The NLU Delhi Public Law, Policy and Discussion Group recently organised an interactive session with Pradeep Magazine, a veteran sports journalist and noted author of the book, ‘Not Quite Cricket’; who has written extensively on the issue of corruption in the IPL/ BCCI and cricket in general. Mr. Magazine began the conversation by recounting his experience as a young writer in the early 80’s and how the commercialization of cricket during that period laid the foundation for the problems cricket faces today. The ’82 Asian Games coupled with India winning the Cricket WC in ’83 brought a lot of money into sports in India, and it was then that advertisers realized that athletes could be used as pawns to sell products in the country. This has escalated to such a level that a cricketer, today, no longer represents his country/ city; rather it is the franchise he owes his allegiance to. Though the Mumbai Indians won the recently concluded IPL, the real winner has to be Mukesh Ambani.
On the question of incessant corruption in the IPL, Mr. Magazine pointed out that apart from a few teams like the Kolkata Knight Riders, not a lot of them are churning out a profit in the IPL. With the IPL being laden with small town players who aren’t quite accustomed to the limelight, it becomes understandable when such players fall prey to its glamour and are treated as personal squires of team owners, who try to make as much money off of them, in as little time, as possible. Mr. Magazine claimed how money and women are used as a bait by bookies to lure young cricketers into the trap of match-fixing. He also claimed that an out-of-touch Yuvraj Singh being brought for over Rs. 16 crores goes on to show that when players like Sachin Tendulkar and Dhoni were retained for much smaller amounts in the past, it was a sign of underhand dealings between veteran players and the ownership.
The biggest reason for corruption in cricket in India, as pointed out by Mr. Magazine, is the fact that the governing body for the sport in the country, the BCCI, is a closed-body, with no one having absolutely any idea about its functioning. He stated that any corporate body, for the sake of transparency, has to follow certain mandated procedural norms. This seems to be absent in the case of the BCCI. While looking into the case of corruption in CSK and the Rajasthan Royals, the Justice Lodha committee is now going to lay down the measures that need to be taken to make the Board more accountable. Mr. Magazine hopes, and so do we, that the suggestions made by them would be held to be mandatory by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Magazine was also quick to point out that IPL was having its toll on domestic cricket in India. Though he believed that players who had spent a considerable amount of time playing at that level tended to have longer lifespans on the International stage, he has noticed that there is an increasing reluctance on the part of young players to spend time playing Ranji cricket and honing their skills; they would rather try to make the best of their small shelf-life and make some money in the IPL. He mentioned how Cheteshwar Pujara had decided to concentrate on the longer format of the game and is now paying the price for it by being left out of the India squad, even though being a technically superior batsman. On the dismal state of Test cricket, Mr. Magazine was of the belief that Test Cricket was being killed not by the T20 format or the IPL, but by the hard-nosed attitude of cricket boards around the world in preparing dead pitches which would only support the batsmen. This, in turn, tended to produce dull games, resulting in the public losing their love for the format. Mr. Magazine believes that a competitive Test match could be as invigorating as the shorter formats of the game, as long as the pitches offer something for the bowlers as well.
Mr. Magazine was equally concerned about the state of women’s cricket in India. In the 5-6 years in which women’s cricket in India has been affiliated with the BCCI, he believes the board hasn’t taken any proactive steps in improving its state in the country. He also laid part of the blame on the media itself, which had failed in its duty of effectively covering and promoting women’s cricket in India. He attributed this media bias to the interference of the marketing side into print journalism. If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t covered.
He suggested that the general public has to play a more active role in eliminating corruption from cricket. One of the ways to do this is to boycott games featuring teams that have been involved in match-fixing scandals and the like. Finally, on an unrelated note, Mr. Magazine weighed in on the potential partnership of Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli; hoping their egos don’t clash and they work together for the benefit of the Indian National team.