The recently erupted spot fixing controversy has certainly put another blot on cricket which is deemed to be gentleman’s game. The claim of Indian Premier League (IPL) functionaries that it’s fully transparent seems to be sounding hollow with Delhi Police arresting about a dozen of bookies including three Rajasthan Royals players. However, it’s not the first time that the involvement of cricket players in match fixing and spot fixing came to light. In 1999-2000, the Delhi Police had busted the match fixing in India-South Africa cricket series and presented the evidences of players’ involvement in the mess. Not only South African Hansie Cronje and Herschelle Gibbs but Mohammad Azharuddin, Ajay Sharma, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar were also banned for their alleged involvement in the match fixing. Later, the BCCI made stricter norms for players’ contract. They had been cautioned against any such involvement, but the fresh row indicates that the warning fell on deaf ears of some of the players.

Despite earning whopping money from this game, some players are trying to mint money overnight. Gone are the days when cricketers would complain that they were not getting enough money to make both ends meet. Particularly in comparison to English and Australian players, the Indian cricketers used to get far less money. But in the changed scenario, other sport persons became jealous of BCCI’s huge earnings. The cricketers turn millionaire by participating in IPL. If some of them want to make more money, it shows their greediness only. The government has failed miserably to cleanse the rot in the game as the players continue to land in row of spot fixing. Neither BCCI nor government could eliminate the spot fixing which has flourished for the last many years. According to an estimate, as much as Rs 10000 crore is put on stake in satta (betting) market. Bookies have spread their racket in all the metro cities of country.

Delhi Police’s startling revelations clearly show that satta racket is being run by the underworld dons from Dubai. Clearly, match fixing or spot fixing has turned into an organized crime. Earlier, the matches being played at Sharjah were considered to have been fixed. Thereby, the Government of India started to scuttle Team India’s tour to Sharjah. With the advent of IPL in 2008, many cricket experts had expressed concerns that the new format might also fall prey to bookies. But, the level of cricket being played during the IPL matches reflects that every match is not being fixed. At the same time, it can’t be claimed that the IPL matches are free from spot fixing. Apart from that, Delhi Police itself is not in a position to rule out the possibilities of involvement of other players in the spot fixing.

The million dollar question is that whether the police can produce evidences to prove the guilty of players? Although satta is banned in India, it would be interesting to see court’s decision on the players who have hurt the sentiments of over one billion Indians? The time will tell that whether the stringent action will be taken against the three players who have tarnished the image of gentleman’s game. Satta is legal in most of the countries, but in India it is considered as not only an illegal practice but also a social offence. In our country, satta is allowed in horse racing, but it’s limited to a small section. Some of the experts are in favour of giving legal status to the satta. No doubt, it will open avenues for earning revenue, but then satta would get legalized. Providing legal teeth to betting business will raise several questions as it is considered as social evil in the country. In fact, satta has been in practice for entertainment in the country since the Mahabharata era. It is also practised on the occasion of some festivals.

It’s impossible for government to put a complete check on satta (betting market) despite being considered as a social evil. However, the government can regulate it. Notably, mere law can’t eradicate this evil. Is it not strange that Indian law has no provision for recognizing match fixing as a criminal offence despite satta corrodes away the cricket and other games? It would be justifiable for the government to devise concrete measures to curb satta. While doing so, the ruling establishment should keep in mind that satta can be allowed in the games provided that there should be no involvement of players in it. Satta is no less than a crime which hurts the game as well as the sentiments of sport lovers. Such crime needs to be checked soon, otherwise the gentleman’s game will lose its attraction.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on May 19, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)