Friday, May 31, 2013

Captain puppet on a silver string

He has a God and a father too
No need to applaud or to drown him with a boo.
He is a Captain of the cricket team
Life's a fast lane, surely for him.

From ragas to riches, in a decade he walked
He missed the speeches while his willow talked.
He'd built a palace and splurged on bikes
A fat bank-balance is what he likes.

But a fair share of the Cricket's pie
He found it hard to really come by;
Till a man emerged from BCCI
Whose ambitions crossed even the sky

This man took the Captain on his board
Stuffed him with millions & increased his workload.
"He is priceless," was all that the man said
The Captain was speechless as he was over-paid.

That's the tale of power and money
Its a heady cocktail, even sweeter than honey.
He forgot his coach, he forgot his fans
Played for his ego and that of the man's.

A Godfather is what he really needed
He kept his mouth shut while the media pleaded.
The media was aghast to see a puppet on a string
(As if) Cricket's honor didn't matter & money was everything.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pajama Cricket in India & its patronising President

The President of the Board for Commercial Cricket in India (BCCI), Mr. N. Vasan , was getting ready to go to bed after a hefty dinner prepared by his daughter. Vasan was finding it difficult to untie the knot in the strings of his night pajama. He tried several times till he gave it up and left it as it is as his pajama hung precariously from his oversized waist. While slipping under the light bedcover, he was remembering the conversation he had with his daughter, who was anxious about the state of health of her jailed husband, Gurudas.

- Papa, they are giving him only dal and roti. Not even sambar. How will he survive?
- Don't worry. He will.
- No , papa. Have you seen him ? He hasn't shaved for so many days. Are they beating him at the police station, Papa?
- I hope not, Beti.

Mr. Vasan turned to his left on the bed and thought whether beating-for-betting-and-fixing is a legally accepted method for interrogation. Even Vasan was half in the mood of beating him when the police came knocking on his daughter's door for Guru. At that point of Guru's arrest , Vasan was enjoying his recess in his  Kodaikanal   farm house. Little did Vasan  suspect that his taciturn son-in-law would get arrested on charges of betting on Indian (under)Performance League (IPL) matches as well as for  passing on information about Chennai Super Kites (CSK) to bookies. Vasan had given him a free pass under an "Owner" badge and that gave him direct access to players, captain , coaches and rest of the staff members. Gurudas was otherwise a good-for-nothing guy with no demonstrable capability to organise a decent living for himself. Of course with his qualifications, he could've worked as  a clerk in any company that Vasan wished. But what will the people say? That the  son-in-law  of a rich and powerful President of BCCI is working as a mere clerk? Vasan couldn't risk that and allowed Gurudas to look after Vasan's pet franchise team, CSK that Vasan had bought while occupying the post of treasurer in BCCI. The constitution of BCCI  was amended to include positions in IPL in the list of exclusion of posts that an office-bearer of BCCI could hold simultaneously. And now the clock has turned full circle. Now people are asking how did Vasan compromise the position of CSK as well as IPL and BCCI by allowing his crook of a  son-in-law to cook the goose so brazenly?

Vasan's  position since the days of Guru's arrest was getting tied in knots after knots just like the tough ones in his pajama which refused to be untied. And like his pajama, he has to remain content with the knots till either the pajama gave way on its own or someone used a scissor to snip open the knot. Vasan could risk neither. Although publicly Vasan was claiming that the wrong-doings of his family-member did not necessarily imply wrongdoing on Vasan's part, the public was in no mood to listen. Everyone in the whole country was shouting , Shame, Shame  to Vasan not only for his brazen favoritism as well as nepotism but also because the glorious history of Cricket in general & Indian-Cricket in particular was now tainted with charges of rampant match-fixing .Finally before falling asleep, Vasan made a mental note to buy a new pajama the next day.

Early in the morning, Vasan stepped out of his pajama in the bathroom and proceeded to brush his teeth . The full-length Belgian mirror in the bathroom made Vasan look bigger than his height suggested. As he stared at himself in the mirror, suddenly time appeared to have stopped as a voice in his head quizzed Vasan, "Who am I?"  Vasan was stupefied but he let the philosophical moment blow away his resistance. A barrage of questions hit him from inside his head .
- Am I my cement company?
- Am I my IPL franchisee?
- Am I my family ?
- Am I my visiting card?
-Am I my consciousness?
-Am I just my brain ?
- Really, who am I ?

In the final philosophical analysis, Vasan realized in a Descartian moment of inspiration that he is because he thinks and it his brain that does all the thinking. So until and unless the rest of the country could demonstrate that his brain has been personally engaged in generously distributing favoritisms or nepotisms or in bringing Cricket into disrepute , he'll not step down from the President's post of BCCI.

