“Writing is thinking. It is not about putting fancy words together, but more to do with the clarity of thought. I have been, by nature, a truth-seeker. And this helps. My passion has always been to scratch the surface, dig deep and see sport (and people who play sport) for what it is.” -Nirmal Shekar, Sports Editor of The Hindu in an interview four years ago.
Let me preface this by saying that it would not shock me if there was match fixing in the IPL. The combination of big money, Bollywood and the most powerful politicians and corporate honchos of the 95’th most transparent country in the world is a perfect recipe for corruption and malfeasance. Couple this with the impotence of the Indian judicial and police system, it is probable that there has been some corruption and match-fixing in every edition of the IPL. The recent sting operation by India TV even exposed the ease with which fringe players can be tempted and persuaded.
But expressing doubt is different from assuming crime or guilt. Democracies work on the principle that citizens are innocent until proven guilty. The entire Indian judicial system is built on the premise that it is okay to free many guilty parties as long as no one innocent is jailed incorrectly.
THE HINDU calls itself India’s national newspaper. It has been published daily since 1889 and reaches between 1.5 and 2 million subscribers daily while also sating the news needs of hundreds of thousands of people online. One would hope that the people at this esteemed institution are aware of and believe in – innocent until proven guilty. At least , I hope that the sports writers who report to a truth-pursuing editor like the one quoted above would be aware of and believe in innocent until proven guilty. After all, accusing someone falsely or without evidence is not the truth and truth is all Mr. Nirmal Shekar pursues. He is after all a truth-seeker.
This is why I was surprised to read this article today in ‘India’s National Newspaper’. Someone named Nirmal Shekar working the sports beat at ‘India’s National Newspaper’ said these two things about the IPL today –
“let us have movie-like games where a creative script-writer comes up with a narrative known only to the teams and the actors/players……But the thrills on offer will be so much more and you don’t have to make underhand deals with players to fix outcome. ” and
“It is time the people who control the most prosperous league in the sport gave this a thought, instead of still pretending — and have us believe, too — that it is a clean and genuine sport worth every missed heartbeat.”
Here’s the number of things wrong with those statements –
1) There is zero evidence presented anywhere in the article of aforementioned underhand deals. This is the usual criticism meted out to bloggers by those who are blessed to work in corporate media. They accuse bloggers of shouting from the rooftops and not presenting evidence. Noted straight shooter Harsha Bhogle constantly equates excellence with the associated masthead and not the writer or the content. I wonder what he’d say to THE HINDU printing unsubstantiated allegations of an angry man as fact.
2) Nirmal Shekar accuses the people who control the IPL of leading us on into believing that it is a clean and genuine sport worth every missed heartbeat. I am sorry but is is possible I missed the uplifting brochure or infomercial that promised this. The IPL since day one has been about entertainment for an entertainment-starved audience. It is a made-for-tv product. It combined some of the most fan friendly aspects of cricket with cheerleaders, music and the movie industry to appeal to more than the median cricket watcher. It sought to engage moms and daughters. To accuse the people in control for not delivering on things they never promised is very wrong.
3) If the nine teams in this year’s edition of the IPL played a season’s worth of five or 10 over games, there will most likely be more games that ended in the last over or the last ball of the match. Similarly if the teams played a season’s worth of 50-over games, it is more likely that fewer games would end in the last over or the last ball. There have been more ties in One Day Internationals (ODI) than in tests. Cricketing boards have for some reason decided that even when the deliveries available to bowlers reduce from format to format, the resources for a batting team stay unchanged. This arbitrary compression of the deliveries available to bowlers combined with other rule changes that favor batsmen make the limited overs formats way more of a level playing field than tests. It is the same reason why you and I would probably score more runs than Sachin Tendulkar over six deliveries but probably never over 300.
Long story short, the T-20 format is always going to produce closer games than other formats. Anyone accusing individuals and teams of fixing should have more than just close results in their dossier of supporting statements.
4) While this season of the IPL has produced several thrilling finishes, 31 out of the 65 games to date have finished with a team either chasing a score down in fewer than 18 overs or a team defending a score and winning by 20 or more runs. I think it’s fair to call these blowouts. So almost 50% of the games in the league that Nirmal Shekar is accusing of corruption and match fixing have been games that would tune the fan out much earlier than desired. Hell, Chris Gayle has been responsible for some serious duds. Is this part of some massive fixing scheme? If the league was indulging in mischief why did they choose 34 specific games to go the way they desired? Am I the victim of some six-dimensional chess by the BCCI here?
5) Lastly, Nirmal Shekar also says this – “But the big fish who may have indulged in corrupt practices are highly unlikely to be exposed, however resourceful or courageous a reporter might be.”
If these were the words of a dying blogger in coastal Karnataka, they make some sense. If these were the words of a hopeless helpless Indian in the United States ranting away in his personal blog, they make some sense. Instead these are the words from the Sports Editor of ‘India’s National Newspaper’. Why bother writing and working in sports media if you deem the pursuit of truth UNLIKELY. There are millions of Indians who would like nothing more than that corruption, nepotism and match-fixing in their dearest passion be exposed. THE HINDU is one of the few media outlets in the country capable of pursuing that goal. Their Sports Editor even said so a few years ago! Instead we are treated to a “I can’t really verify or validate anything I say and to attempt so is hopeless but I will say it anyways” spiel.
Nirmal Shekar is either covering up evidence that will expose the IPL as a sham or ranting incoherently about a random sampling of cricket results in a format he is not fond of. Nirmal Shekar is yet another media charlatan wasting his bully pulpit and moving far away from what he intended to do as a journalist. I hope he doesn’t run into his Sports Editor from a few years ago……