Dravid on spot-fixing and fear of consequences

Like I said, I can’t speak for other people but at a personal level if I were to doubt everything that happens in this game, it would take away the joy and the love of the game, from what it’s meant to be. It has been my life from the time I can remember, my first memories are of a ball and a cricket bat. So personally no, my first instinct is to trust and believe what is happening on a television screen. I hear, people do come to me, and you hear chat about this might have happened or look at that. But like I said, I’ve seen a lot of strange things on a cricket field and from people and players I would never doubt, I would bet my life on that fact.

Sambit Bal interviews Rahul Dravid on match/spot-fixing, and matters related. Nice, nuanced, and from the heart — typical Rahul. The money segment:

I think a two-pronged approach [is needed]. My personal belief is that education and counselling at a junior level is really important. As we’ve seen recently with these incidents, they aren’t only about international cricketers but we’ve seen with the sting operations last year, with what’s happened this year, is that a lot of these elements are targeting younger players, domestic players, first-class players. So obviously counselling and guidance has to go to the first-class level and junior level. So I think we’ve got to start early, we’ve got to start young but like I said earlier, in answer to your question, that part of it is already being done. I know that India has its own ACSU and even for Ranji Trophy teams this education is given. So I don’t think only education can work, [we have to] police it and have the right laws and ensure that people, when they indulge in these kind of activities, are actually punished.

People must see that there are consequences to your actions. That will create fear for people. For example, look back on the doping in cycling. Everyone knows it’s wrong and it’s frightening having read a little about it and the number of cyclists who were doing it. Surely everyone knows it’s wrong. [But] it was an exception not to do it. So the only people cyclists were scared of was not the testers, not the [cycling] authority, they were scared of the police. You read all the articles, the only guys they were scared of was the police and going to jail. So the only way that people are going to get that fear is if they know the consequences to these actions and the law that will come into play. It has got to be a criminal offence.

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Eye Browse: The Spy Edition

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle McLeod — Mata Hari, to give her the name she is best known by — was born this day in 1876.

In his book Children of the Days, under the entry for this date, Eduardo Galeano says this about the celebrated Dutch spy who lends her name to her tribe:

Sumptuous beds were her battlefields in the First World War. Top military and political leaders succumbed to her charms, and they confided secrets she then sold to France or Germany or whoever would pay more.

In 1917 a French military court sentenced her to death.

The most beloved spy in the world blew kisses to the firing squad.

Eight of the twelve soldiers missed.

To add to that, here is archival gold: an eyewitness account of the execution. And here is a profile of the iconic lady spy.

In passing, do you know of any writer who does micro-portraiture as well as Galeano? (Here’s an earlier post that has much on him, and on my pick of the best soccer book of all time).

In honor of the celebrated spy who would have been 137 years old today if the other four soldiers had also missed, four stories from the archives about espionage:

The Stasi and the Swann: David Grann brilliance on the last spy of the Cold War era

The Un-Crackable Code: Yudhijit Bhattacharjee on the man who would be a spy, and the code he created that puzzled the best

Double Blind: Mathew Teague on how British intelligence infiltrated the IRA

How Anna Chapman became the face of Kremlin Capitalism: And why it is important for spies to be sexy

The power of the story

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

A chunk of my morning, which should have been devoted to working, was totally hijacked by this excellent talk by Nigerian novelist/story-teller  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — and she nails it when she says:

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

In its review of Adichie’s latest, The Thing Around Your Neck, the New York Times says the collection of stories exemplifies the tensions “between fiction and autobiography, the expectations of the observer and the experience of the witness, not to mention the value of certain experiences in the global literary marketplace”.

Many of the stories in this book have been published before, and provide a flavor of Adichie’s writing. A quick list:

  • A Private Experience , where two women, caught up in a communal riot, take refuge in a shop
  • The Headstrong Historian which tells of a woman whose husband was killed by his cousins — or so she believes — and of how she fights to regain the family’s lost inheritance for her son through the latter’s education
  • Cell One in which the son of a professor is caught for a crime and sent to the infamous titular cell of a Nigerian prison

Her own story-telling hero, Chinua Achebe, says this about the young Adichie:

“We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.”

