GAME PLAN: Sporting corruption and cleaning process

Jaideep Ghosh

urich : A protester wearing a mask depicting FIFA President Sepp Blatter stands in front of the building where the 65th FIFA congress takes place in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, May 29, 2015. Protesters from the global campaign movement Avaaz demand the resignation of  Blatter over the FIFA corruption scandal and rights abuses of World Cup construction workers in Qatar. File Photo PTI

Zurich : A protester wearing a mask depicting FIFA President Sepp Blatter stands in front of the building where the 65th FIFA congress takes place in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, May 29, 2015. Protesters from the global campaign movement Avaaz demand the resignation of Blatter over the FIFA corruption scandal and rights abuses of World Cup construction workers in Qatar. File Photo PTI

Wonder where sports are headed. On a globe where everything is cause for a battle, a clash, a strike or at least an argument, one had assumed that sports would be left well alone.

But then, I guess that is a very naive interpretation.

You see dope scandals wracking Russian athletics and the West coming down on them like a tonne of bricks, trying to get the athletes banned, the federation dissolved and even the President of the nation castigated.

Not just athletics. FIFA is in its own sordid soup of corruption, favouritism and all kinds of scandals which the football-loving people around the world didn’t think were possible.

The shock isn’t in the fact that FIFA boss Sepp Blatter was in the dock. Former players, superstars who were the dreams of so many, are also accused or at least suspected.

Who ever thought Michel Platini would be under fire. Or Franz Beckenbauer is a suspect.

The fallout isn’t minor. There is a very strong lobby insisting that Russia be stripped off the 2108 FIFA World Cup.

So politics is returning to roost in sport.

But that was never too far from the truth, was it. FIFA isn’t exactly the paragon of virtue that many people tend to say, especially in India, where every little blot of corruption is attributed to cricket and cricket administrators.

Which of course, immediately brings us to the goings-on in Indian cricket?

Now, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided, under the able leadership of Shashank Manohar, to clean its act.

Which is a little difficult to do, to say the least.

It is always said in lesser cricketing countries like England and Australia (yes, get used to it) that corruption in cricket is a very sub-continental phenomenon. All things bad originate from here.

It wasn’t so long ago when ball tampering was a Pakistani scourge. The ball behaved in very strange ways indeed after Imran Khan and his boys had their way with it.

Then, once the Aussie and English bowlers mastered the art, it became reverse swing.

Doosra was another such devil, with another Pakistani, Saqlain Mushtaq, being the guilty party.

The West still hasn’t mastered it, so it became chucking.

Then chucking became a different game – 15 degrees of silliness in fact – and anyone could chuck, provided he stayed within 15 degrees.

Sure, the BCCI has been very talented over the years in bending rules, if not exactly breaking them. Or just simply change them.

So they did have a little effect on ICC, but when it comes to pure grey deeds, the international body didn’t need much encouragement.

But let’s get back to the new-look BCCI.

Well, it looks the same really.

Some people have been shifted, some added and some placated. But the big boys are the same, only their roles have been made, according to Manohar anyway, more transparent and accountable.

Which is great! After all, who doesn’t want transparency?

Maybe that would also explain when and how Dharamsala suddenly became a venue suitable for Tests. Or Vizag.

What is missed is that BCCI is a place where things have worked in a feudal way for decades. People have come to power, other people have toed their line without a whimper of protest or even a question.

The same people who swore by N. Srinivasan are now going ga-ga over Manohar.

The BCCI big man has also evicted his counterpart from the ICC, but has left a suitably lucrative carrot for the other challenger, Sharad Pawar, as a stand-in for all ICC meetings where Manohar is unavailable.

Why do we get a distinct feeling that Manohar will indeed be missing frequently.

Plus Pune will get a Test soon.

Delhi is playing their ridiculous power game once again and DDCA is fighting with itself, again. So that leaves the BCCI with a golden opportunity to keep Pawar even happier and offer the last Test of the current South Africa series to Pune.

After giving DDCA enough time to hang themselves, of course. It is, after all, a new and improved DDCA.

Conflicts of interest are being considered too. Roger Binny was shown the door because son Stuart plays for India. Good, so long as other kids aren’t allowed to run around net sessions simply because they are some big star’s son.

Corruption in sports is alive and kicking, unfortunately. Our naive picture through the filter of enthusiasm and misplaced faith has been shattered.

One can only hope that sports remain comparatively clean and honest. Can’t ask for too much beyond that in today’s day and time.