Wednesday, April 22, 2015

50 not out: Hari Mohan's winner of a book

I spent over forty years on the cricket field. The game gave me greater happiness than any other activity of my life. Through it, I made many friends, and some of them have remained lifelong friends. Sadly, the friendships tended to grow rarer as I progressed to the higher levels of the game, perhaps because each man was increasingly concerned about looking out for himself. Competition does breed selfishness and self-centredness, doesn't it?

There were exceptions. In my book Third Man, I have mentioned my genuine friends, friends who selflessly took great trouble over mentoring me and nurturing me because they believed in my potential. They derived happiness from my success and worried for me when I met obstacles, encouraged me to fight my way against them.

In cricket, as in life, new friendships are a remote possibility once you cross a certain age. I have been lucky in that I have acquired friends after my forties, into my sixties, even. Harimohan Paruvu, the former Hyderabad pace bowler, has been one such. I met him first at the Chennai launch of his first book The Men Within: A Cricketing Tale, a novel woven around young cricketers. In fact, I had already read his novel before I met him, and been impressed with his seemingly effortless story-telling ability.

Hari is a an extremely tall, strapping man, probably in his fifties, plain speaking to a fault, but gentle and courteous, honest and generous all at once. A rare quality in him is his ability to accept people as they are--non-judgementally. Though I haven't met him too many times in the few years that I have known him, I have come to count him as one of my friends, and that is why I experienced mixed feelings when I heard that he had written a book titled 50 NOT OUT: Powerful Life Lessons from Cricket to Excel in our Lives. I have not been a great believer in this genre of literature, and find many of the parallels authors of such books draw between cricket and professional life quite artificial and forced. I was wondering if Hari had fallen into a trap in attempting such a venture. I still bought and read the book as a dutiful friend and senior.

To my pleasant surprise, I find 50 Not Out to be an exceptional book that uses sport to illustrate management challenges and how to meet them. I am sure the reason for the successful compilation of life lessons from on-field and off-field cricket experiences, is that the author has been a cricketer, an intelligent, resourceful one as well. And like other cricketers who have a second string to their bow, Hari combines his engineering education, his work experience in a bank, and the invaluable insights he gained rubbing shoulders with cricketers greater than he, as well as his peers, to arrive at a thoroughly useful road map for the journey that is life, no matter what your profession. 


Hari and I recently interacted gainfully at two different book events, one of which related to both my book and his. At Hyderabad, my wife--a journalist, translator, musician, playwright and theatre director--and I had the pleasure of joining Hari at the Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad, where we engaged graduate students in meaningful conversation on art management, a course Hari teaches there. To my delight, I found that I could open any page of 50 NOT OUT at random, and find a resonance to the lives of our audience. That is when I realised that Hari Mohan Paruvu had produced a winner of a book. Well bowled, Hari! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Third Man at the Madras Book Club

Earlier today, my friends received a pornographic video, purportedly from my FB account. Before any of you buy the book, let me give you the disappointing news that there is nothing racy in Third Man, except for some references to maiden overs and long legs.

First, about the title Third Man. I chose it to show off that I was the third off spinner in the country for a while, definitely in the South Zone, after the great bowlers Prasanna and Venkataraghavan. I wore that distinction like a badge of honour, and if the title gives the impression that it is my expression of any disappointment, it was far from my intention.

Why did I write this book? Mainly because nothing happened in my career till I reached cricketing old age, and then there was a miraculous change in my fortunes. Much of what happened, both good and bad, was stranger than fiction. For several years after my playing days, I insisted on regaling (or boring) my friends with stories cricketing and off the field. I was lucky enough to play with and against some fine cricketers and wonderful personalities. The stories I told were sometimes enriching and uplifting but almost always funny. My friends repeatedly asked me to put all those stories into a book. And I eventually succumbed to the temptation. I actually started writing Third Man some 30 years ago, but shelved the project as I was preoccupied with eking out a livelihood.

It took the constant persuasion of my friend and fellow author Krishna Shastri to make me take the plunge. After writing it, I am convinced that there is a book in almost every cricketer, and I hope some of my friends will start recording the highs and lows of their careers. That is what I have done, and in addition to some hilarious anecdotes, the book tries to document the crucial twists and turns of a cricket journey.  I thought long and hard about including the unhappy moments in the narrative, because I did not want to be seen as complaining, but decided to go ahead, as it would not be an honest book otherwise. I have spared you some of the gorier details, but I believe it is important to say it like it is, to provide a true account of a cricketer's life.

The book is also my attempt to remember and salute the many cricketers I have played with and watched, those who supported, encouraged and mentored me. The cricket ground and dressing room are among the most egalitarian spaces you can imagine. For instance, I have always called our chief guest VV, not Sir or Mr Kumar as we tend to do older people in any other walk of life. In the Hyderabad team I played in, the former Nawab of Pataudi and champion cricketers like Jaisimha and Abid Ali evoked awe and respect with the quality of their cricket and their wisdom, not because of their seniority or social position.

A few words about VV Kumar. He was quite simply the greatest Indian leg spinner I have seen and played with. I did watch Subhash Gupte, but I was too young to appreciate the finer points then. VV's magic was something my generation of cricketers knew intimately. 
He had all the tricks of the trade of Shane Warne, except the huge leg break, which VV did not fancy. He had two types of googly, while Warne was not known for his wrong ún. 

He played only two Test matches and was unfairly omitted thereafter, and though he was all the time improving as a bowler, the genius of the freak spinner Chandrasekhar blocked his re-entry into Test cricket. I am very sure that had he had a long run in international cricket, he would have achieved great feats and merited comparison with Warne.  At a vital phase of my career, he gave me advice which I never forgot, and which stood me in good stead. The great Hanumant Singh was another whose guidance shaped my bowling.

I was once able to share my view that VV was the best leg spinner after Gupte with Sir Garfield Sobers, when he asked some of us our opinion on the subject. Sobers was then helping VV out at his spin academy, and he nodded in agreement. "Even today, he bowls long spells in the nets, and he is better than all his wards," he said.

