IPL -7 is well underway and already we have witnessed some very entertaining games. While I support no team and have no favorites, I do enjoy some sensational individual batting performances and sometimes good bowling performances. IPL, inspired by NBA or MLB format from the USA, was started in 2007. I won’t discuss much about the history or inception of IPL as it could pretty well be read on Wikipedia. What I wanted to rather focus on was about the issue of betting and spot fixing that have marred the franchise and even threatened suspension of few teams or the tournament as a whole.
Even before stepping into IPL, probably we should start with understanding what BCCI is. BCCI is a private organization created out of the mutual consent of each of the State Cricket Boards, which are again a set of private bodies. It isn’t a Government body nor is it Government funded. So in many ways what this means at the very outset is, it is neither answerable to the public nor is it responsible for the public. It’s only objective is to take care the interest of the game and the players in the country.
Let’s also look at the two oft used terms of Betting and Fixing. Firstly it is essential to distinguish and separate the two. Betting and Fixing are not essentially co-related. They could be mutually exclusive and have no interdependency at all. Betting is the idea of putting money behind a prediction, either that of a team winning or losing. While betting seems to be entirely based on a person’s intuition, it is also aided with as much information as is available in the market. Some countries have legalized betting, pretty much like betting on horses; some countries still criminalize betting. Note that betting doesn’t involve any interference with the result of a match. It is just about a person’s intuition on what he thinks would be the outcome of the game and placing money on it.
Fixing on the other hand is about influencing a game towards a desired or pre-determined outcome for various benefits. This necessitates involvement of players and in extreme instances team management or umpires. Players could under-perform and umpires could give incorrect decisions. Needless to say that such acts of the player or umpires leads to huge monetary bonus. Sometimes fixing could be linked with betting. That is, if the odds are stacked against a particular outcome of any game then due to the vested interest of few the matches might be influenced deliberately.
Firstly it needs to be understood that legalizing betting would still leave the problem of Fixing un-fixed. Probably transparency in who is betting and what methods they deploy in the process might reduce their ability to influence outcome of games, but it might not be able to entirely rout it out. The question that arises now is even if a particular match is fixed should anybody be bothered? Let us think this through. How we view betting depends on the country’s legislation. If the legislation changes, betting becomes perfectly legal. What about fixing? I think fixing is a more complicated a matter.
There could be many angles to look at the issue of match fixing. I will restrict myself to the point of view of the audience or fans. So there are a bunch of cricketers who want to play cricket, so there are teams formed who come together under an association. The association starts organizing tournaments where cricketers could showcase their talent and enjoy playing the game while competing against each other. So people get interested at what this association is doing and starts watching the games with interest. Soon spectators swell and they start selecting their favorite teams. The primary objective of the spectator is to be entertained and watch some good performance. Of course there is a matter of delight involved if ones favorite team wins. Imagine I as a supporter support Team A which is playing Team B tonight. I want Team A to win and go to watch the game between Team A and Team B hoping to be entertained and hope that Team A wins. Now some naughty players in Team A decide to under-perform due to the money they could make my being part of a match fixing process. So, Team A loses the match and I come away disappointed with the outcome. Even if I get to know that players in Team A deliberately underperformed for money, do I have a case against them? Is my disappointment a sufficient reason to have a case against them? As a fan of Team A am I not supposed to be mentally prepared for both victories and losses? As a fan I came to be entertained and I did get my entertainment.
Even a purist/pundit who wants to watch a game for the sake of fair play or keen competition doesn’t have much to argue for. The game that was once played for 6 days in sunlight has come down to being played under light for just about 4 hours. Also many rules have been introduced to tilt the game in the favor of batsmen. So, anyway, a fan/audience is at the mercy of what is dished out, as the primary objective is entertainment. Entertainment is what we get whether the match is fixed or not and disappointment is what we get when the results are not in our favor. So fixed or un-fixed is more less one and the same from a viewer’s standpoint. The association could also pretty well use the same argument. That, it is answerable only to the players and the players have been taken care of very well and it has made best facilities made available to press/media and audience through stadiums. It only charges a nominal charge from a fan to allow him to watch the match comfortably. Can it be held accountable for any betting or fixing issues even if there is one?
I think that the popularity of the game is definitely because of the audience who are devoting a significant amount of time, effort and money to watch these games with a hope of entertainment and a hope of delight to see their favorite team win. So as long as we are being entertained I think we don’t have much to complain about. Or we have a choice, like WWF or what is called now a WWE, we can stop watching it all together!