Greedy cricketers, the importance of Ian Bell and Australia quietly arrive for the Ashes

The gentleman’s game has taken a beating in the last couple of weeks with the spot fixing controversy and the BCCI being shamed. Why do cricketers go after more money? Why do they feel that ethics and morals are not greater than cash? What can we do to clean this game up, at least in India? What should be the role of the Government, the Judiciary and the BCCI in all these?

The Indian domestic cricket paints a wretched picture when it comes to player salaries and other compensation. If you looked at the earnings of domestic cricketers all over the world, India ranks poorly with probably only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe being ranked lower than us in terms of this. The BCCI is apparently the richest sporting body in the world, so one would assume there is no harm if they paid our domestic cricketers more than the peanuts they are earning now. One of the reasons why cricketers indulge in spot fixing and other imprudent activities is the feeling of insecurity. Being inadequately compensated, they have to support their families and for this they turn to the lucrative spot fixing arena. And boy, are they happy! They turn out to be dirty rotten scoundrels rather than dignified cricketers who could be emulated by the generation that is growing up now.

The indulgence in fixing and betting activities coupled with the policy of low pay and incentives for domestic cricket invariably breed greed in our cricketers. They are not satisfied with what they get and want more and then even more! Values and morals are thrown to the wind in the melee that is spot fixing. All the things about the love of the game turn to a lust for money. This attitude is perilous and does not augur well for Indian cricket. The National Cricket Academy (NCA) should carry out sessions in coordination with each of the state cricket associations to tutor players about the substance of values and morals. Erudite cricketers such as Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble should speak in these sessions about the way the game should be played. The ineptitude of the BCCI in doing this is glaring and this sporting body is an absolute disgrace for all cricket lovers in this proud country!

A lot of debate has happened over what is best to clean the game. I personally feel betting should be legalized in India. Bookies must be registered with the BCCI and an independent Government body should be set up to monitor betting activities. Any bookie who has a conflict of interest should divulge this before placing a bet. Players, coaches, support staff and others associated with the teams should be banned from betting on a game. A law that regulates betting while at the same time imposing strict punishments for fixing and other incidental activities should be framed so that there is accountability and responsibility all around. I understand that fixing is quite different from betting but legalizing betting and a strict law against fixing will be bare minimum deterrents for the vice.

The Government should work closely with the Courts as well as the BCCI to fast-track cases of illegal betting and fixing and bring the culprits to book. It would be a good idea to institute separate Courts for trying these cases with a right of appeal to the High Court which could be the final fact-finding authority. Aggrieved persons could have the right to approach the Supreme Court but only on questions of law. Within the BCCI, there should be a code of conduct that should be passed on to its affiliate state associations as well as partners. The code should be strictly enforced and refreshers conducted at the start and middle of every season. The punishments envisaged must be clearly communicated so that it acts as a strong motivation for players not to indulge in acts of indignity. The players must be educated about the virtues of honesty and dedication. Of course, the BCCI officials themselves have to walk the talk first!

Elsewhere, in England, the Englishmen are slugging it out against the touring Kiwis. Their bowling won for them comprehensively the first Test at Lord’s but questions have already been asked about their batting, with the Ashes just around the corner. The retirement of Andrew Strauss has drilled a gaping hole at the top and Nick Compton is just gaining the experience required to excel at the highest level. But the gravest of their problems is the middle order.

With the exuberant Kevin Pietersen out with an injury, England’s middle order will have their task cut out. He is expected to return from injury to play the Ashes, but there’s no idea of the form he is going to be in. Ian Bell should feel the most threatened of his place in the side today as Joe Root and Johnny Bairstow are much younger and plays with much more confidence. Bell needs to go back to domestic cricket and find his runs because England desperately needs him to score in the Ashes. They cannot afford to go into an important series with a rookie middle order that could be consumed by a battery of Australia’s pacers who can be at their best in these conditions. Batting around Bell will be England’s best option as far as their middle order is concerned simply because there isn’t a better player in England who could master the conditions and the opposition. If Australia manages to bridle Bell, then England could struggle.

Australia, meanwhile, have arrived quietly in England and this quiet is actually excellent for them. They are not weighed down by expectations because England is definitely a better side and Australia are coming off the back of a humiliating series loss in India. Having said that, Australia’s cricketers are fighters and they can very well give England a run for their money. This could be more so in the opening duels when the conditions would still aid swing rather than in the latter half of the series when things would be much easier for the batsmen. Both the sides would want to wrap the series up before they arrive at The Oval for the final Test. An interesting duel is certainly on the cards. Look forward to watch the action!