Though I pride myself on being computer savvy, I have realised during the production of this book that I am far from that. During the numerous exchanges of email between me and the editor of the book, Karthik Venkatesh, I managed to lose a few chapters of the book. It is a mystery I have not been able to solve, since I deleted much of the contents of my outbox. I regret the omission of these chapters and hope there will be a second edition so that I can restore them.

One of the chapters was a poignant one, recalling an emotional moment. During a conditioning camp for Indian probables before the 1977-78 Australia tour, I learnt  at the very ground where we were training, that I had not been included in the South Zone squad to play the Duleep Trophy before the tour. Every one of the other 32 players was picked and actually played in the eleven for his zone. The young wicket keeper Bharath Reddy felt so bad about it, he brought the South Zone skipper S Venkataraghavan to my hotel room late that afternoon. Venkat told me I should have been in the team, explaining that he had not been part of the selection committee and apologising to me. His caring gesture softened the blow.

Another chapter I managed to lose was on GR Viswanath, my favourite cricketer. Vishy figures in the book more than once, and I have expressed my admiration for him, but I feel my tribute to this extraordinary cricketer should have been more complete.

Finally, also missing is the story my late cousin Raman, who played competitive cricket and loved the game enough to watch Tamil Nadu win the Ranji Trophy in 1987, knowing that his days on earth were numbered. He proudly watched my brother Sivaramakrishnan play a key role in that match.

I deliberately omitted several stories involving my friend Meher Baba that Inspector Clouseau among cricketers with his unintended humour. I would have certainly included them if he had not died in the prime of his life. I know Meher, wherever he is, won't mind if I tell one of his stories here. Shivlal Yadav, Shahid Akbar, Meher and I, all members of the South Zone team, were walking past the Sachivalaya building in Mumbai with its national flag and Ashoka Chakra, when Meher turned to me and said, "Look Ram, Indian Embassy." I said, what are you saying, Meher? He realised his gaffe, smote his forehead with his palm and said, "Oh God, that is in Delhi, isn’t it?"

Music has been an important part of my life, and I now edit an arts magazine. There were always musicians of varied capabilities around in my playing days, including the late Ravi Kichlu my Rajasthan Club teammate in Calcutta and P Unnikrishnan in Parrys in Chennai. You will find them both in Third Man.


Many, many thanks to the Madras Book Club, Ms Jayanthi Ramesh of Westland, Mr Muthiah, Mr Rajan, My daughter Akhila, my brilliant colleague Ramkumar Shankar who so readily agreed to critique the book for us today, my wife Gowri, and the great Mr VV Kumar, whom it has been my privilege to know and play cricket with. 

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your presence here this evening.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

CRICKET, FOR LOVE OR MONEY

My talk at the madras club on 22 january 2015

by v ramnarayan


SOME MISCONCEPTIONS

That match fixing is a phenomenon confined to cricket.
That match fixing is of recent origin-if not since the advent of IPL, post 2000 and Hansiegate.
That match fixing in cricket is of Indian origin.
That sub-continent sportspersons are more corrupt than their western counterparts.
Finally, that matches are fixed on a regular basis. (The truth is that in contemporary times, spot fixing rather than match fixing is more common).

Match fixing has been occurring in many sports, almost since the time competitive sport began.

Gambling took place in cricket as early as the 1700s.
Match fixing probably started in England. Bribing of players and underperformance certainly occurred there in 1700.

 "Butchers, tinkers, gardeners, farm labourers, noblemen, gentlemen and clergy, all were equal under the laws of the game. Villagers, their wives and children, watched together and applauded their favourite team and players, while sporting bets were placed." (The Early History of Cricket by SM Toyne)
Toyne was quoting Trevelyan in his Social History of England.
In the 18th century, every cricket match was played for money. The aristocracy financed the game in order to gamble on it.

Newspapers reported the odds and who won the wager, but did not provide scores.
Matches were played for a crown a head, but after the game became fashionable in the 1740s, betting rose to fantastic sums of 1000 pounds or more.
In one match, bets by spectators and players totaled 20000 pounds.
The laws of the game as first framed in 1744 were drawn up to settle gambling disputes.
In early 19th century, the game was in danger of ruin. It was the chief medium for national gambling.

Bookmakers attended matches, odds were called as the game fluctuated, side bets on individual scores led to bribery and cheating.
One noted player took 100 pounds to lose a match.

IT'S NOT CRICKET
"Matches were bought and matches were sold and gentlemen, who meant honestly, lost large sums of money, till the rogues beat themselves at last. Of this roguery, nobody ever suspected me."

Hundreds of pounds were bet upon all the great matches, and other wagers laid on the scores of the finest players. And that too by men who had a book for every race and every match in the sporting world-men who lived by gambling."

These are the words of Billy Beldham, a Surrey batsman, quoted in 1851 by the Rev. Pycroft in his book The Cricketer's Fields, and  rated as late as 1997 named as one of the 100 greatest cricketers of all time by John Woodcock.

According to an anonymous player Pycroft quoted, all the foremost players met at the Green Man and Still, a pub on Oxford Street, London, to drink, bet, play cards and sing.
William Lambert was perhaps the first cricketer to be found guilty of match-fixing and banned from playing at Lord's for life.

He was described as "one of the most successful cricketers to have yet appeared."
Pycroft said "It's just not cricket" for the first time in The Cricketer's Fields.
Bookmakers, earlier found sitting under the pavilion were banned from Lord's.
The game was cleaned up.
Until the 1990s and Hansiegate.

