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Rajdeep Sardesai
Friday , September 03, 2010 at 00 : 00

Pak match fixing row stems from a 'moral crisis'


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Hypocrisy like corruption appears to be a sub-continental affliction. No one exemplifies this better than Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari. In the wave of moral outrage following Pakistani cricket's latest act of shame, Zardari has expressed his disgust at spot fixing and promised to clean up the sport.

That a man who is part of Pakistan's problem now offers the solution is indicative of just why our neighbours are rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the international community. Zardari, who is the chief patron of the Pakistan cricket board, has spent ten years in jail on various corruption charges and stands accused of embezzling $ 1.5 billion from government accounts and plotting the murder of his brother-in-law Murtaza.

Can such a man really offer any credible solution to corruption in cricket or be a role model for future Asifs and Aamirs?        

In a recent interview, former Pakistani captain, Imran Khan, aptly described the spot fixing controversy as not a cricketing but a 'moral crisis'. Over the last few days, there has been a sense of wonderment over just why remarkably talented cricketers from Pakistan go astray so often.

The answers do not lie on the cricket field, but beyond the boundary in a milieu where cutting corners - or 'jugaad' - is seen as a way of life. Just read the reports emanating out of Pakistan over how money meant for flood relief is being diverted into the private treasuries of government servants and local politicians and maybe one might understand just why deliberately bowling the odd no ball in a cricket match is considered par for the course.

But while lamenting the fate of Pakistan, let's stop adopting a holier than thou attitude in India. Spot fixing, or match fixing, is not Pakistan's problem alone. Sure, the cricketers and their 'agent' caught on tape are Pakistanis, but there is a strong possibility that the bookmakers masterminding the operation had Indian connections.

Mumbai is as much a part of the global cricket betting syndicate, as is Karachi, as frankly is a Johannesburg. As sport globalises, so does corruption, making national boundaries irrelevant. Yes, Pakistan ranks a lowly 139 in the transparency international's corruption index, but at number 84, we aren't winning any medals for honesty either.

There has also been a suggestion that Indian cricket is less prone to corruption because our players are more financially secure. It is true that an average Indian cricketer will earn more in one season of the IPL than his Pakistani counterpart would earn in almost a decade.

But is that reason enough to believe that a young Indian cricketer's riches will make him less vulnerable to temptation? If wealth alone would enhance the integrity quotient, then a vast majority of our netas and corporate barons should have been less inclined to engage in brazen acts of corruption. In fact, some of our wealthier politicians have often been known to illegally multiply their personal fortune since they have greater access to resources to do so. It's just that they are too clever and networked to get caught out.            

Moreover, it isn't as if Pakistan has been soft on its match-fixers in the past while India has taken a tough, uncompromising stand. If in Pakistan, most of the match-fixing accused have got away, so have their Indian counterparts.

The day the Congress party decided to make Mohammed Azharuddin a Member of Parliament, it was apparent that the establishment had quietly legitimised arguably the most disgraceful episode in Indian cricket. Other cricketers accused of fixing have gone on to become coaches and commentators, a sign of how quickly we tend to forget and forgive. A Hansie Cronje was shamed into confessing his guilt; in the sub-continent, we have used lack of legal evidence as a smokescreen to avoid proper accountability.

Indeed, if in the last decade, Indian cricket has been spared the ignominy of fixing, it's only because we got plain lucky and not because of any deeper commitment to probity. In the aftermath of the original match fixing controversy in the late 1990s, Indian cricket was blessed to have a group of fine men who made integrity their calling card.

We have admired Ganguly, Kumble, Sachin, Dravid and Laxman as the 'golden generation' for their cricketing abilities. What we sometimes fail to appreciate is how their leadership helped restore pride in the India cap during a difficult period. The danger remains that as this generation passes the baton, will the vacuum be filled by men of equal conviction and commitment to the game? Or will the bright lights of being a millionaire at 21 prove much too dazzling for the conscience of generation next?

Morality, after all, is not born, it is nurtured. Strong leadership that commands respect is a key element in this process. If the Commonwealth Games have lost their sheen, it is because the organisers have failed to provide a moral compass to their team. Likewise, if the Delhi Metro, another gigantic government enterprise, has proved remarkably free of sleaze, it is because its chairman is a man who has zero tolerance for corruption.

Imran, under whose captaincy Pakistan remained free of the taint of fixing, has an interesting story to tell on the value of leadership. In the 1989 Australasia Cup final in Sharjah, he heard that four of his players had agreed to fix a game.

Imran called a team meeting and read out the riot act. The players were warned that not only would they never play for Pakistan, but would be sent to jail if they deliberately underperformed. The result he says was, "I don't think we've ever won a game as easily as we did that day!"                            

Post-script: Like Zardari, legendary Pakistani cricketer, Javed Miandad has also offered to help his country's cricket in its hour of crisis.

Just a gentle reminder: Miandad's son had an 'arranged' marriage with mafia don Dawood Ibrahim's daughter. Good luck Pakistan!

(The writer is Editor-in-Chief IBN 18. Email rajdeep.sardesai@network18online.com)


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More about Rajdeep Sardesai

Rajdeep Sardesai was the Editor-in-Chief, IBN18 Network, that includes CNN-IBN, IBN 7 and IBN Lokmat. He has 22 years of journalistic experience during which he has covered some of the biggest stories in India and the world. Prior to setting up the IBN network, he was the Managing Editor of both NDTV 24X7 and NDTV India and was responsible for overseeing the news policy for both the channels. He has also worked with The Times of India for six years and was the city editor of its Mumbai edition at the age of 26. During the last 22 years, he has covered major national and international stories, specialising in national politics. He has won numerous other awards for journalistic excellence, including the prestigious Padma Shri for journalism in 2008, the International Broadcasters Award for coverage of the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for 2007. He has won the Asian Television Award for best talk show for the Big Fight on two occasions and his current flagship show on CNN-IBN, India at 9, has been awarded the best news show at the Asian awards for the last two years. He has been News Anchor of the year at the Indian Television Academy for seven of the last eight years and won more than 50 awards in this period. He has also been the President of the Editors Guild of India, the only television journalist to hold the post and was chosen a Global leader for tomorrow by the world economic forum in 2000. An alumni of St Xavier's College, Mumbai, he has done his Masters and LLB from Oxford University and has also played first class cricket for the Oxford University team. He has contributed to several books and writes a fortnightly column that appears in seven newspapers.
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