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April 10, 2000
The muck stops here
Each time the word 'matchfixing' crops up -- and it has been doing so faithfully at the rate of once a year since the Outlook expose in 1997 -- I think wistfully of Mister Justice Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud.
Back in the late '80s, when everyone felt Kehar Singh was innocent in the Indira Gandhi assassination case, Mr Chandrachud found him guilty and okayed his hanging in a hurry, only to regret his decision at leisure.
Similarly, in the late '90s, when everyone, well, when almost everyone felt Indian cricket had become a hotbed of fixers and racketeers, the former Supreme Court chief justice found it innocent and absolved it in a hurry.
Has Mr Chandrachud changed his opinion in the second instance as in the first, I wonder and wonder and wonder. And, after l'affaire Hansie Cronje, shall keep wondering even more and more and more.
Because, the simple fact of the matter, whether or not you believe cricketers can be bought and matches can be fixed, is this: in every single case not involving Salim Malik and Wasim Akram, India figures pretty highly.
Be it in "Raju/John" accosting Shane Warne and Mark Waugh in the bar and offering both of them piles of cash for routine information which they could have obtained themselves or got from anybody in the world...
Be it in Aushim Khetrapal allegedly asking Chris Lewis to do the dirty or in unnamed people asking Greg Mathews and Stephen Fleming and Fanie de Villiers and god-knows-who-else to do ditto...
Or be it in Sanjeev Chawla calling Cronje on his mobile phone and walking into his hotel room and deciding beforehand such matters as team totals and individual scores for a round sum of "140", the Indian hand is prominent...
The muck stops here.
So, who are we trying to fool any longer: a. by claiming that matchfixing doesn't happen and that it is just a media creation? b. by deluding ourselves that matchfixing involves every other team but ours?
That is the essential tragedy of Justice Chandrachud's 'clean chit' in the Outlook-Manoj Prabhakar controversy. It provided a figleaf for Indian cricket's bosses to hide the virus that was eating into the game's vitals.
And, more importantly, when a great opportunity had presented itself to clean cricket's Augean stables -- here and everywhere else -- the Chandrachud report proved to be a recipe for administrative inertia.
That's why as every new piece of information of matchfixing (real and alleged) reveals the extent to which forces beyond boundary have made inroads into the cricket world, I think wistfully of Mr Chandrachud.
And the great opportunity he squandered.
Or was made to squander.
By tying his hands while conducting the original inquiry, vested interests used the ex-CJ to further their own ends, and the results are there for all to see.
Warne and Waugh. Akram and Malik. Fleming and Mathews and Lewis. Cronje and Boje and Gibbs and Strydom. And god knows who else tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that.
It is probably not in good form to hassle a gentleman-judge in quiet retirement. But since he was found to love the game so much as to comment on its wellbeing, Mr Chandrachud should speak.
Mr Chandrachud should tell us if he thinks his opinion on the whole business of matchfixing remains the same in the light of the continuing revelations. Or if he has had reason to have second thoughts.
The longer Mr Chandrachud maintains his silence on the drama that has unfolded in these past three years, the more convenient it gets for J Y Lele to dismiss, as he has done, the latest 'evidence' on Cronje.
The longer Mr Chandrachud maintains his silence, the faster Indian cricket will slip beyond redemption into the quicksand of scandal and controversy, and heaven knows we have enough of it already.
And the longer Mr Chandrachud maintains his silence, the longer cricket's bosses in India and across the world will say they see/hear/smell nothing. Surely, this game -- and its players and followers -- deserves better?
The gentleman's game's great USP -- trust -- has been breached and there is plenty of evidence of it. But what we are seeing, ad nauseum, are the usual hypocrises, hyberboles and delusions from the usual suspects.
Mr Justice Chandrachud should buck the trend.
Or somebody should give us a clear and convincing answer as to how the bookies strike deals with rich foreigners whom they scarcely know and whose accents they scarcely understand, while letting our players alone.
Or somebody should give us a clear and convincing answer as to how only the more-difficult top stars in top teams -- Warne, Waugh, Akram, Cronje -- are approached while the easily accessible weak links are not touched.
Either our bookies are very smart. Or the players are very dumb.
If Hansie Cronje really had that discussion on team totals, individual scores and payments within earshot of cellphones and microphones in the Taj Palace Hotel on March 14, the answer is obvious.
But anybody who still denies matchfixing doesn't exist or happen, at the team or individual level, after all that has been exposed/revealed/insinuated in the last three days is a very brave man (or woman) indeed.
Krishna Prasad co-authored the Outlook expose on matchfixing in Indian cricket
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