Sri Lanka’s fresh start to having cricket governed by a democratically elected body has been disturbed with the emergence of alleged match-fixing scandals involving a coach and at least three high profile players.
When the revelation of the match-fixing allegation is made by Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekere himself, one has to start probing the issue with the view of saving more players from falling prey to bookies.
The betting industry is so closely associated with sport, especially cricket, that despite betting being banned in most of the Indian Subcontinent, bookies do prosper with the help of inside information coming from the ‘dressing rooms’.
Bookies have their smooth way of operating and entering the heart of cricketers. There is a quoted line in cricket which says ‘once a bookie gets a cricketer, he gets him for life’. This is what happened to South Africa’s most celebrated cricketer Hansie Cronje who ruined his life by accepting money from bookies in return to throwing away matches.
Cronje made his share of confessions, was banned from the game, but he never came out of that cloud of gloom. This is why his own mom said that the death of her son was a blessing. Probably she knew how much pressure Cronje was under by bookies despite his cricket career having ended long time before his tragic death.
Cricketers must realize that bookies are skilled like any other professional and the gaming industry is part and parcel of cricket. ICC regulations specify that when a bookie approaches a player, he has to inform the authorities immediately. Sri Lanka’s own Kaushal Lokuarachchi paid the penalty for not doing so when a bookie approached him during the Bangladesh Premier League. Kusal Perera and Rangana Herath, the players approached by a bookie, have been summoned by the FCID to record statements. They need not hang their heads in shame. They have done the right thing by reporting the incident of being approached by a bookie. Skipper Angelo Mathews has also given his statement to the FCID.
The possibility of a coach being approached by a bookie is very remote. This is probably because a coach matures with age and has learnt how to create a happy medium in life. It is quite shocking to hear bowling coach Anusha Samaranayake’s name being dragged into a match-fixing scandal given that he played cricket when the sport was clean and played by amateurs.
If you review the list of disgraced Pakistan cricketers starting from Salim Malik to Mohammed Asif, you can find that these cricketers being heavily underpaid was perhaps the reason why most of them took the better ticket to life offered by bookies.
Cricket is no more the sport played by the elite society. People from all walks of life are now involved with the game either as cricketers, coachers, umpires, trainers or managers. The entrance of the little known Gayan Wishvajith as a net bowler spells danger in the form of anybody having an opportunity to get close to the country’s national cricketers due to the absence of a proper screening process.
Former South African cricket administrator Ali Bacher noticed Cronje’s personality change when stories about match-fixing scandals were floating. Critics affirm that money can make a good man evil overnight. No one would have imagined that Cronje would go against his conscience and accept black money. Sometimes it’s the most revered individuals who fall prey to bookies. Most high profile individuals make a mistake when they have to choose between the value of money and value of cricket.
As much as a cricketer would love to earn the maximum when age is on his side, a bookie’s wish is to fix a match and change the course of a game. This type of fixing (rather than spot fixing) brings bookies a windfall. This is why the ICC prohibits cricketers from conversing with bookies because their (Bookies) presence threatens the power of reasoning in players and also the spirit of the game.