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April 12, 2000

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Money for nothing

Abhilasha Khaitan

If I may, sacrilegious though it may seem, draw a parallel between a cross-border transaction to 'fix' a battle, and the goings on in cricket, is there really a difference? Beyond the nature of the damage, which I wouldn't dare (or care) to compare, the idea remains to cheat. And cheating is immoral.

Yup, I'm sitting in judgment here. Aren't you?

It's going to take some getting used to. This whole business of cricket not being what I always thought was a pretty cool description of a sport: a gentleman's game. Oh so propah and dignified. Men in white vs. Men in white. Does it really get any purer than that?

And then, there was colour. They wanted colour. It was getting dull, boring and heck, wasn't paying too well either. So, they introduced carnival cricket. Which is good. Money is good. It can make you perform. Or under-perform, as the case may be. Sounds awful, doesn't it? This damn scandal is making cynics of the best of us. I'm a believer if there ever was one. Constantly ribbed about being nave and gullible, and sometimes even blind to these harsher realities. I could never consider match fixing a reality. Not me. I couldn't because it was impossible for me to believe that players representing their country, embodying the hopes of a nation, almost being deified by their people would even need to stoop to that level for a few dollars more.

And isn't that what it boils down to? Just a few dollars vis--vis a career marked by courage, grit and honesty. Ask Hansie Cronje today, and he'll tell you. Take that money and give me back my career. My life. Because that is what it is. His life. Right? Isn't a sportsman's life his sport, just as a journalist's life is her writing? And just as no journalist would like the tag 'yellow', I'd surmise that no sportsman would want the tag 'cheater'.

Amidst all the confusion, passion and recrimination ensuing from the Cronje incident, it gets very difficult to separate fact from feeling. For anybody who has been reading my bits 'n pieces would be quite clear on the fact that I feeling predominates in my writing. What can I say? It's a gender malady on the one hand, and on the other, sportspeople and soldiers tend to do that to me.

Objectivity and pragmatism be damned, we're talking about national pride and the faith of billions. Cricket lovers of the world unite. We come to bury cricket, not to praise it. Who said that?! Don't blame the game. It can still stir you. The people who play it are not all what we may start believing them to be. Some are even more shocked and devastated than you and I can ever be. Because the fall-out for them is of very grave proportions.

Think about it. Damned if they do, and damned if they don't. Play well that is. If they do well, 'hey, its fixed, look at the kind of balls they're facing, huh!'. And God help any of those who drop a catch or bat slowly. ' How much do you think he got for that bloomer?' No room for error, no more. No one's above it.

Like someone said, if Hansie can do it, anyone can.

Abhilasha Khaitan

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