The other side of the fix

AROUND two months after the fixing scandal surfaced, the trend towards polarisation into two camps seems to be getting more prononounced. There are indications aplenty that this malaise is universal, yet many so-called learned commentators and writers would prefer to tar this or that nation as the root of all evil. And, in the process, attempt to paint their own as the purest of the pure.

The latest example of this comes from a scribe who, it appears, is firmly convinced that the giver is the only one at fault. The taker is not. In other words, the man who offers the bribe to fix a match is the only guilty one. The man who stretches out his hand and takes what is on offer, gleefully or otherwise, is a poor victim of circumstance. India and Pakistan need to be damned because the bookies who have surfaced come from there; Australia and South Africa are squeaky clean because they only have people who accept the offers.

By the same yardstick, if the ICC had opted to sell the TV rights for the next two World Cups to a station which has an Indian owner, then it would have meant shady deals. No matter that the station in question had made the highest bid. The deal has gone to Rupert Murdoch, an Australian who has taken American citizenship for business reasons. But there is no hint of any shady deal here, even though the bid was much less and the new ICC chief is an Australian!!!

Some unknown Johannesburg businessman (no name, no address, no nothing) can allege that Brian Lara made money by betting on his team. And we have a big cloud of suspicion cast on the West Indies star. But if anyone suggests that a white cricketer is not exactly clean, then we have a large number of people asking whether there is any proof of such allegations.

This is a double standard of the highest order. It is merely an attempt at obfuscation, an attempt to conceal the fact that the brown stuff has touched every country. No country is exempt from suspicion and no cricketer is guilty until he is proved to be so. And his colour or the country of his origin does not matter. But journalists would have us believe that it is so.

Majid Khan, the man who apparently gave Ali Bacher the idea that World Cup matches involving Pakistan, Bangladesh and India were fixed, is the same man who made what could well be considered suspicious decisions way back in 1975. Pakistan and the West Indies contested one of the World Cup semi-finals that year and Pakistan seemed home and dry when the West Indies had one wicket left and were over 60 runs adrift of the target of 267. Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts saw the West Indies home. And in the process, we had Javed Miandad bowling 12 overs and Mushtaq Mohammed two! Wasim Raja bowled the last over. Sarfraz Nawaz, the main strike weapon, bowled out his quota early. So was it just bad captaincy? I think so. There is nothing to show otherwise. Yet this match does look suspicious when these facts are outlined, doesn't it?

Take the famous match in Sharjah in 1986, when Miandad hit that last ball for six. Kapil Dev was the Indian captain and a seasoned veteran by then. He allowed a man like Chetan Sharma, an excuse for a fast bowler, to bowl the last over in such a match when he should have reserved it for himself; he had bowled out his quota before the end. Bad captaincy? Or should we be suspicious?

Numerous South African journalists were prone to lambast the Indian police when they initially accused Cronje and others of match-fixing. One of them went so far as to say that the voices on tape sounded like Asian voices!!! We haven't heard any retractions of that statement yet. Now the same man would have us believe that there are two kinds of justice: the subcontinental type and the other type.

There are fears that the subcontinental teams will break away from the rest and form their own set-up. In truth, it is the tours of the subcontinent which help the other teams balance their books. And dirt or smog notwithstanding, the crowds come to see any team. England and Australia like the financial aspect of touring the subcontinent. They don't like a great many other things.

Cricket's administrators worldwide need to accept that whatever cancer has crept into the game has reached into every nook and cranny. Some areas are more rotten than others. But, as I've pointed out before, if the pass mark is 50, the man who gets 49 and the man who gets five both get a failing grade. In other words, you can't be a little bit pregnant. It would be well to bear in mind that cricket has become some kind of leveller and is no more a colonial game. Pushing countries into different camps has never been beneficial in the past. It will not be so in the future either.