Before we come to corruption in contemporary cricket, let's take a look at some other sport. First baseball:
Baseball
Baseball had frequent problems with gamblers influencing the game, until the 1920s when the Black Sox scandal and the resultant merciless crackdown largely put an end to it.
1877

Four players from the Louisville Grays of the National League were found to have thrown games in exchange for bribes from gamblers.
1908 bribery attempt

On the eve of the "playoff" game between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants to decide the National League championship, an umpire refused an attempted bribe intended to help the Giants win. The Giants lost to the Cubs, and the matter was kept fairly quiet. It came out the following spring, but the results of the official inquiry were kept secret. However, the Giants' team physician for 1908 was reportedly the culprit and was banned for life.
1914 World Series upset
There was a stunning four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Athletics by the Boston Braves in the 1914 World Series. The Athletics said to be angry at their miserly owner, Connie Mack, did not give the Series their best effort. Mack traded or sold all the stars away from that 1914 team.
1917-1918 suspicions
The manner in which the New York Giants lost to the Chicago White Sox in the 1917 World Series raised suspicions. Within two years, two players Zimmerman and Chase were suspended for life, due to a series of questionable actions and associations.
There were rumours of World Series fixing by members of the Chicago Cubs who lost the 1918 Series.
1919 Black Sox Conspiracy
The 1919 World Series resulted in the notorious Black Sox scandal. Eight players from the Chicago White Sox (nicknamed the Black Sox) were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Acquitted of criminal charges as throwing baseball games was technically not a crime, the eight players were banned from organized baseball for life.
It resulted in the appointment of a Commissioner of Baseball who took firm steps to try to rid the game of gambling influence permanently.
The Commissioners since then have been ruthless, even  suspending well-known players for long periods just for having been seen with gamblers.
Tennis
Match-fixing or throwing in professional tennis is widespread and highly profitable for players, according to a new analysis of the outcomes of games.
It found that players outside the topmost ranks can make large sums from betting against themselves and then feigning injury.
The cheating goes on in the early rounds of less prestigious tournaments where junior players stand to profit far more from betting scams than from winning a match, the study said.
When a player retires because of injury, the match is awarded to his opponent and bookies pay out as if the game had been completed.
The findings are by academics from the Max Planck Research School in Munich and Cambridge University. Tennis has been under the shadow of cheating allegations since a betting scandal five years ago.
Based on examination of 54,000 matches the researchers said that there was 'strong evidence that such behaviour might be widespread'.
They called for an end to all betting on matches in unimportant tournaments that the players fail to complete.
An October 2003 report said
International tennis players are deliberately throwing matches for financial gain. It is believed that bets of up to $200,000 have been placed by players, through their coaches and other intermediaries, with internet betting exchanges, resulting in massive payouts.
Most of the players under suspicion are outside the top 100.
The Association of Tennis Professionals recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the British-based company Betfair, which gives the ATP access to its clients' records.
A 2005 report
41 players were suspected of involvement in rigged games by the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. They will be subject to additional monitoring by ATP.
On the list were top-ranked Nikolay Davydenko and Janko Tipsarevic.
A 2008 report
Nikolay Davydenko was cleared following the longest inquiry ever held into match-fixing in tennis.
The 27-year-old Russian lost to Martin Vassallo Arguello at the Polish Open in Sopot last August, retiring injured at 6-2, 3-6, 1-2 in the second round match which attracted nearly $7million (£3.5m) in wagers on Betfair.
The online betting company Betfair took the unprecedented step of voiding all bets because of highly-irregular gambling patterns in the match.
At least 15 male players reported that they had been approached to fix matches and several less-known Italian players were punished for betting on matches, although none of the game's better-known stars were implicated, bar the Russian.
It is believed that since a tough stand was taken by the authorities, questionable activity among players and their associates was substantially reduced.
A new concern emerged of people trying to gain a split-second advantage ahead of television pictures by being at the match.
Two spectators were thrown out of a women's event in Antwerp for suspicious use of laptops, while another was expelled from the recent tournament in Dubai after being caught giving a commentary via mobile phone.
6 September 2012
David Savic banned
The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirmed the decision of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) that David Savic be permanently ineligible to participate in any event organised or sanctioned by any tennis governing body.
"CAS has confirmed the decision ... to rule that David Savic be permanently ineligible to participate in any event organised or sanctioned by any tennis governing body," said CAS in a statement.
BADMINTON
2 AUGUST 2012
LONDON -- Eight badminton players at the London Olympics were kicked out of competition Wednesday for trying to lose -- a display that drew outrage from fans and organizers who said the women had violated the most sacred stage in sports.
After an unexpected loss by a powerful Chinese doubles team, the eight women appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.
The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."
FOOTBALL
The 2006 Italian football scandal involved Italy's top professional football leagues, Serie A and Serie B. The scandal was uncovered in May 2006 by Italian police, implicating league champions Juventus, and other major teams including AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina when a number of telephone interceptions showed a thick network of relations between team managers and referee organisations. Juventus were the champions of Serie A at the time. The teams were accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees.
6 JUN 2013
33 people and Serie B club Bari were called to a sports trial before the country's football federation.
The charges include fixing and failing to report fixing for two Serie B matches - Bari-Treviso (0-1) in May 2008 and Salernitana-Bari (3-2) in May 2009.
Among those named were the Bari captain, a former Bari captain, the Torino goalkeeper and an ex-Juventus assistant coach and Bari player.
Most of those named by the federation have also been indicted by a judge in Bari on charges of committing sports fraud.
At least 50 people were arrested in Italy for match-fixing since the middle of 2011, with scores more under investigation by prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Napoli.
27 February 2013
ZURICH (AP) - FIFA banned 74 more officials and players from world soccer for helping fix matches, this time in Italy and South Korea.
FIFA imposed sanctions on 70 people, including 11 who were banned for life, after a series of cases prosecuted by Italian soccer authorities.
The charges involved "match-fixing (direct involvement or omission to report match-fixing), illegal betting or corrupt organization (association to commit illicit acts)."
Prosecutors in Cremona, Bari and Napoli pieced together a conspiracy they believe was organized from Singapore to bet on rigged Italian soccer games.