Vasan was clever while drafting the terms of reference for the enquiry commission that has been appointed to look into the allegations against his son-in-law. He had purposefully kept certain conditions that appeared brazenly one-sided. Like keeping two members from BCCI in the 3 member Commission or by allowing the commission to submit the report to the 5 member disciplinary committee of BCCI. When pressure comes to shove , Vasan would concede those conditions & change them to what his detractors wanted. Giving them small victories would buy him the time to plot more moves to keep his position entrenched. He had to entrench his position otherwise if he resigned then his team will probably be scrapped from future IPLs and all these will have a cumulative-negative influence on the brand-image of his cement company that he'd built up leveraging the popularity of IPL & CSK.

Vasan washed his mouth , wiped his face and gently picked up his pajama from the floor. Vasan knew that he had to keep this pajama intact & use patience, guile & calmness to untie the knots that had engulfed the piece of clothing. At that moment Vasan had got the answer to the ultimate philosophical question, "Who am I?"

 He was none other than his own pajama.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

দুটি দুর্ঘটনা : অগাস্ট ২০০০

(Translated into Bengali from Salman Rushdie’s article “Two crashes: August 2000” in “Step Across this Line”- Collected non-fiction of Salman Rushdie ,1992-2002.)
জীবনের গতি এতটাই বেড়েছে যে বেশী সময় ধরে কোন কিছুর উপর মনোযোগী হওয়াটা বেশ মুশকিল।
যেকোনো ঘটনাবহুল খবরের চটজলদি মানে আমাদের চাই যেটা তার মর্মার্থ বুঝিয়ে দিয়ে কোনো পায়রার খোপে ফেলে দেবে; যাতে আমরা এগিয়ে চলতে পারি এই মোহে যে আমরা ঘটনাটা সম্বন্ধে কিছু বুঝেছি। দুটি সর্বনাশা দুর্ঘটনার অনতিকাল পরপরেই বিদ্বজনেরা এই ঘটনাদ্বয় সম্বন্ধে নাতিদীর্ঘ (সম্ভব হলে একটা পিকচার পোস্টকার্ডের পেছনে ) এবং গ্রহণযোগ্য মতামত জানাতে ব্যাস্ত। সংক্ষেপে, এই ঘটনা দুটির একটি হল কনকর্ড বিমানের দুর্ঘটনাগ্রস্ত হওয়া এবং মধ্যপ্রাচ্যে শান্তিপ্রক্রিয়ার ভেঙ্গে পড়া।

এদুটির মধ্যে কনকর্ড  বিমান দুর্ঘটনার ওপর “ইনস্ট্যান্ট মেসেজ”-মার্কা মতামত খুব সহজেই বেরিয়ে আসে। হাজারো পণ্ডিতের মতে, এই ঘটনা স্বপ্নময় ভবিষ্যতের যবনিকার  ইঙ্গিত বহন করে। যে দুনিয়ায় কোনদিন কনকর্ড বিমান দুর্ঘটনায় পড়েনি, সেখানে এই বিমান যেন মানবজাতির সীমাতীক্রান্তের স্বপ্নের  এক  শোভাময়ী বাহক ছিল । নতুন যে বাস্তব এখনো ফ্রান্স দেশের গনেস শহরের মাঠে ধিকিধিকি করে জ্বলছে , তা স্বভাবতই আমাদের প্রত্যাশা কমিয়ে আনে। সীমাতীক্রান্তে মানুষ বাঁচেনা । ছবিগুলো  আমাদের তাই বলছে। আমাদের বিমানে কিংবা আমাদের জীবনে অথবা আমাদের ভবিষ্যতের কল্পনাতে আমাদের ভুলে যেতে হবে নতুন সীমালঙ্ঘনের  উচ্চাশাকে। কিছুদিনের জন্য আমরা আমাদেরি তৈরী করা সীমা অতিক্রম করে এক অলীক জগতে অবস্থান করলেও, আজ আমরা ফের পপাত ধরণীতলে।
দুর্ভাগ্যক্রমে অন্য দুর্ঘটনাটি , বিশ্লেষণের পর , ঠিক উলটো ইঙ্গিত বহন করছে। গত এক সপ্তাহে আমি যেখানেই গেছি বা যা কিছু দেখেছি  কিংবা পড়েছি অথবা শুনেছি ; সর্বত্রই একটা প্রশ্ন বারবার উঠে এসেছে। ……যদি তোমার ওপর ছেড়ে দেওয়া হতো , তাহলে জেরুসালেমের ধাঁধার সমাধান কিভাবে করতে? নৈশভোজে কিংবা সম্পাদকীয়তে , এই ব্যাপারে সবাই একমত যে জেরুসালেমকে একটি স্বাধীন শহরে পরিবর্তিত করা  উচিত। যাকে বলা যেতে পারে বিশ্বনগরী। আলাদা করে ইসরায়েলেরও নয় আবার পালেস্তিনেরও নয় কিন্তু একই সঙ্গে দুই দেশের রাজধানী । ব্যাপারটা শুনতেও যেরকম ন্যায়সঙ্গত লাগে, তেমনি বোধ হয় বাস্তবেও  করণীয়।  হ্যাঁ, এটা একটা গ্রহণযোগ্য ধারণা  ……… কি বলছেন? আর একটা নতুন “ব্রেকিং নিউজ” দেখাচ্ছে? তাড়াতাড়ি  “সিএনএন” চ্যানেলটা ্ধরুন ত!

