AFTER a great deal of drama and much fandancing, the Indian inquiry report has been released. And to say it is disquieting would be only stating the obvious. Never mind that most of the players named have been figuring in the news ever since the unmasking of the high priest of sobriety, Hansie Cronje. The report has placed a lot of these loose facts in context and that is disturbing.
Yet, what makes it even more worrying is that there is no legal method to remove these cricketers from, to use a cricketing term, the field of play. Many of them are there to stay and will go only on their own terms. Some, thankfully, have ended their careers. But yet their influence is felt on the game and since they are associated with the game in some quasi-official capacity, the culture they have bred will be perpetuated.
So what remains to be asked now is, how are the various boards - for they are the only organisations of any authority (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) - going to react? Some have already indicated that they are going to behave in the typical ostrich-like manner - in other words, "we will wait until we see the report" (although it is already out there on the Internet in all its glory) - while others are keeping mum.
The one thing that this whole episode, right from the defrocking of Saint Cronje, has done, is to enhance the reputation of the Indian law and order machinery. It may be chaotic, there is rampant bribery and the wheels of justice move exceedingly slowly within the country, but after these two hits, nobody is going to ignore the next announcement from any Indian police body or corps of detectives. On the downside, there are indications that there are still people, both former players and officials, who are too big to be touched and they have got off scot-free. No prizes for guessing.If the boards were to ban players, then they could very well go to the courts and file suits against restraint of trade. Kim Hughes did this with great success in the 1980s. Players who have signed contracts specifying that they will not hob-nob with the likes of Mukesh Gupta will have less of a figleaf to cover themselves but I can foresee plenty of business for the legal profession. Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva have already gone to their lawyers. The others will certainly make sure that they keep the gentlemen who can obfuscate things and frustrate others so well, happy. And, once again, what I find strangest, is the fact that though the brown stuff started hitting the ceiling more than 24 hours ago, there has not been a peep from the International Cricket Conference. Judging from the report - the 85-odd pages which I went through, anyway - the Indian detectives do not have too many kind words to say about the ICC. Malcolm Gray is silent. So is Mr Fixit, David Richards. Silence is golden, and these gentlemen believe in that to the hilt. Or so it would appear.
The report has touched every country bar Zimbabwe. It would seem only right that each and every board carry out as thorough an investigation as India has done and make the reports public. And there had better be a measure of alacrity about it. India is a country which is known for its tardiness - remember the standard joke about Indian Stretchable Time? - but six months from the time when Hansie went down in flames, India has shot down its own and a few besides. I hope the rest will do as much. But no matter what happens now, cricket is dead. Let us give it an honourable burial and get on with life.