It's been an extraordinary week or so in the world of cricket as a whole, and the Indian Premier League in particular. India woke up on May 16 to the startling revelation that three cricketers had been arrested by the Delhi Police for their involvement in spot fixing. Since then, a murky trail of betting, fixing, exchange of gifts, of favours curried, of relationships exploited has emerged. There has been an almost unmanageable flow of information, some official, others from so-called sources. Insinuations have been made, aspersions cast, conclusions arrived at, people already tried and prononouced guilty, mostly in absentia. And, remember, the courts have only been peripherally involved thus far.
Three parallel investigations are currently underway. The first, most critical and logical one, is being conducted by the police, who are assiduously collecting information, tapping into their vast resources and following up on leads. Police work, contrary to what television serials and movies would have us believe, is generally laborious, painstaking and anything but glamorous. It involves sifting through mounds of data, separating the truths from the semi-truths and the carefully couched lies. It's essentially plenty of legwork, but invariably, when a probe is conducted meticulously and methodically, the 'lucky' break arrives when least expected. It's a slow and gradual process, as indeed it must be when so much is at stake, a thankless task carried out with precision by a team of driven men.
Then, there is the one-man panel appointed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, whose ambit is understandably far more limited than that of the policemen. It would be naive to expect Ravi Sawani to make serious headway all on his own, given that he doesn't have the resources that the police have at their command. His brief is also completely different from, and independent of, the official agencies. Sawani has a little under a fortnight to wind up his probe and submit his findings, both to the BCCI and to the Supreme Court which, earlier this week, came down hard on cricket's apex body in the country for its 'lackadaisical approach' to the entire saga.
And then, there is the very obvious, very aggressive, very in-your-face investigation, if that is indeed the right word, being conducted on television by news channels that, in the battle of one-upmanship and the desire to 'break news', are dangerously treading the thin line between information and innuendo. People have been pronounced guilty, judgements have been passed, voices have been raised, and facts distorted to suit individual, convenient versions of truth. But then again, why must truth come in the way of a good story?
Growing up, taking tentative steps in the world of journalism, we were told that our job was to report news, not create it. It's a lesson that has remained ingrained in my system. Call me old-fashioned, but I have always believed that my job is to present facts - facts, I stress - to the reader. We were told that we must not be the news, we must merely serve as a bridge in the process of dissemination of information. In this ultra-modern, ultra-competitive world of breaking news and being the first, the line between reporting and making news has become extremely blurred.
A colleague and I watched with mounting consternation when a team from the crime branch of the Mumbai Police was virtually grilled by a group of journalists outside the house of Gurunath Meiyappan in Chennai the other morning. The tone was harsh and confrontational - "Are you from Mumbai Police?", "Have you come to interrogate Guru?", "Why don't you answer our questions?" Microphones were shoved into the faces of these gentlemen, there was a fair bit of jostling and pushing people around. Just as when the Chennai Super Kings players arrived at the New Delhi airport to board a flight to Kolkata. "Chennai players evade questions on whereabouts of Guru" ran a scroll, implying that the players had something to hide. Evade questions?
Across news channels, crack of dawn onwards, it's all about the IPL, about spot-fixing, about the nexus between players and bookies and administrators and Bollywood. It's almost as if nothing else is happening in the country, or indeed the world. The IPL has suddenly become the object of scorn, ridicule and contempt. Larger issues of human interest that affect our day-to-day existence have been given the go-by; the sense one gets is that in an otherwise perfect world that Indians live in, the IPL is the only sore thumb and once it is weeded out, we can go back to leading our perfect lives all over again.
One of the channels invited calls from viewers on whether the IPL must continue in its present avatar or be shut down immediately. There was this caller from Mumbai, a lady, who said something along the lines of, "Why do I have to see Sreesanth's face every time I switch on the TV? Isn't there anything else that is going on in the world?" And she was quickly ushered off air without so much as a thank you. Sorry, contrarian views can't be entertained.
Why can't we leave it to the police to continue their investigations, place their findings before the proper authorities and take these cases to their logical conclusions? A lot of these investigations are sensitive and obviously involve directly or otherwise, some huge names in Indian cricket. How fair is it at every point to expect the investigating authorities to make public every shred of information, every iota of evidence, every means of information-gathering during the investigative process? On the one hand, we keep telling people to boycott the remaining matches of the IPL to teach the callous administrators a lesson; on the other, we keep playing up the IPL 24~CHECK~7 with an obvious eye on TRPs and trumping the competition.
The media is, needless to say, the watchdog of the society, an opinion-forming entity that therefore must tread with responsibility, caution and even a little circumspection. These are delicate, sensitive times so far as Indian cricket is concerned. Let us have a little faith in our police, in our legal system, in the processes in place, in the law of the land taking its due course. Let us keep an eagle eye on the proceedings, as indeed we must, but let us not be judge, jury and executioner all at once. Surely, that is not asking for too much?