……আচ্ছা, ঠিক আছে, আপনি যখন বলছেন আমরা নাহয় আরো একটু গভীরেই যাই। ব্যাপারটা খুবই সরল। বারাকের সরকার কিছুটা জমি আগেভাগে ছেড়ে দিলেও, ইসরায়েলকে দিয়ে অপরিহার্য কিছু ছাড় দেয়াতে রাজী করাতে হলে আমেরিকাকেই ইসরায়েলের হাত কিঞ্চিত মোচড়াতে হবে। আর যেহেতু আরাফতও আপসবিমুখ ( যার অন্যতম কারণ মুবারাকের প্ররোচনায়  তার মুখ্য আরব মদতকারীদের নাছোড়বান্দা লাইন যে, “হয় পূর্ব জেরুসালেম আমাদের নয়ত কিছুই নয়”), সেহেতু আমেরিকাকে আরব দেশগুলোর কিঞ্চিত হাত মোচড়াতে হবে যতক্ষণ অবধি তারা রাজী হচ্ছে , “একমাত্র সম্ভাব্য সমাধানে”।
……দেখুন, একটা কথা কি জানেন? মাঝেমাঝে মানবজাতিকে তাদের সম্মুখের বাধার থেকেও বড় হয়ে উঠতে হবে। আমাদের, ওদের সবাইকেই আবিষ্কার করতে হবে নিজেদের মধ্যে যে কি করে আমরা, ওরা সীমাতিক্রান্ত করতে পারি। কারন শান্তি হচ্ছে ভবিষ্যতের সেই স্বপ্ন যাকে অস্বীকার করা যায়না।
চটজলদি বিশ্লেষণকারীদের সামনে তাই এখন সাদা এবং কালোর  মধ্যে এক অদ্ভুত দ্বন্দ্ব। যদি কনকর্ড বিমান দুর্ঘটনার “মর্মার্থ” সঠিক হয়, তাহলে মানবজাতির স্বপ্নের দিন শেষ। অতএব , মধ্যপ্রাচ্যেও শান্তির আশা করাটাই মিছে। এবং যখন ইন্তিফাদা আরো উগ্র আন্দোলনে প্রত্যাবর্তন  করবে, ( উগ্র কারণ, পালেস্তিনরা এখন ইঁটপাথরের বদলে বন্দুক দিয়ে লড়াই করে ), ইসরায়েল তার সর্ব সামরিক শক্তি নিয়ে ঝাঁপিয়ে পড়বে এবং ক্রমশই এই অঞ্চলটি যুদ্ধের রাস্তায় পদার্পণ  করবে।  কিন্তু যদি ক্যাম্প ডেভিড-পশ্চাত  কালে, স্বাধীন জেরুসালেমের গঠন  সম্ভবায়িত হয় তাহলে সেটা আমাদের নতুন আশার স্বপ্ন দেখাবে। ভবিষ্যতের ধারণা নবআবিষ্কারে এক নতুন স্বপ্নরাষ্ট্রের সম্ভাবনাকে উজ্জ্বল করবে । অনেকটা “স্টার ট্রেক” সিনেমাতে দেখানো অতিপ্রাযুক্তিক বিস্ময় ভরা স্বপ্নরাষ্ট্রের  মতন – আরো নিরাপদ, আরো সস্তায় কনকর্ড, (হয়ত বা সর্বসাধারণের জন্য কনকর্ড ) সহাবস্থান করবে মানবসম্পর্কের  সর্বজনীন ভাতৃত্বের সঙ্গে।
বাস্তবে অবশ্য এই দ্বন্দ্বের কোনও অস্তিত্ব নেই। বাস্তব জগতে , বর্তমান সবসময় ত্রুটিপূর্ণ এবং ভবিষ্যত (অধিকাংশ ক্ষেত্রে) আশার মুক্তাঞ্চল। মূল সমস্যাটা হল কোনো নতুন খবর বা ঘটনাতে আমরা কি ভাবে আমাদের প্রতিক্রিয়া ব্যাক্ত করতে চাই।  এটা কি ভালো খবর? নাকি এটা খারাপ? আমরা এটা থেকে কি পেতে পারি? এখান থেকে আমাদের নিজেদের সম্বন্ধে কি জানতে পারি? বা অন্যদের সম্বন্ধে? কোন কোণ থেকে এটাকে দেখা উচিত? কে দোষী? রিমোট- টা হাতে দাও, চ্যানেলগুলো ঘুরিয়ে দেখি! সুসান সন্তাগ তার এক অনবদ্য  রচনায় ( “অসুখের রুপালঙ্কার”) সাবধান করেছিলেন এই ধরনের আধা-অতীন্দ্রিয় চিন্তাভাবনার ব্যাপারে, যেখানে মানুষ অসুখ এবং অসুস্থতার মধ্যে খোঁজে কোন অভিশাপ অথবা কোন বিচারের রায়। এই একই যুক্তি খাটে খবরের ব্যাপারে যেখানে আমরা হেডলাইন - যোগ্য কোন ঘটনার মধ্যে উন্মাদের মত খুঁজে চলি কোন প্রতীকী মর্মার্থ । বিমান দুর্ঘটনার মতো যে কোন সঙ্কটকে, চটজলদি রুপালঙ্কারের মোড়কে-পোরা খবর চেষ্টা করে কোন সাধারন সামাজিক চিহ্নে রুপান্তরিত করার। সময় বিশেষে , বিপজ্জনক ভাবে, সেই চেষ্টা ক্যাম্প-ডেভিডের  আলোচনার অতি-বিশদীকরন করে যতক্ষণ না অসম্পূর্ণ সমস্যাটা নানা প্রতিধ্বনি এবং অনুরণনের আবরণে ঢাকা পরে যায়।  খবরের মতন চটজলদি রুপালঙ্কার সাধারণত অতিরিক্ত আবেগপূর্ণ , প্রায়শই আধা- রাজনৈতিক  এবং সর্বদাই অগভীর। এটা যেমন খবরের মুখ্য চরিত্রকে হয় দেবতা বানায় নয়ত দানব তেমনি আমাদের প্রতিক্রিয়াকে হয় ভোঁতা করে  নয়ত আগুন জ্বালিয়ে দেয়।

