.
The Twenty20 version of the game appealed to a newer set of jet-setting fans for its sheer glamour and entertainment value without compromising on quality.
However, as income tax officials probe financial improprieties in the IPL, voices in the Indian opposition are increasingly demanding democratisation of the game to bring in transparency and accountability.
The government’s assurance that it will probe all aspects of the IPL — including source of the funds and how they have been invested and team ownership structures — notwithstanding, dissenters are now demanding that Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), India’s private apex cricketing body be nationalised and IPL disbanded.
As early as July 2008, the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council (ICC) warned that the multi-million dollar Indian Premier League was susceptible to match-fixing.
“We are concerned. Let’s face it, the IPL is the first domestic competition which has attracted such huge interest and when it does it’s going to inevitably going to attract the interest of match-fixers and people like that,” ICC General Manager (Cricket) Dave Richardson had said.
He had asked the BCCI to make sure they had very strict measures in place to ensure corruption doesn’t take a foothold in the IPL or any other domestic competition.
With questions being raised about conflict of interest in cricket board members owning a team franchise, cricket lovers say this is the perfect opportunity to clean up the game.
As nostalgic exponents of the longer version of the game say “Let’s get back to Tests matches, the way cricket used to be”, it is a possibility that when the dust settles “cricketainment” will have taken as big a blow as the league stakeholders.