David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Bloated IPL perfect home for the greedy and the weak

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Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar. Photo / AFP
Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar. Photo / AFP

A while back, one of international cricket's finest players of the past decade was explaining, off the record, the delights of playing in the Indian Premier League to a fellow countryman.

Life was one long party, he explained. Booze, women, nightclubs, and a bit of cricket thrown in. So when the journalist, with whom he was on good terms, called him back a few weeks later to talk, on the record, about life in the T20 fastlane, he was slightly taken aback when the previously happy talker turned into an angry defender of all things IPL.

Absolute rubbish, he said when reminded of his earlier observations on the IPL. It was all about the cricket, the players were dedicated to the franchise and performing to their optimum level.

This story came to mind as three Indian players were arrested this week for alleged spot fixing over the course of three games in the IPL. The three, all members of the Rajasthan Royals franchise and including one former international, seamer Shantakumaran Sreesanth, were nabbed by Delhi police.

The last of Sreesanth's 27 tests was two years ago.

The trio have been detained and face charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy. Eleven bookmakers, including one who was a former Royals player, were also arrested.

Among the claims are that the three would give away a pre-determined amount of runs in a given over. Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar - who described the arrest as done "with considerable regret and anguish", which sounds like he's a genuine cricket fan - said amounts up to US$100,000 ($123,402) were on offer for just one rum over.

He described signals given by players, such as fiddling with a wristband, or neck chains, or hanging a towel around their waist, which were spotted.

Spot fixing came to prominence most recently in the jailing of Pakistani trio Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer in 2011 for bowling no balls to order in a Lord's test for a bookmaker the previous year.

What that showed, and this latest slipping batch of arrests, reinforces, is how easy it is to rig a situation within a game. Forget trying to jack up the result of a match; there's moolah to be made over and over during the, in this case, 40 overs. A timely scratch of the left ear, a false start to a runup, a running of a hand through the hair, so simple.

All three Indians have been suspended. Excuse me if my jaw didn't exactly hit the floor when the story broke. The tale of the former great rang loudly.

The bloated excesses of the IPL are distasteful. A friend who talks of the yellow team playing the blue team, rather than by name, has it right. Treat it for what it is.

The financial rewards are too great for the greedy, or weak, to ignore. You can be sure this won't be the only instance of dodgy dealings in the IPL. They're just the first to have had their collar felt.

There are two sides to the IPL. One is dominated by the likes of entertainers such as Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardene. The other, darker side, was centre stage this week.

- NZ Herald

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