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Judgement day in IPL-6 : The final game between the cricketers and the crooks (or between the Master & the President).

A huge queue had formed at the Eden Gardens on the day the Board of Commercial Cricket in India (BCCI) had organized the final of IPL-6. The President of BCCI, while nursing his peg of Blue Label whiskey at the local board-dinner held the night before, had predicted the same. The President was happy that his team could clock the fifth final in the sixth edition of the game and wanted all the youngsters & fans  of the country seated in India or abroad to cheer his band of yellow shirts to a glorious third win. It mattered to him that no other official of the board was so powerful as him since he not only headed the board but also decided the rules of the tournament, which sometimes he ensured were drafted to favor his team. Board presidents have come and gone but no one had dared to buy a team and win the trophy so many times . The President was also the owner of a cement company whose product is hardly advertised but now  thanks to its sponsorship of the winning team for last 6 years, the company's name was known to one and all. It was irrelevant that they always bought a more popular brand of cement when they needed to buy cement.

But the queuing fans! Oh, they were in thousands . Like the proverbial band of sheep, each of them stood patiently quite oblivious of the rest. All were glued to their hand-held device, their heads bowed, eyes transfixed on the small back-lit screens and fingers moving at lightning speed. As cars whizzed past the serpentine queue, their internet chat rooms were abuzz with the outcome of today's final. Will it be the Yellow shirts or will it be the Blue shirts? The Master was enlisted among the Blue shirts but was not sure of playing because of a reported hand injury. Although his replacement had come good, it was the  mere presence of a cricket-lover like the Master that  was enough to motivate the team to greater heights and possibly their first win in the tournament. The Master's cabinet of trophies lacks this one.

Elsewhere in the stands and in the alleys of the huge stadium & the club-house, there were murmurs of not allowing the President to take the stands and hand over the trophy to the winning team . For a scandal had broken out just a week back when the law enforcers unearthed a huge match-fixing racket, which quickly devoured a few players, a large number of illegal bookies, Bollywood actors , an umpire & a co-owner of the Yellow shirts. The latter happened to be a relative of the President. There were angry voices in the stands that talked about the entire tournament having been fixed, year after year. However, the spectacle of the tournament with its band of cheerleaders &  DJs had simply carried away the young fans from the fairness of the game to the trivia and the glamour.