DISHONESTY IN CRICKET IN INDIA
Rigging has taken place in Indian cricket for a long time. I have seen a few instances at both the league and the Ranji Trophy levels, though these arrangements between two friendly teams were not based on financial considerations (It was quite another thing that there was no money in cricket then).
I watched at least one Ranji Trophy match in the 1960s between Madras and Hyderabad, in which suspect declarations took place in both innings, with poor totals in at least one innings. It was apparently an attempt to ensure at least first innings points in a rain-truncated match, rather than share points equally, the case if one innings was not completed. This would of course have worked to the disadvantage of Mysore, the other leading team in the zone. I could not locate the scorecard for this match, though I am pretty sure I have my facts right.
There was no doubt however about a similar game a few years later between Hyderabad and Mysore at Bangalore. Umpire NS Rishi gave a scathing report on the captains of the two sides, but nothing came of it.
There was a similarly dubious match between Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu at Coimbatore in the 1980s, when the two teams were charged with fixing the result of the match. I was particularly upset because my brother Sivaramakrishnan played two outstanding innings in the game on a treacherous wicket, and that performance was devalued by these reports.
Fixing was rampant in the local league, mainly to save a friendly team to avoid relegation to the lower division or help it win the championship. In one game I played, the two team managements had evidently agreed we would give the opponents 2 batting points (the first one when they made 175 and rthe second when they reached 225). My friend Nedumaran and I were bowling when the score stood at 150 something for 7, when the captain walked up to me and asked me to give away some easy runs. When I refused, he tried his luck with Nedu who cursed him with some choice words. The captain had no choice but to toe the line with these disobedient rascals, and we bundled the opponents out under 175. Believe it or not, when we returned to the pavilion we found the scorebook showed 226!
(There were also some comical situations when teams deliberately tried to avoid taking wickets to improve their over rate (the penalty for not maintaining it was a certain number of points) and chaps dropping sitters to ensure that. In a match I played, a normally poor fielder took a tumbling catch when the whole team was shouting at him to drop it).
I also remember another match when a team yielded more than a hundred byes to help the opponents, and actually came out unscathed from an inquiry set up by the association, because there was no way of proving that the extras were deliberately given.
This leads us to the point that fixing is not something that can easily be proved beyond doubt.
 BETTING AND RIGGING IN INDIAN CRICKET
Pakistan tour of India 1979-80
Though big money came into cricket only after India won the Prudential World Cup in 1983, the first time financial wrongdoing by a player was reported on Indian soil was during the 1979-80 series between the touring Pakistanis and India.
Asif Iqbal, born in Hyderabad, Deccan, played for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy before his migration to Pakistan in the 1960s. He led Pakistan in India after Pakistan under the captaincy of Mushtaq Mohammad had thrashed India the previous season in Pakistan.
This was a six-Test series, and at the end of the 5th Test, India was already leading 2-0 in the rubber, leaving no chance for Pakistan to level the series.
Two suspicious things happened during the Calcutta Test. Sunil Gavaskar standing down from captaincy, GR Viswanath was picked to deputise for him. At the toss, GRV was surprised when Asif told him, "You win.What are you doing?" when he in fact believed he had lost the toss.
The second puzzle of the match was Asif's declaration of the Pakistan first innings at 272 for 4 behind India's 331 all out.
Though it could be read as a bold move to try and win the match, there was a cloud over the decision.
Rumours were afloat that Asif was involved in betting on the match. I met a man who claimed he was taking a certain sum of money for Asif to Calcutta a couple of days before the Test. I thought it was an empty boast.
THE SHARJAH MATCHES AND OTHER ODIs
Most of the matches involving India and Pakistan played at Sharjah came to be suspect in time. In the end BCCI outlawed Sharjah as a venue where India would take part.
It was in 1997 that Aniruddha Bahal of Outlook came back from India's tour of South Africa and told his editor Tarun Tejpal, "Forget cricket stories. The big story is that everyone-players, administrators, commentators, journalists, everybody-is betting.All the time."
Bahal later met Manoj Prabhakar in pursuit of his match-fixing story.
Prabhakar eventually wrote in Outlook that a teammate offered him Rs. 25 lakh to underperform.
Prabhakar also mentioned a match in Sharjah where Indian batsmen  were told to play on in darkness by the management
Prabhakar also spoke of a match at Kanpur in 1994 when he and Nayan Mongia were penalized for batting slowly.
Unfortunately for whistle blower Prabhakar, he was to be penalized by the BCCI after it ordered its own investigation, following Hansie Cronje's confession before the King Commission of South Africa after Delhi police nailed him.
Here's the list of Indian players banned or punished by BCCI
Mohd. Azharuddin, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma, Ajay Jadeja,
Here's a complete rundown of the betting/ match fixing timeline:
1981
Australian players Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh bet against their own team, backing England at the odds of 500 to one in the Headingley Test. No action was taken against them.
1992-93
Australian batsman Dean Jones claims to have been offered $50,000 by an Indian to provide information about the team during the Lankan tour.
1993
Allan Border alleges that he was offered £500,000 by Mushtaq Mohammed to lose a Test match against England.
1996
Former Indian team manager, Sunil Dev alleges that some of the Indian players indulged in match fixing and demands a judicial enquiry.
1997
Manoj Prabhakar accuses a fellow Team India player of offering him Rs 25 lakh to throw a match in Sri Lanka in 1994. His revelation leads the BCCI to appoint a commission to look into the allegation.
1998
Pakistan bowler Ata-ur-Rahman accuses Wasim Akram of offering him Rs 3 lakh to bowl badly against New Zealand. As a result of this allegation, Wasim Akram resigns as captain of the Pakistan team.
1998
Rashid Latif accuses Wasim Akram, Salim Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed of fixing matches. He also accuses Salim Malik of fixing matches during Pakistan's twin tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe in 1994-95.
1998
Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May claim they were offered $50,000 to lose a Test by Salim Malik during their tour to Pakistan in 1994. The Australian cricket board then asks the ICC to appoint a panel to look into the allegations. The PCB in its enquiry implicates three Pakistan players and recommends a ban on Salim Malik.
1998
Shane Warne and Mark Waugh confess to having accepted $11,000 from an Indian bookie to give some information on playing conditions during a tournament played in Sri Lanka in 1994. The Australian cricket board later says that it would impose a hefty fine on Warne and Waugh.
1999
Former England player Chris Lewis says that he was offered £300,000 to persuade England players to lose a match against New Zealand.
April 7, 2000
Delhi police charge Hansie Cronje with fixing South Africa's ODIs against India. Delhi police also reveal that they possess a conversation recorded during the ODI series between India and South Africa in March. They allege that the taped voices were of South African skipper Hansie Cronje and an Indian bookie, Sanjay Chawla. The conversation was about divulging team information and the amount to be paid to Cronje and his team-mates Herschelle Gibbs, Pieter Strydom and Nicky Boje.
April 11, 2000
The South African cricket board sacks Hansie Cronje after he calls Ali Bacher to confess that he was not entirely honest and admitted that to have accepted $10,000 to $15,000 from a London-based bookmaker, for forecasting results, not match-fixing.
April 15, 2000
Now, clouds of match fixing surround England's victory in the Centurion Test, where Cronje took the unexpected step of forfeiting an innings.
April 16, 2000
It is revealed that South Africa nearly accepted a $250,000 to lose an ODI against India in Mumbai in 1996. The players had discussed the offer in three meetings before it was turned down as Jonty Rhodes, Dave Richardson and Andrew Hudson were against it.
May 24, 2000
After a year long enquiry, Justice Qayyum finds Saleem Malik and Ata-ur-Rehman guilty of fixing matches and recommends life bans for the two. The report also says Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed should not be allowed to captain Pakistan in the future. Today Wasim is a respected commentator and coach while Mushtaq is England's spin bowling coach.
June 7, 2000
Former South African spinner Pat Symcox alleges that the team was offered around $250,000 to throw an ODI, on the first day of the King Commission hearings.
June 8, 2000
Herschelle Gibbs accuses Hansie Cronje of offering him a bribe to throw a match and tells the King Commission that he had accepted Cronje's offer of $15,000 to score less than 20 runs in an ODI in India.
June 15, 2000
Cronje admits taking money for giving information to bookmakers and asking his team-mates to play badly. But he tells the King Commission that South Africa had never thrown or fixed a match under his captaincy.
June 27, 2000
Former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Condon becomes the International Cricket Council's new anti-corruption investigator.
July 20, 2000
Indian income tax officials raid the homes of top cricket players, including those of then national coach Kapil Dev, former players Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia and Nikhil Chopra.
August 28, 2000
The United Cricket Board of South Africa bans Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams from international cricket for the rest of the year for their involvement in the Cronje scandal.(Henry Williams agreed to give away more than 50 runs in his ten overs, but had to stop after two overs because of injury. He gave 11 runs. He was upset that Cronje who made him underperform did not support him when he was in trouble).
October 11, 2000
Cronje is banned from cricket for life by the United Cricket Board of South Africa as a result of his admission that he received money from bookmakers.
"The UCBSA council hereby intends to ban Hansie Cronje for life from all activities of the UCBSA and its affiliates," says a statement issued by the United Cricket Board of South Africa.
October 31, 2000
Bookmaker MK Gupta names several players including Brian Lara, Dean Jones, Alec Stewart, Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Martin Crowe and Saleem Malik of being involved in match fixing, says a CBI report. The CBI also says that former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin confessed to fixing games with the help of colleagues Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia.
November 27, 2000
BCCI's anti-corruption commissioner K Madhavan finds Mohammad Azharuddin guilty of match-fixing, while Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Sharma and former Indian team physio Ali Irani are found guilty of having links with bookies.
December 5, 2000
BCCI bans Azharuddin for life and Ajay Jadeja for five years for their role in match-fixing. Ajay Sharma is also banned from the game for life, while Prabhakar and the Indian team's former physio, Ali Irani, are barred from holding any official post in Indian cricket for five years.
July 11, 2001
Former England wicketkeeper batsman Alec Stewart is cleared of allegations that he took money from a bookmaker in return for providing team and pitch information during England's 1992-93 tour of India.
May 12, 2004
Marvan Atapattu is cleared of match-fixing allegations for lack of evidence by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board.
August 17, 2004
Kenyan player Maurice Odumbe is banned for five years by the Kenyan Cricket Association after he is found guilty of receiving money from bookmakers.
November 7, 2004
Stephen Fleming alleges that he was offered $370,000 during the 1999 World Cup to join a match-fixing syndicate.
May 13, 2008
West Indies player Marlon Samuels is slapped a ban of two years for allegedly passing on information to an Indian bookie during an ODI series in India in 2007.

