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Fair Play by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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24 April, 2010

Fair Play

It had it all...almost - money, glitz, glamor, popularity, and more importanly, great prospect of having all the above for many more years to come. All it lacked was a little intrigue...till now. The fairy tale beginning, and the fairy tale run that the league enjoyed so far proved to be just that, a fairy tale. It just was too good to be true that bags of money, oodles have fun and loads of power could coexist harmniously and grow exponentially every year, without some element of discontentment and some measure of avarice, seeping in somewhere spoiling all the fun for the merry-makers. Every Martin Scorsese mob movie had pretty much the same trappings. Replace the names Modi, Pawar, Manohar, Srinivasan, and the rest of the gang with Italian monikers like Sergio, Paulie 'Left eye', Vecckio 'two fingers', and what all that has been transpiring since the 'Twittergate' can easily double for a mob movie set in New York of yesteryears - a young man who comes up with an idea that could make some name and fame for himself lets the mob in the take, grows the business to such an extent that it becomes too large and too hot to handle by himself without drawing attention from the Feds, and essentially falls prey to his vices committing too many obvious mistakes, and eventually drawing the rest of the mob and the business down with him. Scorsese helmed such affairs one too many times. And yet, despite the benefit of history and Hollywood in the hindsight, the IPL show couldn't deviate an inch from that pre-ordained path, taking its destiny head on, spilling its ugly guts all over. Philosophically speaking, the heady mix of money, power and politics is bound to produce the same exact result anytime, anywhere, any game. It happened with soccer, American Football, Basketball, Baseball, Organized gambling and every other arena, where the clink of the coins drowned out the din of the sports. Now, it is cricket's turn, and that's the end of it.

Ten or twenty years down the line, after IPL has been totally sanitized, made transparent and managed down to the minutest level possible, making it just as tightly controlled and outright boring as any other sport mentioned above, people would look back at the first few years since the induction of IPL, and would shake their heads in disbelief wondering how hitherto unheard sums of money has been allowed into the game without the slightest amount of oversight, knowing fully well things are never as they seem to be in India, particularly in the monetary matters. The quantum leap that the game has taken, not in terms of the actual sport itself but in everything surrounding it, should have raised red herrings right away, when words like 'billions' (of dollars) started to float around in the corridors of powers where only till recently 'crores' (of rupees) made a good living without attracting any unwanted attention. And millions of dollars of pay packages for a mere 6 week of work for the stellar stars, and hundreds of thousands (again, dollars) for the lesser knowns for an ever lighter work load, didn't make a whole lot of financial sense, unless, the money at play is never intended to generate a great/good return on investment - the boiler-plate situation for money-laundering. And now with the news of 'tax havens', 'money routing', 'front men', slowly trickling into the daily newspapers, the one word that wants to make its presence so badly in this scenario is 'DUH!'. What else did one expect? Where and how did this bastard wealth suddenly come into the game and was paraded around with impugnity and without any fear of reprisals (from tax men), unless there is a confluence (collusion would work too) of conflicting interests at the highest levels. As said above, this is nothing new, and all this has a 'been there, done that' feel to it. As Tendulkar rightly indicated a few days ago, the game would weather this storm too (after having seen one too many scandals of betting and fixing in his long career) even if all that remains after this serious blood letting exercise is a controlled, regulated, no fun version of its former self. Read (watch) your Hollywood (Goodfellas, Casino, Bugsy, Eight Men Out), the sport may be different, but the game is still the same.

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