And here is Adichie herself, from the talk posted above:

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structure of the world, and it is “nkali”. It is a noun that loosely translates to “To be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with “secondly”. Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

 Where she really drives the point home — and in doing that, underlines the danger of the kind of single PoV narratives we are increasingly subjected to by the media — is when she says:

Show a people as one thing — as only one thing — over and over again, and that is what they become.

Arati Kumar-Rao (blog and Twitter), who alerted me to this talk, also points to this excellent playlist of talks on story-telling, featuring the likes of Isabelle Allende, Andrew Stanton, Elif Shafak, JJ Abrams and Scott McCloud. Enjoy. (And if you’ve come across good talks/articles on story-telling, narrative, etc, share links in comments and I’ll round those off into a follow-up post).

PostScript: In response to this post, friend and Caravan writer Rahul Bhatia:

 

 

Srini to Jaggu: Cheers, mate!

In a private corner of a bar someplace, N Srinivasan and Jagmohan Dalmiya are likely sharing a single malt and laughing fit to bust; their laughter probably crescendoes with each new headline in the media, and each new talking head on TV, announcing that Srini’s bid to return as president has been stymied again.

The word the media wants is “facilitated”.

Going in to today’s meeting, there was only one outcome Srinivasan needed to avoid: that the IPL governing council, of which he is *not* a member (ex-officio, he calls himself — but that is in his capacity as BCCI president, from which post he has ‘stepped aside’ — so on date, he cannot be part of the governing council even ex-officio) would accept the Bombay High Court strictures, accept the inquiry committee report as invalid, and order a new probe.

*If* that had happened, Srinivasan was finished — because there is no way in hell a probe committee can be constituted, meet, examine evidence (no matter how superficially) and submit a report between now and September, when the BCCI general body meets to elect the president and other office bearers for next year.

If, therefore, a new probe had been constituted, Srini is de jure in no position to contest in September. And once a new president (along with new secretary, treasurer and assorted other busybodies) are elected, there is no immediate way for Srini to regain control of the reins.

So for Srini — and Jagmohan Dalmiya, who is temporarily in alliance with his one-time persecutor — that needed to be stopped. It was — by the simple expedient of crashing the meeting, grandly “recusing” himself from a meeting in which he had no locus standi anyway, then storming back in after a brief absence and creating a ruckus which ended with the council, shorn of options, agreeing to preserve status quo ante.

So Dalmiya remains ‘interim president’. Srini remains in charge. (Remember that Dalmiya has no legal standing to sign major, particularly bilateral and multilateral) agreements on behalf of the BCCI — that is the president’s remit, so Srini’s signature still has value).

And most importantly, Srini can now contest in September — which makes the result a foregone conclusion. His one potential stumbling block was Sharad Pawar, who had mounted a bid for a return to the Mumbai Cricket Association, and who as MCA president could have legitimately staked a claim in the upcoming election.

That was trumped by the simple expedient of delaying the MCA polls, originally slated for this month, to October — that is, after the BCCI polls. Various ‘reasons’ have been given by MCA; collectively, they are the equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework and I have to redo it all over again and need time so I can’t be bothered to be running elections just now’.

There is a possibility Pawar can still be a candidate if he can get enough other associations to nominate him as their representative — but that is an extremely unlikely possibility because a Pawar heading an association and thus in a position to do favors is a whole different kettle of fish from a Pawar out of cricketing power and thus in no position to offer carrots or wield sticks.

So who is left? Arun Jaitley is the pre-anointed next in line and it suits him just fine to sit out this year; there is a general election on the horizon and the last thing he needs is to have his name constantly in the limelight over the BCCI’s serial acts of corruption.

Rajiv Shukla is the other possibility — but besides having time on his hands, he is currently busy consolidating his own power base, playing his part in the Congress party’s back room machinations vis a vis the general elections, and snowballing the value of his various businesses. He has the IPL back in his hands; like Jaitley, the one thing he does not need is to be named in the same sentence as ‘BCCI’ and ‘corruption’. (In this context, it is interesting to note that when the fixing scandal broke over the IPL earlier this year, Shukla faced some internal ire at the highest levels of his own party, and had to resort to some fancy footwork to distance himself from the mess).