August 2009
The Australia team's management files a report with the ICC's anti-corruption unit after one of their players says he was approached by a man suspected of links to illegal bookmaking, after Australia's defeat to England at Lord's
May 2010
The Bangladesh captain, Shakib-Al-Hasan, confirms he received an approach, believed to be in March 2008, from an unknown person who Shakib believes wanted him to manipulate the result of a one-day match against Ireland
September 2010
The Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield appears at the City of London magistrates court on charges of spot-fixing relating to the Pro 40 match against Durham in September 2009, in which he bowled four wides and two no-balls
3 November 2011
Pakistan's Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif are incarcerated over no-balls bowled deliberately against England at Lord's in 2010. Their agent, Mazheer Majeed, is jailed for two and a half years
12 January 2012
Westfield pleads guilty to accepting £6,000 to give away runs in the Pro 40 match against Durham and is warned by Judge Anthony Morris at the Old Bailey that he may face a prison sentence
IPL 2012
5 players were banned for spot-fixing or bringing the game into disrepute while gaining pecuniary advantage.
IPL 2013
Three Rajasthan Royals players were arrested for their alleged role in spot-fixing. Sreesanth apparently agreed to bowl an expensive over in the May 9 clash against Kings XI Punjab. The other two Chandila and Chauhan also agreed to act at the behest of bookies, in return for money. BCCI suspended the trio
May 17: Ex-RR player who turned bookie
Amit Singh, one of the bookies arrested a day earlier played for Rajasthan Royals in the earlier seasons. BCCI chief N Srinivasan stated 'guilty will be punished'. More bookies arrested, this time from Chennai.
May 20: RR suspends contracts
Royals suspended the contracts of Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan. They also filed FIR against the trio for violation of contract. An amount of Rs. 20 lakh was recovered from the house of a relative of Chandila in Haryana. All three arrested cricketers were sent to five-day police custody.
May 21: Bollywood link exposed
Vindu Dara Singh was arrested for his alleged links with bookies.
May 22: BCCI comes into the picture
In the most striking instance of insider involvement in the betting racket, Vindu mentioned the name of BCCI President N. Srinivasan's son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, with whom, the actor claimed, he was in 'frequent touch'. Meanwhile, Vindu admitted that he helped a couple of bookies escape to Dubai.

