It may serve no other purpose than theological to debate whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had unleashed a Frankenstein’s creature in the form of the glitzy Indian Premier League (IPL). What is pertinent to ask is whether the BCCI response to the disclosure of spot-fixing by three of the Rajasthan Royals players in connivance with 11 bookies is good enough. It does not seem to be so going by the declaration of intent by the richest sports body. It has promised to set up a committee to look into the issue, which will report to the disciplinary committee, after which the BCCI will take a final decision. In the meanwhile, the Board will ask the anti-corruption officers to accompany all the IPL teams, to keep an eye on the goings-on. There is also the decision that the player’s agents will now have to pass through a thorough check. All this sounds the right thing to do.
There is, however, a bigger problem. It is not about bookies. It is not whether betting is legal or not. Law minister Kapil Sibal has declared that he will look after that. What the BCCI may have to sit back and think over is its approach to the game. It is no one’s case that if there are ways of making the game interesting, exciting, glamorous and, yes, lucrative, then there is no need to show unwanted Puritanism to thwart legitimate desires. But what the BCCI will have to take care is not to kill the hen that lays the golden eggs, that is kill cricket in its enthusiasm to make the game a solely innovative money-making event. The game has to adhere to both etiquette and ethics which define it. This is what should bind the cricketers. Fear of punishment in the form of ban and suspension are good deterrents. But that is not enough to keep the spirit of the game alive. The BCCI will have to realise that it is there to promote the game, and that it cannot become the god of the game, making, remaking and destroying it. Cricket should remain centre stage and cricketers get their due for playing the game. The BCCI should serve the game and the players. IPL needs to be reined in so that it remains a game of cricket and nothing more.