Or so the President thought! He was hoping for his team to register its third win and just as success wipes away the accumulated sins of the past, so will all the evolving dissatisfaction with his administration be forgotten. The President never wanted the trophy so badly as in this year and he was hoping for the cricket-lovers to vindicate his stand by filling up the stadium. Little did he know that the new generation of fans were attracted to IPL more for the sheer spectacle of the game than the purity of the match in question. They wanted to witness live the sixes and fours, the fixes and near-misses and most of all they rejoiced with equal enthusiasm to success as well as to demolition, whether of a team or its owner.

In slam-bang T20games, emotions and morality take second place to celebrations & spectacle often devouring the creator along with it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Get real jokers in the IPL-6 commentary box.

If Navojyot Sidhu comes out as a colorful chatter-box  in the studio-commentary box , then there’s no stopping Sanjay Manjrekar from gushing out questions at the presentation ceremony . IPL 6, in order to drive hard their stress on the entertainment,  have made watching slam-bang T20 cricket largely a mindless exercise where cricketing points loose their conventional conservative perspectives.  Looks like the heat gets to the commentators first than the cricketers, who of course have to toil is hard under the grueling heat of new Delhi and do not know how to react to inane queries after a heat-sapping game .

In the on-field commentary box,  commentators gloss over easily-given runs to effects of heat but spend two overs chattering with a slip-fielder at the start of an innings. If the fielder was expected to multi-task, he miserably failed when he dived over an on-drive for a boundary.  Alan Wilkins had parachuted to IPL 6  for commentary and he , of course,  minced no words at a bowler’s lack of overt drive for stopping runs or taking wickets. Wilkins has disappeared since then. Probably got grounded . Not a single word otherwise from any of the other commentators about the match-fixing controversy that is threatening to erupt into a politically-inconvenient issue except for some oblique hints by calling it , “a difficult week.” And all these are cricket experts with supposedly a lot of support for the ethics of cricket, which once used to be called “a gentleman’s game.”
Since commentary is  also part he 360 degree entertainment package that classifies IPL, its better to probably get stand-up comedians with even working knowledge of cricket to substitute these overpaid & overage bunch . 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

10 questions to Delhi Police who tracked-and-posted the spot-fixing scandal in IPL 6

The Commissioner of Delhi Police (CP) was a hassled  man for the past few months. For doing first what Delhi Police does best  i.e thrashing (actually water-cannoning, lathi-charging , tear-gassing etc.)  the daylights out of student protesters on Delhi streets. The students were protesting the ghastly attack on a young woman in a bus and demanding better security for women in Delhi. But when incidents of rape (some of them clearly macabre & violent too) stopped going down , the city was buzzing with demands of resignation from the CP.  Hence , when the lid on the spot-fixing scandal in IPL broke out a few days back amidst a press conference called by the same CP, the scenario was different. Basking in the glory of having cracked a major case (though involving minor players) with  "strong" evidences to press a charge-sheet against them, the CP was looking more like a DC,DD with a touch of irony & sarcasm laced in his answers almost bringing to mind the images of the iconic figure of Holmes rocking in his easy-chair answering Watson's questions.

Now, a CP is "the"  top cop. He is supposed to be more than the sum of all his roles; field officer, detective, investigator, administrator, crime-tracker & reader of criminal minds. So when he sat  a-la-Holmes during that press conference explaining as to how his team of ever-alert inspectors chanced on a phone tap between an overseas underworld member and a bookie in India and thereby collected with permissions,  phone conversations among  all people under suspicion that run to more than 100 hours (that's roughly greater than the size of a 2500 +pages transcript); the press weren't surprised but definitely looked amazed. This chance clue over a phone led them on to players of one IPL team targeted apparently by 11 bookies from around the world. The CP was pretty confident & categorical when he said that no other player or team or owner/manager was involved . This case is just about limited to the 14 who've been arrested.

Now , now that was a good job, prima facie, by the Delhi Police although the smirk on the CP's face could also relate to complete stoppage of earlier demands for his sack. But then the disclosures do not give a loophole-free account of this chance-tap-arrest story. Here are ten questions for Delhi Police that still needs answers.

Apparently Feroz , a Mumbai hit man, had asked for names of bookies while talking over phone with Tiger Memon , the alleged mastermind of 1993 blasts, in Dubai. Based on this chance tap , Inspector Badrish Dutta , since deceased, got clearance from his higher authorities in Delhi Police to conduct a 150 days long electronic stake-out of Feroz and his conversations with various bookies & others. So here are the questions.