Extracts from the findings of a study entitled
Sports betting and corruption
How to preserve the integrity of sport
Carried out by
IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Strategiques), University of Salford (Manchester), Praxes Avocats and CCLS (Université de Pékin)

Modus operandi of corruptors in sport
Direct approach or threats of violence by the underworld
Financial corruption by offering money for underperformance
3 referees were approached by Greek delegate to favour Greece in European Basketball Championship in Lithuania in 2011.
German ref. was offered 20000 Euro. Tennis players like Younis El Ayanaoui of Morocco was offered 25000 to lose to young player.
Belgian player Giles Elseneer was offered 100000 euro to lose 1st round Wimbledon.
Another Belgian Dick Norman was similarly offered bribes twice to lose  a match.
Arnaud Clement of France was also offered a bribe. 
Corruption through intermediaries; grooming; honeytraps.
Just as a former Rajasthan Royals  player was an agent for the corruptor in the recent RR spot fixing scandal, several former footballers were involved in the football match-rigging scam that exploded in Italy in May 2011. They contacted the captain or goalkeeper and paid them 400000 euro, which became the official rate for buying a Serie A player.
The grooming of a player can be done gradually through money, gifts, even sexual favours.
Punishing fraud in sport and the law
Generally sports betting is poorly monitored.
Actions like phone-tapping and surveillance of bank data require police and public authorities.
Bodies like FIFA, ICC and ITF hire former policemen to head anbti-match fixing units.
In England, cheating in betting became a criminal offence in 2005. Without that amendment of the law, the Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammad Amir could not have been awarded prison sentences.
In Turkey a fixer can be imprisoned for 5 to 12 years.
France is trying to legislate similarly.
In Indian law, cheating in betting, i.e., match fixing is not yet a criminal offence.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Regulation 
Standards prohibiting stakeholders from sports betting or communicating sensitive information. Severe disciplinary sanctions are needed. Obligation to report any attempted approach by bookies, or suspicious outsiders.
Raising awareness
Information programme for managers of sports bodies focusing onknowledge of global betting market and the risks connected with them
Programme to educate at grassroots level focusing on methods of approach of corruptors and the risk to your career if you take part in fraud
Surveillance
Knowledge of the dynamism of the market and commercial exploitation of games by betting operators. Close coordination between sports bodies and regulatory authorities
Surveillance during matches, tournaments, especially during matches where the result is not significant
Testing operations to strengthen surveillance and deterrence among referees, players, managers, coaches, umpires.
Integration of resources
Coordination within a unit dedicated to combating fraud in sport attached to the international federation.
Establishment of a network of points of contact or sports betting integrity officers responsible for coordinating action within their organization and linking up with public authorities.
Establishment of protocols to follow in trhe event of an approach or suspicion, both within the sports organization and in conjunction with the authorities
Most important reform
Establishment of a corruption-in-sport monitoring centre.
A central database at an international federation level will facilitate gathering and sharing of information on corruption in sport linked to betting.
The centre can provide quantitative data for suspicious cases and disciplinary or criminal proceedings instituted within sports bodies and countries across the world.
It will be a think tank for creating an agency for the integrity of sport, which will have formal competence and the power of constrant and sanction over the sports movement.

Legalisation of betting
Match fixing may never totally rooted out, legalization of betting will produce a regulated market with proper trails of transactions. Names of bettors,  IP addresses , email ids and phone numbers will be available, enabling prompt investigation of suspicious behavior. Direct contact by punters with players can be prevented thus.

Why do sportsmen cheat?
I have found as a sportsman myself that the average sportsman is different from the average person in mainstream life. He is likely to be self-centred if not selfish, very ambitious, driven. He's not afraid to take risks, that's why he's a competitive sportsman. Sportsmen who are disciplined outside sports as in studies, employment etc. are exceptional, not the norm. Increasingly they come from non-traditional sporting backgrounds, with their education inadequate. Often they grow up believing it is all right to give or accept bribes, dowry, drive on the wrong side of the road, work hard so that you can earn well in life, rather than pursue excellence for the sake of excellence. So if someone is paying me one lakh to play for my team, and someone else offers me 2 lakh to underperform, is it really wrong, especially if I don't get caught? Maybe that's how the vulnerable youngster thinks.
I believe education in honesty, commitment to excellence, focus etc. should start young, at home. Parents play a vital role here. Selection of teams from the youngest age-group levels could include psychological testing for qualities like integrity, leadership, mental strength along with testing for skills. With the kind of financial strength the Board has it should be a feasible proposition to extend moral education to all levels of sport.
"Cheating is especially easy to justify when you frame situations to cast yourself as a victim of some kind of unfairness," said Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the use of prescription drugs to improve intellectual performance. "Then it becomes a matter of evening the score; you're not cheating, you're restoring fairness."
"People have and continue to do what they can get away with," says Andy Barton, a mental performance coach who has worked with numerous elite athletes across football, rugby, Olympic sports and other disciplines.
"In sport there is constant analysis of what others are doing, from using breathing strips to the effect of energy drinks," he says.
"Coaches and analysts become aware of what can change a game, so that can even extend to things like seeing how players go down to win penalties."
"Competitors who are ego orientated [always comparing themselves to others] are prone to unsporting behaviour," he says.
"This is often exasperated by a 'win at all costs' attitude in their sports environment.
"Some people are motivated by external rewards and are more likely to cheat. Others enjoy the sport and self-improvement and that is their motivation."

