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Wanted: Open heart surgery for Indian cricket

by Gaurav Sethi

"They know too much, most of which they cannot talk about, that's why journalists are such heavy drinkers". A journo friend, also a heavy drinker, once told me. It's been a few hours since the latest Indian Premier League (IPL) verdict, and I find myself thinking of those unspeakable names in the envelope. The names have been flying around for a while now. To those names are stories, conspiracy theories, truths, half-truths, our own narratives, and by now, way too many pegs downed by journalists who must keep their lips zipped. They possibly share those names with a few friends, and I suspect that's how far it goes. They can't even attribute those names in the envelope to sources, so no story has appeared. A tweet to Lalit Modi however has. But that too was brushed aside by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), giving no credence, as it often does, to all things Lalit Modi.
In the last few years, whenever there has been a ruling or a verdict, it has left me with much trepidation about the loopholes, and how the cricket masters will sneak out. They always have, haven't they? With the Lodha verdict, I'm hurled yet again into the dark recesses of the early 2000s when "The boys played well" and his "boy" were found out. Or so I thought.
Those thoughts are often like being sucked into a black hole of cricket emptiness. That nothing really happens to cricket's manipulators. Could it have changed today? On the face of it, it appears the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) have been suspended for two years. But is that the case? It's the owners of CSK and RR, India Cements and Jaipur IPL that have been suspended. Can the CSK and RR find new owners and still exist? Or do they just need to be managed by a new entity? Will India Cements float a subsidiary and somehow hoodwink us all, yet again, into not owning but really owning CSK? Is CSK, as much an IPL success story as it is an IPL failing, rotten to the core, and should it be allowed to exist? Or will it be salvaged, because resuscitating CSK is in the best interests of the BCCI and Indian cricket? Is Gurunath Meiyappan the least of it? Why did the BCCI pursue the whole affair with such reluctance? Did they even pursue it? Was it just down to damage control? Remember the time when they appointed Ravi Shastri to head some independent investigation?
Is the IPL rotten to the core? Is the BCCI rotten to the core? Are most IPL matches fixed? Isn't that what you think? Though no way as obvious as some of those Indian Cricket League (ICL) games, there was way too much happening that left me thinking, WTF? On second thoughts, the IPL could still redeem itself as an honest enterprise if it rechristened itself WTFL, the "L" is for "League".
Sitting at mid-off, a straight drive from the master should have had me mesmerised, instead, I wondered whether his friend and state-mate, intentionally made a hash of the fielding, rolling all over it at mid-on. When I second-guessed a result, or a certain batsman's score (half expecting a fifty or a 30 at least), it only allayed some of my deepest fears. And as those fears grew, I withdrew, watching fewer and fewer games.
It's only in the last two years, after the 2013 IPL scandal broke, that I've found IPL matches a lot less fishy. It appeared they had become almost discreet about the fixing; matches were often boring, fewer super overs, the good teams didn't lose too many, unpredictably.
And now this verdict. When I expected little, a rap on Meiyappan's and Kundra's knuckles at best. How cynical has Indian cricket left you? A two-year suspension is way more than I expected. But it's left me wanting more, and those names in the envelope for starters don't tell us it stops with Sreesanth and those other two RR guys whose names nobody remembers. If Indian cricket has to be saved, it might have to bleed some more. The BCCI won't even bother with a band-aid, it's up to the judiciary to conduct an open heart surgery. Look at it this way, Milord, you're saving a cricket fan's broken heart, thank you.
First posted here

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