  1. Why was Delhi Police eavesdropping on Feroz's phone and how did they get hold of his number, in the first place?
  2. And since the late policeman Badrish Dutta , who is credited with the first catch, can't verify this part of the story; did Badrish leave behind a written request to his authorities for a stake-out? Can the Delhi Police produce that note? Otherwise Badrish Dutta 's discovery will be legally unverifiable and non-tenable and no one would believe the story that Delhi Police chanced upon the bookies. 
  3. The cops from Delhi Police visited the hotels where players from Rajasthan Royals (RR) were staying in Delhi , Mumbai, Ahmedabad among others. Were the Delhi Police keeping a tap on players from opponent teams too? or was the net spread only for players in RR?
  4. The cops finally arrested the 3 accused RR players from their hotels in Mumbai. Did the cops seize any cash , and if so, of what amount, in the custody of players? If they didn't seize the cash, then how can they prove that the victims benefitted from the "tapped " conversation with the bookies?
  5. If the players  did receive cash for under-performing, whom were the cheating ? Who are specifically the victims in this "crime?" Leaving aside the legally-untenable argument that fans-at-large were cheated , was it the BCCI or was it the ICC  that were victims of crime? Surely the money-trail , if any, didn't leave the above-named short-changed in any manner.
  6. How will Delhi Police prepare the charge- sheet, based on whose complaint? Has the Anti Corruption Unit of the BCCI filed any FIR for violating Clause 1 & its various sub-clauses? How will criminal conspiracy be established if there aren't any apparent victims? or Will it just finally be  a civil violation of contract that players signed with IPL?
  7. The investigators found 5 laptops containing names , aliases & phone numbers of bookies all over the country. Why didn't the Delhi Police conduct a nation-wide raid to nab all these bookies but restricted themselves to only players from one team and their bookies?
  8. The cops talk in confident tones referring to the link with  the stereotyped bogey , Dawood Ibrahim. Did the Delhi Police find any evidence to link Dawood to the players? Otherwise the case against the players of "engaging in a criminal conspiracy with a "terrorist"  & "outlaw" will not stand-up to legal scrutiny.
  9.  The CP sounded very confident when he mentioned while answering reporters' questions that no other team or no other player is involved. One felt he was ruling out the possibility completely even before they could arise. Was the CP under instruction to keep his mouth shut about others because a logical statement would've been to allow further investigations to decide the course of the events and discover names of other players/managers/coaches/stuff/owners ?
  10. When will the Delhi Cops make the phone recordings public in order for public to separate the truth from the half-truths or even falsities?   

Friday, May 17, 2013

10 ways to signal a bookie during a "fixed" IPL match

Yesterday, the Commissioner of Delhi Police explained the modus operandi in a press conference as to how under-performing bowlers signaled to the bookie that the promised fix is now going live. According to the cops who were reading from the call-transcripts (I hope the audio clips will find their way to the Internet, soon) , they were  told by the bookies  not to do anything unusual. The signals used before start of an over were tucking in a towel, wearing a wrist-band or rotating the watches. Quite unusual, one might say, if you're doing such things in the second over or later. Here's 10 casual & useful  moves that could  be construed as the signal for the fixed-up bowlers or batsmen in the future matches.

Cartoon Source: Sudhir Talang

  1. Change the batting gloves.
  2. Do not remove the sunglasses while bowling.
  3. Ask for adjustment of sight-screen
  4. Open and tighten the shoelaces of both feet.
  5. Take off the helmet & wear it again.
  6. Start the over with a dummy run-up.
  7. Take your stance, stop the bowler in the run-up and then stroll over to mid-pitch for a quick chat with the other batsman.
  8. Bowl six quick practice balls to the mid-off or mid-on fielder.
  9. Knock the pitch at good-length spot ten times with the bat.
  10. Wave repeatedly to any far-off fielder for a slight change in fielding position.  

Illussion of corruption hangs over the Indian (under)Performance League as KIngs XI trounce Delhi Daredevils

Photo Source: Cricinfo

The Kings XI Punjab (KXI) played a match in the picturesque (not visible on screen as this was a night match) Dharamshala against Delhi Daredevils(DD)  in order to decide who was going to occupy the bottom half of the bottom half if you leave Pune Warriors (PWI) aside. Quite a contrarian situation to that in PWI's match against  KKR at Ranchi , two days ago that turned out have been  upsetted by the kick on a ball-in-play by Yusuf "most-valuable-player" Pathan. Pathan , who has somehow  managed to blossom at the fag end of this edition of IPL, was given out for obstructing the ball on 72 and KKR lost the slim chance to stay in game for the qualifiers. Never mind that the top order of Gambhir, Kallis, Bisla  failed with the bat while Kallis disappointed with ball too. Like that day,  KXI 's fate hung by a thin thread to fortunes of other teams for the qualifiers.

But then the emotions at the KXI-DD match had a strong under-current of skepticism. The events that had developed at the start of the day when 3 players of RR , currently playing in IPL6), were arrested by Delhi Police from their Mumbai hotels on allegations of spot-fixing the day after RR's last match with MI. Although the commentators avoided the 'f' word , spectators were watching with their third eyes. Fans are not sure whether what looks like reality is just an illusion or whether an illusion is    indistinguishable from reality in real life, anyway.