Finally, is ICC doing enough?
Most of you will agree with me that it is not doing enough. It has not given evidence of its seriousness in uprooting cheating from cricket. World Cup 2011 was a prime example. The semifinal was surrounded by suspicion. Bookie intelligence predicted the outcome of the India-Pakistan encounter with startling precision. Sir Paul Condon, chief of ACSU, who had promised a clean World Cup was not so sure afterwards, but no serious investigation seems to have been instituted into that and other suspect matches in the tournament.
I close with the words of  Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 1 March 2011
 "There will definitely be more rigged matches in future if the world of sport closes its eyes to them, and if we do not have good contact with betting companies and governments. Eventually the credibility of results will be called into question. Sport is based on a hierarchy that derives its social and moral values from the concept of merit. The winner should be the one who has poured the most lawful resources into their preparation or who has worked the hardest. If in future the concept of a champion as a model of excellence becomes tarnished by the manipulation of matches or the corruption of players, then the entire credibility of sport will vanish.
(...) There are already countries where football competitions are no longer credible and where the public has very clearly lost interest in that sport."


Sunday, December 7, 2014

AG Ram Singh

The greatest cricketer not to have played for India

By V Ramnarayan


The bright spot of my school years at Chennai was my school sending me to attend coaching camps at the Madras Cricket Association’s BS Nets. I was lucky enough to come under the benevolent gaze of AG Ram Singh and TS Worthington, two wonderful coaches. Both knew when to coach and when to leave well alone. KS Kannan, who assisted them, was another marvellous coach with great empathy for the diffident among the boys.

Almost every cricketer who knew A G Ram Singh not only loved and respected him but owed him at least a small debt of gratitude—for a kind word at the right time, a vital piece of advice when things were going wrong with our cricket, or just his strong, quiet presence in the sidelines at important games.

Ram Singh was the chief destroyer of Mysore in the inaugural Ranji Trophy match at Chepauk in December 1934, taking eleven wickets in the match. For years after that, he repeated that kind of bowling performance many times, and was also the team's most consistent batsmen. A tribute written in 1953 said: "Anybody who goes through the scorebooks of the Madras Cricket Association will be struck by the amazing consistency of A G Ram Singh, the stockily built all-rounder.  It would indeed be a truism to repeat that Ram Singh bore the burden of Madras cricket on his shoulders as very few had done before and none after him.  Centuries flowed from his bat while with his left-handed spinners he sent many a batsman to his doom.  More than any other, Mysore and Hyderabad States have cause to remember Ram Singh's prowess, for against them he was in his best form.  Not that Ram Singh did not prove himself against better teams than those.  Just after the war, he bearded the lion in its own den, when in the zonal tournament at Bombay he played a magnificent century knock against the best of India's bowlers.  It was an innings that many who witnessed it said should have earned Ram Singh a place in the Indian team to England in 1946 but the 'nabobs' of cricket thought otherwise."

Before his father moved to Madras, young Ram Singh lived just a huge six away from the scene of the Jallian Wala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. "He and other members of the family were locked in a small room and they could hear the gunshots and the shrieks of the people," wrote K Sunder Rajan, Sports Editor, The Hindu, in 1980. An avid spectator of British soldiers' cricket, the young sardar was fascinated by the doings of the Englishmen on the Island ground and Chepauk once he came to Madras, and found he was a natural.  According to Sunder Rajan, "On the day he landed at Madras, his father wanted to take him to the beach.  On the way he saw members of the Madras Cricket Club practising at Chepauk.  He was so passionately fond of cricket that he appealed to his father to watch cricket rather than go to the beach."

In the first Ranji Trophy season, Ram Singh took 6 for 19 and 5 for 16 against Mysore, scoring 14 in a total of 130.  Against Hyderabad, he scored 74 and 70, and had bowling figures of 5 for 88 and 6 for 71.

In the second season, 1935-1936, he made 25 and zero versus Mysore, but took one for 63 and 5 for 55. against Hyderabad, he claimed 2 for 77 and 6 for 32, besides remaining unbeaten in both innings with 121 and 57. In the semifinal, which Madras won by 91 runs, he made 9 and 11, while capturing 4 for 43 and 4 for 30 against Bengal.  In the final that Madras lost to Bombay, the sardar scored 32 and 3 while returning figures of one for 77 and 5 for 92.

Ram Singh was overlooked when the Indian team to tour England was chosen in 1936. Ten years later, he once again missed the boat despite a brilliant century in a trial match prior to the tour of England.  (In the only Ranji Trophy tie Madras played in 1935, losing to Mysore, Ram Singh had scores of 40 and 17, and took 3 for 64 and one for 80.  Next year, the same fate befell Madras, and Ram Singh scored 32 and went wicketless in a short spell against Mysore).

Madras, or for that matter, Tamil Nadu later, has not produced many genuine left arm all rounders.  Ram Singh was certainly the only one in that category to show equal prowess in both batting and bowling. 

A keen student of the game who came under the influence of the Sussex professional AF Wensley, Ram Singh eschewed all frills in his batting and believed in spending long hours at the nets.  He was a strong hooker of anything pitched short, but generally waited for the bad ball, rather than try to play extravagant strokes. He played long innings and revelled in crisis situations. In short, he was the Mr Reliable of the pre-Independence Madras team.

