Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Umpires in fixing: It was sensational and that was it

By Muhammad Asif Khan

A few weeks back I received a text message which said “The best day to propose to a girl is April 1st. U Know Why?? Because If she accepts then it’s your luck, otherwise just shout “April Fool”. Harmful jokes apart, but generally the culprits, in such acts on the day (April 1), are not taken to task and the reason is the non-serious or fake nature of the environment. So it finally comes down to the intentions and the motive of the action.

Ok, moving out from April to reach the period between July and August this year when a TV channel from India started fooling a few people in the name of serve a genuine purpose. They exposed a few faces – in a thrilling footage - who were ready rather greedy to crush the dignity of the game of Cricket under their feet. That was indeed a good job and should be appreciated.

But, was the India TV action only falls into the category of sensationalism or actually a great service to the game and its followers? I myself am not utterly clear on this as yet. I may be naïve, therefore don’t have answers to the following silly questions. So please help me out. Let me make it clear that I am not at all trying to favour any umpire featured in the footage shown by the TV but the intention of the TV station had left enough room for suspicion, for me at least.

The environment created by the India TV, during the sting operation, was real or surreal, serious or non-serious? Since, the questions and the ‘surreal’ environment were hypothetical, then why those - on the on the other side of the Skype - were caught on their words not actions?

In the last sting operation of such nature in 2010, carried out by the News of the World in London, the players (Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif) were not only caught pledging but later they also lived up to their promises, hence rightly penalised by the court of law and the apex body of the game of Cricket – The International Cricket Council - but in this case can a person be penalised on his intentions only?

If all the exposed officials are all set to be taken to task then the reporter should also be at least questioned because he was the one who lured in somebody to a crime. I know the under-cover reporter’s part was hypothetical but then the entire episode was surreal including an umpire on the other side of the Skype. One can’t be punished for his intentions until he transforms them it into actions?

What was India TV up to? Off course they were on a mission to cleanse the game of Cricket, ok then why did they only choose the officials at a lower tier?

Six Umpires were shown on the camera, and I am sure numerous other officials – probably includes some from the highest level which is called the elite ICC panel - were approached during the ‘cleansing service’. Question is that did they come across anyone who blatantly refused their offer or threw a few probing questioned at them? Would not it be heartening to share that tape too to prove to the world that in general this game is clean but yes there are few miscreants present in this field too.

I doubt that they (India TV) ever approached someone in the elite panel, because had they done so then two scenarios would have followed. Either, the ICC was intimated by those approached, and in this case, the ‘hidden service’ would have forcefully been wrapped up by the Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) OR the second more likely situation would be that due to the shrewdness of a top-level umpire the visionary bubble would get burst half way. The fear of getting exposed probably kept the stingers away from the elite panelists.

Before moving further, let’s check the list of Cricketers who have already banned, suspended or penalised for fixing to-date. The list - on Wikipedia - shows the name of 22 international and domestic players which includes nine Indians, six Pakistanis, three South Africans and one each from Kenya, Bangladesh, England and the West Indies.

The glaring reality mentioned in the list is that, apart from the majority of Indian cricketers, the most such incidents took place on the Indian soil too. Moreover, in the latest case of Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield the bookie associated with Kaneria (Arun Bhatia) was supposed to be an Indian as well. Another interesting thing in Kaneria’s case was that he was named in the court as the man who approached Westfield with the idea of fixing or in other words he (Kaneria) was the one who actually influenced a young cricketer to commit the wrongdoing. So, if this is a crime worth a life ban to Kaneria then the ‘under-cover’ reporter of the India TV should also be charged because he lured in people to commit a crime and limited his effort to enticing only and did not wait till the pledges of the umpires would become a reality.

If they (India TV) were on a mission then they should have done something more productive, by digging into the fixing dens within their own country. Again, I am not pinpointing anything particular. This is a fact that fixing is a widespread problem and isn’t limited to India only. The point is that since the TV is from India therefore they should follow “Charity begins at home” principle. They should have probed further into the Indian Premier League – the way they did earlier -, they should have questioned Vinod Kamli, who questioned a 1996 World Cup match featuring India and so many other dubious activities.

Coming to the very end, I would reiterate that the intentions showed by the Umpires are absolutely wrong, and should be condemned but I am afraid they could not be charged on this account only. After all real-time penalties are there for real-times actions.
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