Rediff Navigator Sports
Information Entertainment Online

Silence is not always golden

Harsha Bhogle

So it is not just politicians who seem to be corrupt, who seem to play games with a gullible and trusting public.

So it is not just filmstars who have apparent links with criminals.

The Times of India, in the latest episode of this terrifying soap-opera, has a front page story on how four Indian cricketers have a nexus with criminal gangs. The paper in fact goes so far as to say that these cricketers bet money against their own team in a match that they were paid to lose.

If that is the case, and I have rarely wished more strongly for something to be untrue, it at least shows that the cricketers have a very sharp business sense.

Doesn't that redefine insider trading? I accept money to ensure that my team loses a match, and then I bet on the result that I am paid to create. It is like a policeman being asked to nab a criminal and then betting on the fact that the criminal will not be nabbed, because he has no plans of catching him anyway.

I am impressed by the finesse.

And I am in deep mourning over what this is doing to cricket as we know it. Or as we thought we knew it. Or rather, over what we hope it is.

Everytime a fresh story appears - and a story cannot appear more strongly than on the front page of the Times of India - it inflicts two very deep wounds, and I am not very sure which is deeper and which hurts more. The first is within the side. If a cricketer is suspected of manipulating matches, every performance of his will be looked at with hostility even by his own teammaters. If he fails in a crucial situation, as at least five cricketers do in every one-day international, his teammates will believe he has let the side down. They are then perfectly liable, and with some justification, to tell themselves that their honest performances have no meaning at all.

This mindset can be disastrous for team morale. If it isn't already, I mean. Could that be one reason why we don't seem to be able to win close one-day matches any more?

The other wound such widespread reporting, and the allied word-of-mouth assault, causes is in the minds of some very young boys and girls who look up to cricketers as the only heroes they have in a terribly murky scenario. For the last few years, with politicians, bankers and just about everybody proven to be corrupt, with our educational system clogged with reservations where merit is the only casualty, cricketers stood out as achievers in a clean environment. When they were playing cricket, their caste or their economic background didn't matter; there was, or it was believed there was, no bribery and corruption; and, crucially, unlike in the movies, there was no make-believe. All that they saw was for real - and so their heroes were real.

Suddenly, these innocent boys and girls are feeling cheated. And they are lost. Every generation needs role models; heroic figures to inspire, to ignite in them a fire to go out and achieve. Often, the health of a nation can be determined by the number and the kind of heroes it has. Apart from individuals in other fields, cricketers as a group were the only universally accepted role models in the country. It was this apparent honesty and nobility that made them rich and famous.

While it gave them a lot of fame and money, it also placed on their shoulders a great sense of responsibility. Everytime they went onto a cricket ground, they carried the hope of a generation with them.

If there is one thing in the world you don't play around with, it is hope; because it is tender and it doesn't belong to you.

Today, the nation increasingly believes that our cricketers have abrogated this responsibility; that their heroes are no different from the ordinary scamsters that public life is so depressingly full of.

And that is why, today, our cricketers need to stand up and address their fans and supporters with a mission of honesty. They need to go the people who made them rich and famous and say, "We are clean".

Earlier, the people making the allegations were disgruntled bookies and disloyal supporters. Now we have teammates, policemen, we have even a retired and respected chief justice of the Supreme Court involved. The time has long gone when our cricketers and our administrators could say that they cannot react to every allegation. Our cricket supporters, and remember they keep the game alive either by turning up at stadiums or by watching on television, need to be reassured.

And the time is now.

If, as a public figure, you believe you are worthy of the adulation and the riches that go with it, then you have to show to the world that you are man enough to earn it.

I have known most of these cricketers closely for a long time, and I believe they have it in them to come clean before the very people who made them what they are.

I also believe that they have no more time to lose.

Sometimes, and this is true of cricketers and administrators as well, silence is construed as a reflection of guilt.

E-mail Mail the Sports Editor

Home | News | Business | Cricket | Movies | Chat
Travel | Life/Style | Freedom | Infotech

Copyright 1997 Rediff On The Net
All rights reserved