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Solving the scourge of spot-fixing: What now?

India v Sri Lanka - 2011 ICC World Cup Final

Sreesanth

Much to the shock and chagrin of the cricket world, a large-scale spot fixing scandal was uncovered during the IPL. Police named and arrested young promising stars, including capped Indian seamer Sreesanth.

Within hours, every famous name found himself under the lens of the media, open to public scrutiny. The nation breathed fire at the accused, eyeing with suspicion even the heroes who were until then idolized. Cricket suffered.

With each day, the scandal seemed to grow bigger, gnawing away at the very foundations of the sport. The police unearthed connections that crossed borders. Now that the closet had been opened, the skulls kept falling out.

People from all spheres spoke out against the IPL, some going as far as to suggest scrapping the Premier T20 League. IPL, they said, was the source of this evil. Cricket would never be the same again, it seemed.

Even as the debate raged on over the future of the Indian Premier League, those convicted spent their time behind bars, waiting for a verdict. A case which the cricketing fraternity wanted to put as an example for future offenders.  The punishment had to be harsh so it would never be repeated. The sin of spot fixing would finally be purged from Cricket.

But with the short attention span of our media and the fickle nature of the viewing public, the focus shifted. The ICC Champions Trophy came along and the skulls that were uncovered were buried back again. Those caught were suspended from cricket and granted bail as the probe continued; the world moved on. The court found the statements of the arrested bookies to be conflicting. So, the investigation had come full circle.

Banning the offenders from playing and arresting a few bookies, while necessary, is not the end of it. The sinners have been punished but the sin remains.

As was pretty clear from the investigations, the spot-fixing ring is way too large to come to an end at a few arrests. Nor does scrapping the IPL solve anything. The scrapping of the IPL would –if anything – be a serious setback to the image and growth of cricket as an international sport.

So much for the problem, but it is the solution that has eluded everyone. So, what is the solution?

Here lies the problem. With fixing so widespread and the ease of arranging it, it has become extremely difficult to completely eliminate it. But the widespread nature of spot-fixing does have a few plus points in terms of the investigations. More instances of fixing will open up chances for the responsible parties to be exposed. Then, the first obvious step is to ensure that those convicted be banned from the sport for life. No one player is bigger than the sport. Any leniency here would go only to intensify the problem.

Next and more important is to follow up on it. Pressure from the media, the police and the ICC on the convicted player and the scandal together should be able to expose the link with the bookies and the elusive middlemen. Persistent pressure should uncover the plot and more importantly, those behind it.

Finally, underperformers should be dropped from the squad without exception. The fear of losing his spot in the team sheet will keep the players from trading their loyalty to the team in return for money. These measures should go some way as a deterrent against such acts, which undermine the spirit of the game.

Maybe, just maybe, we get to see a day when the game of cricket would be cured from the curse of fixing.

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