Jagmohan Dalmiya would have been a viable option — but the Bengal boss is content just now to consolidate his total rehabilitation, and cement new alliances; 2013 is a tad too early for him to try for another innings.

Net net, Srini is a shoo-in, in September — as long as his candidature could pass unquestioned. And now it can, since the IPL Governing Council did not — or more accurately, was not allowed to — accept the Bombay High Court strictures.

Of course, the appeal in the Supreme Court could go against the BCCI — but that is a long, long way away. Remember the AC Muthaiah-helmed case against Srinivasan’s various conflicts of interest, that is still awaiting final judgment from the SC? Given that, what chance is there that this one will be heard, and a judgment delivered, in time to trump Srini in September — even assuming the BCCI submits its appeal within the next few days? Srini will fancy his chances of re-election before the SC verdict comes in — and once installed in power again, all things are possible.

So guess who is laughing now, while we collectively celebrate how Srinivasan has been ‘stymied again’? ‘Well played,’ you can hear Srini and Jaggu telling each other, as they clink glasses.

‘BCCI tried to bribe me’. Indeed?

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

The man making the allegation is Aditya Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB), whose PIL led to the Bombay High Court declaring the BCCI-appointed two-member inquiry committee “illegal”.

When reading this, bear in mind that the CAB was de-recognized by the BCCI over allegations of corruption, and this is now the subject of a prolonged court battle.  Prima facie, that would suggest that Verma and his association have a vested interest in throwing mud at the BCCI.

However, without suggesting that the CAB is a well-run state body (which state association actually is?), the BCCI taking action against one of its members over corruption is risible, to say the least. We are, after all, talking of the same body that filed a police case against Jagmohan Dalmiya for misappropriation of over Rs 46 crore, then when it became expedient wrote off that amount, and today has (illegally) installed him as interim president. (Details documented here).

That — and many other instances of state associations being allowed to get away with murder — leads to the inference that the BCCI uses the carrot and stick policy as part of its standard operating procedure; that it has institutionalized the use of bribery and/or threats to get its way (Read). And this in turn suggests that Verma’s allegation cannot be totally dismissed as muck-throwing by a disgruntled official.

Here is Verma in his own words:

“A particular South Indian lobby tried to bribe me to withdraw the case,” Verma told Mail Today on Wednesday. “It offered me many things, including money, but I did not buckle under any pressure and continued my fight for cleansing Indian cricket of corruption. They told me that I would benefit a lot if I withdrew the case. They also tried to bribe me in many other ways.”

He, however, refused to divulge the names of the people who tried to bribe him to withdraw the case, saying the matter was sub-judice. Then, Verma said, the lobby tried to intimidate him by telling him he was putting the career of his young cricketer son in jeopardy by fighting against the BCCI.

“They asked me. Why are you playing with the future of the career of your cricketer son?”. However, Verma, whose son plays under-19 cricket, refused to give up his fight. “I have been fighting single-handedly against the BCCI for the legitimate rights of the Bihar cricket for the past three years,” he said. “I am not one to give in to any kind of pressure.” Verma said this was the first time when the BCCI had tasted defeat in a court case.

The allegation is in and off itself serious; it is of a piece with how the BCCI has operated in the past. And it is because the BCCI has been allowed to get away with each individual act of corruption, extortion and general malfeasance that it has become increasingly emboldened; why each successive act has been more egregious than the last.

It is time (most would argue that it is way past time) that a line was drawn in the sand — and the way to do that, here, is by naming the people involved, by bringing it out in the open, and by seeking official/judicial intervention.

Verma refuses to divulge the names by saying the matter is sub-judice, but that cat won’t jump — if it is, if this combination of bribe and threat is part of his official case, then he shouldn’t be talking about it at all. Doing a tease, then refusing to go the whole hog, does everyone — the game, the fans — a disservice; it airs an allegation but does not substantiate it. Which is why I hope Verma, who now flies the flag for probity and has set himself up as the crusader against corruption, now does a full Monty, either through the legal mechanism or in public.

Now is as good a time as any to let sunlight into a body that has traditionally operated in deep shadow. There have been numerous opportunities in the past, and the game has paid, continues to pay, a heavy price for missing them. At the risk of being sententious, I really hope this latest allegation doesn’t turn out to be yet another one day sensation that is forgotten by tomorrow.