Starting out as a quickish spin bowler in his youth, Ram Singh developed "a tantalising flight" in his mature years.  His accuracy was proverbial and 'never say die' his philosophy as a bowler.  On a rain affected wicket or a turner, he was virtually unplayable.

Ram Singh took to coaching in his retirement from cricket playing, serving in the National Institute of Sports and under the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur scheme. He coached well into his eighties and was much beloved in the Venkata Subba Rao school where he continued his work after his retirement from official duties at the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. 

He was arguably the greatest cricketer never to have played for his country.  He had the satisfaction of watching two of his sons grow up into Test players and at least one more develop into a Test class batsman kept out by injury. His grandsons too played good cricket, living testimony to the Ram Singh heritage.  They, like hundreds of other Tamil Nadu cricketers, learnt their cricket at his knee.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

M J Gopalan

By V Ramnarayan

He was one of the most respected elder statesmen of Tamil Nadu cricket, long after his playing days were over, even beyond his days as a selector and administrator. He could be seen at the stadium, tall, handsome, ramrod straight and a picture of dignity, watching matches and appreciating the finer points of the game. When he could no longer make the effort to commute, he turned to television to absorb every nuance of the game. Not a single cricket match did he miss well into his nineties.

When M J Gopalan died on 21st December 2003, after a brief illness, he was 94, the oldest Test cricketer in the world and the lone survivor from the Madras team that played the first Ranji Trophy match. He it was who bowled the opening delivery in the national championship.

One of India’s two double internationals—the other was left hander C Ramaswami, who represented India in cricket and tennis—both from Madras of yore, Gopalan achieved excellence in cricket and hockey, but it was never an easy path for him. Hailing from a family of modest means, he had to fight his way up the sporting ladder, but he took good care of his health and fitness, and, naturally well endowed with strong bones and sinews, he was able to devote all his time to the pursuit of excellence on a cricket or hockey ground.

In 1926, Gopalan played for the Indians for the first time against the Europeans in the Presidency Match the greatest cricketing event in Madras before the advent of Test matches. In 1927-1928, when the first MCC team visited Madras, Gopalan captured four wickets for 87 for the Indians and three for 108 for Madras in the two matches the tourists played in the city. He also had a fine all round performance against West Indies, playing for South Zone.

It was C P Johnstone, the Kent, England-born Madras captain, who, instrumental in securing him a job with Burmah Shell, introduced the first element of security in the young all rounder’s life. Another Englishman, R C Summerhayes provided the inspiration for Gopalan to achieve excellence in hockey. On any match day, young Gopalan would cycle to Chepauk after finishing his daily rounds visiting Shell petrol stations, enter the arena just before the start of the match, change into his hockey shorts and run on to the field, accompanied by the roars of a cheering crowd.

Gopalan bowled the first ball in the Ranji Trophy, on 4 November 1934, at Chepauk, opening the bowling for Madras against Mysore, a match Madras won by an innings in a single day of cricket. Gopalan’s figures in the match were 8-2-11-0 and 12-4-20-3. He also scored 23, second to the topscorer C Ramaswami (26) in a Madras total of 130. On a rain-affected wicket Mysore managed only 48 and 59, AG Ram Singh wrecking their innings with his left-arm bowling.

Forsaking hockey and a chance to be selected for the Olympics—with the clear prospect of a gold medal—in favour of playing Test cricket, Gopalan was chosen to tour England in 1936, but was given few opportunities on the trip made notorious by the idiosyncratic captaincy of the Maharajah of Vizianagaram, who sent Lala Amarnath home midway on so-called disciplinary grounds. Earlier, a fine piece of bowling for an All-India XI in Calcutta against Jack Ryder’s Australian XI had won him a place in the Indian team for the second ‘Test’ in that series.

“On figures alone Gopalan is entitled to an honoured place in the history of the game, but his greatness can never be measured by the yardstick. If only he had wanted he could have hit more centuries, but Gopalan never stays at the crease unless he must. To him the game alone is all that matters and nothing else. He approaches it in a cavalier spirit and bats and bowls with a freshness and vigour that fill the field and heighten the game”, wrote P N Sundaresan, The Hindu’s sports correspondent, during Gopalan’s silver jubilee year in cricket.

Gopalan was a spontaneous strokemaker, who breathed aggression all the time he was at the crease. As a bowler, he began his career trying to bowl fast and short, but with experience, especially after his 1936 tour of England, he concentrated on length and movement. Gopalan’s subtle variations and control made him a feared bowler even in his forties. He might have been capped more often for India but for the presence of a galaxy of fast bowlers during his period, like Nissar, Amar Singh, Jehangir Khan, and Nazir Ali.

Gopalan served the game of cricket for long after his career was over. As a national selector, he was responsible for Tamil Nadu cricketers of the calibre of A G Kripal Singh, A G Milkha Singh and V V Kumar playing for India. He took his job as Madras University selector equally seriously, and this writer is one of several young cricketers to have benefited from his ability and courage to recognize talent overlooked by his colleagues. In his old age, he became a great fan of Kapil Dev, in whose swashbuckling ways he saw glimpses of his own versatile talent. The two all rounders often met whenever India played a Test match at Chennai, and they made a striking looking pair.

The permanence of Gopalan’s place in the annals of Indian cricket was—or should have been—assured when the annual tournament between Madras and Ceylon was named after him. Unfortunately, after Sri Lanka gained Test recognition, enthusiasm for the Gopalan Trophy contests between the island nation and Tamil Nadu flagged and efforts to revive the tournament since the 1990s have been less than successful. The last attempt was in 2007, when R Ashwin led Tamil Nadu against not Sri Lanka, but a squad comprising under-19 and ‘A’ team players.  For over three decades, however, the tournament, launched in 1952-53, gave much pleasure to spectators in both countries and exposed young cricketers to the international experience.