 Like for instance, when Morne Morkel was bowling his pair of short-pitched lollipops and good-length snorters , an swashbuckling off-drive from Gilchrist was flying   away to the point boundary when out came Umesh Yadav on the screen . Umesh was standing right on the boundary and didn't move an inch when the ball landed on his folded hands and then just bounced out . Was that Morne Morkel's "promised runs" or Umesh Yadav's  folly or whatever?  Soon after another ferocious cut from Shawn Marsh flew over the empty second slip as Sehwag dived full-length to the left (that's a rare sight) only to miss touching the ball by inches. And then Siddhart Kaul took a stunning catch (see photo)  to dismiss Azhar Mehmood. Looked like the players were trying to perform 120% to avoid any suspicion. In the end David Miller thumped Umesh Yadav & Siddhart Kaul  alike as KXI beat DD by 7 runs & and hangs with a slim chance of going to the qualifiers.

Photo Source : IPL official photo archives

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Aditya Tare sparkles in a IPL match sullied by spot-fixing allegations

As the Indian Premier League (IPL) coasts away to unprecedented success in its 6th edition with television signals getting beamed onto reportedly 198 countries, recession seems to be a word absent from the dictionary of BCCI, the rich & powerful cricket control board of India.

IPL is a T20 cricket tournament played in a league format among 9 teams that are named after nine cities and are owned by nine moneybags out of which  3 are family-managed industrialists, 3 are film stars, 1 is a non-certified Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) operator,  1 is a media baron-cum-airline owner & only 1 is a corporate group.  Out of the 3 industrialists; 1 is a liquor baron-cum airline owner, 1 is oil & gas and retail-store major and 1 is the President of BCCI . IPL league may have the adjective 'premier' prefixed to it but in reality, there are no other leagues below it. IPL kind of floats on air. There are no relegation rules applicable for the bottom teams since there isn't any other league to relegate it to. Hence there's no promotion of the top teams of the non-existent lower league. As far as the business model from BCCI's perspective is concerned , it's a surefire winner. After all BCCI collects Rs. 40 crores per franchisee annually besides huge annuity that it gets for having auctioned off its marketing & television rights. It's the finances of the franchise owners that are under a lot of cloud since none of these teams have a publicly listed balance sheet. Only one team had it earlier. The erstwhile Deccan Chargers, who were owned by the Deccan Chronicle owners, had a balance sheets in public domain since they were a listed company. But subsequently they fell into large debts and sold off the franchisee to a media baron from the south. With a small control group of 9 owners and with their mostly-hidden finances , one is not sure how the franchisees make their money. They annually pay  Rs. 40 crores to BCCI , another 60 crores for players and hence its expected they must make at least 200 crores annually from ticket sales, merchandise, sponsorships and the likes. Quite a tall order by any standards and definitely the least exciting way to make money if you look at the profile of owners.

What's the missing link in the revenue stream? There have been hush-hush talks of  owners making money through betting & fixing and/or laundering their (& others' ) black money into IPL. These are only allegations and some would say of the flying variety. But then when suddenly three players (including a World Cup winning member) of  one particular team gets arrested on charges of spot-fixing by the Delhi Police , there's bound to be allegations  that will not only be flying but piercing as well. Delhi Police held a press conference to show clippings from three matches involving one particular team, Rajasthan Royals, as evidences. The last of those pertained to the match between Mumbai Indians (MI) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) held last night at the Wankhade Stadium where Sachin Tendulkar didn't take part on account of an injury. RR lost the match by 14 runs , exactly the amount of runs that a RR spinner, Ankit Chavan, was alleged by the Delhi police of having fixed  with a bookie for a consideration of Rs. 60 lakhs. A clear case where spot fixing an over for 14 runs led to match fixing.     


The MI versus RR match had some moments of its own. Rahul Dravid was given caught behind when he tried to swish a Mitchell Johnson bouncer to the leg side. Television replays showed that the umpire's finger went up faster than the two pairs of  hands of the bowler & wicket- keeper who went up in a casual appeal. Dravid , whose legendary ice-cool exterior can be compared only to that of Bjorn Borg the tennis-great, was not amused and he could be seen muttering something from behind the cage of his helmet. They looked like expletives aimed at the umpire, Asnani.  Malinga  used his legally-permissible-fifteen-degree-hand-swing ( an euphemism for legal throws) in the death overs to choke the RR batsmen of a possible victory. But the cricketing pudding was in the arrival of Aditya Tare (see photos), a promising newcomer whose bating seems to be a heady punch of Dravid's technique & Tendulkar's creative aggression, who made a quick-fire 59 driving Faulkner to three boundaries in one particular over.

