Fixing: When Our Silence Spoke Louder Than Words

WHEN Mohammad Ashraful on Tuesday apologised for his involvement in what he euphemistically termed ‘wrong-doings’, you could have been forgiven for thinking he had merely owned up to not walking a couple of times after getting a thin nick.

For all the recent IPL rage and bluster at players’ crookedness and greed, when the once – well, many times – next big thing in Bangladesh cricket announced he had confessed to the authorities about his involvement in match-fixing, the response seemed rather muted, as an almost collective cybershrug of the shoulders failed to ripple across Twitter and the world’s media.

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It seemed an odd riposte to the former captain of a Test side admitting his involvement in corruption.

Perhaps there is such a thing as corruption fatigue, where people merely become immune to the weaknesses of others and accept them as human foibles, rather than criminality? Perhaps such a turn of events was expected from someone as wasteful of talent as Ashraful?

Not that Sreesanth could ever be considered the last bastion of human morality, but perhaps after the IPL spot-fixing scandal – an appendix to Butt and Amir – we just expect it of any cricketer?

 

Or, perhaps no fan really gives a hoot, as long as another cricket match rolls round again in a couple of hours even as they may ever increasingly doubt its veracity?

Ashraful’s teary mea culpa on national television happened on the same day Tim May resigned as president of FICA, the players association, with an emotional broadside in which he said: “Cricket increasingly seems to be pushing aside the principles of transparency, accountability, independence, and upholding the best interests of the global game, in favour of a system that appears to operate through threats, intimidation and backroom deals.”

May has been cast as both a heroic bulwark to those perceived evil Indians at the BCCI and a Luddite irritant sent to maintain colonialism, but both are nonsense.

He was a pain in the ass to any board, as well as the ICC, whenever he felt players of any continent were being taken advantage of and, as May’s controversial replacement at the world game’s top table, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan will possibly have to show considerably more passion and insight than he does in his commentary to match his predecessor’s efforts as players’ representative.

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Cricket awaits exactly what the wrong-doings are that Ashraful has confessed to, but it’s unclear whether even full disclosure will increase the fervour of the condemnation. A match gone in the BPL here, an over fixed in the IPL there. How much do supporters really mind any more? As an avid viewer, cricket fanatic and also a member of the sports press, should I care more?

If we all keep on watching with the acceptance that what we’re watching might be a bit dodgy but just think, well, such is life, then we can all carry on oblivious.

It probably is life.

It probably is cricket and always has been since the 17th century when the 1664 Gaming Act was passed to limit the stake permitted to be waged on matches to a hundred pounds in the face of rampant gambling on the burgeoning sport.

The subdued reaction to Ashraful’s confession could, then, be taken as just another example of cricket’s resilience in the face of corruption, but it still felt as if a threshold had been crossed as we shrugged our shoulders and tutted, rather than shaking our fists at the sky.

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