But now with the spot-fixing allegations against players of RR, fans &  skeptics  would pore through the videos of matches to discover more such signals given by erring bowlers to the bookies and  their profligacy in bowling. Interestingly RR have been experimenting with their batting order and teams every second game. And even this particular game against MI was no exception when they brought in Faulkner as a pinch-hitter. The experiment hardly succeeded. In one particular match against the KKR at Eden Gardens , RR got their captain Dravid to bat at number 8 (which Dravid justified by saying they were following horses-for-courses strategy on a dusty pitch such as at Eden ) instead of his customary place as the opener. A place where a slow batter like Dravid finds sufficient time to anchor his presence and build a larger score for his team. RR lost that match against KKR , completely against their run of consecutive victories preceding the match. To take the attention away from RR , take the match between MI and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) where the super-performer Pollard dropped three consecutive catches of Mike Hussey at point but managed to hold on to the fourth ,a skier,  sometimes later.

Like always, fresh allegations with evidences always put the spot light on the entire tournament as people hardly believe in a localized event such as the one reported today.  Specially if one remembers the context of an oligarchy of 9 teams, limited streams of revenue for the franchisees and the lack of transparencies of the books of the franchisees. Although the BCCI chief and Chennai Super Kings owner ( can you see the conflict of interest here? Well BCCI can't) , N. Srinivasan has promised to root out spot-fixing  from IPL , fans are aware that such lip-services from an insider hold no credibility.  Allegations of match-fixing, spot-fixing have been doing the rounds of Indian cricket for more than a decade now and save for banning cricketers , BCCI hasn't proved effective in rooting out the evil , that is criminal in nature.

Spot-fixing or Match-fixing , IPL appears to be the platform where black money from India and abroad gets laundered & enhanced through a betting-cum-fixing network that has players acting as conduits & willing accomplices. Its high time that the IPL governing council , a team of 8 with 2 politicians, take a serious stand on the issue and as a first measure initiate a CBI enquiry into the dealings of players, coaches, umpires and owners of franchisees & their opponent teams involved in the  allegations of spot-fixing in IPL and match-fixing in ODIs. This is because even a new student of economics will tell you that the real money floating around televised international cricket matches in India, not excluding the lucrative IPL,  do not lie in franchisee fees or  sponsorships  or players' salaries but in the illegal betting-cum-fixing market that runs into thousands of crores per match. Secondly the sport ministry should seriously consider legalizing match-betting in India if only to drive the criminal & fixing elements out as well as to bring in tax-revenues for channelizing the funds to needy sports bodies that play equally competitive games other than cricket.

As far as the future of IPL 6 is concerned , RR will find it hard to qualify for the final beset as they'll be with more & more of flying allegations of fixings. MI seem to be making a confident stride towards the final and towards the glitering trophy for the first time in the history of IPL only if the tournament doesn't capsize under pressure arising from these new allegations. Its almost as if the final of IPL 6 has already been  played last night at the Wankhade.

Photo Source : IPL official photo archive

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Individual Warriors expected to shine in IPL 6 match between Pune and Kolkata.

Pune Warriors play Kolkata Knight Riders  at Ranchi. At the fag end of the league matches in IPL6, this contest will decide who'll lead the top half of the bottom half of the IPL6 table , if one leaves aside Kings XI Punjab. The same match last year had generated quite an interest in spite of the fact that Pune  remained at the bottom half, even then. Since the Kolkata-icon Ganguly was leading the Pune team against probable champions KKR, the match was awaited with eager interest by fans of KKR and fans of Ganguly.

This year, IPL6, however neither Ganguly is playing nor KKR have a chance to qualify to the finals. The only interest is about the behavior of the pitch at the new venue, Ranchi. The  latter is the latest among the five modern cricket-stadiums that have been built recently in India. The other venues are at Nagpur, Dharamshala, Raipur and Pune. The pitch at Ranchi behaved bizarrely a few days ago when KKR defeated Royal Challengers , Bengaluru. The ball came slow and also kept low with occasional unpredictable bounces. The weather in Ranchi being hot at 37 C, the clay pitch is expected to be devoid of moisture and assist spinners. Hence KKR will start as a favorite in a match that is expected to be low scoring again. But it will be futile to expect Pune to play another listless match since individual players will play for self-glory if only to be noted for next year's auctions.

The KKR-PW match is going to be less of a match for team-pride (as  most columnists appear to suggest) but more of a match with individual accomplishments considering we're nearing the end of IPL6 . Purely from the last perspective, PWI will hold an edge over KKR; specially also taking into account the fact whether PWI will be able to financially sustain itself next year with their Chief in all kinds of regulatory trouble regarding  collective investment schemes.