The success of Indian Premier League (IPL) led to the mushrooming of local T20 leagues across India. The most successful of these have been the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) and Karnataka Premier League (KPL). Unfortunately, both have drawn attention for the wrong reasons in recent times.
The owner of Belgavi Panthers team in KPL, Ali Asfak Thara has been arrested by the police on charges of indulging in illegal betting. The police is further investigating his links with players and bookies in Dubai. This comes just a few days after the BCCI launched an inquiry into TNPL as some players in that league had reported receiving messages from bookies.
Go back a few years and you will remember a sting operation by India TV which caught five domestic players committing acts of spot-fixing in a local T20 league of Madhya Pradesh. So, what is it about these leagues that makes them so vulnerable to the sharks out there looking to ensnare cricketers?
Well, to begin with, these leagues are organised by local bodies and not BCCI. As a result, there isn't the kind of security apparatus guarding the players as there is in domestic matches. This renders the players much more approachable by unsavoury elements.
The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) of BCCI isn't present at the matches of these leagues. So, there isn't a powerful and capable body overlooking the proceedings. This provides the perfect opportunity for bookies and people with sinister motives to play their game and pry on the greed of players.
Another reason why these kind of leagues are in danger of becoming hotbeds of corruption is the fact that it brings a large number of cricketers in the limelight who, till the other day, were plying their trade in club cricket. The sudden onset of fame and money could leave them off their guard. Those lacking moral rectitude would then be lured in by the prospect of easy money to compromise with their integrity.
How to deal with it?
The solutions to this problem are not easy. With more and more such leagues appearing across India, the BCCI and its ACU may not have the requisite manpower to place overseers and supervisors for each match of each tournament.
The only option left is to educate players about the dangers of betting and match-fixing as well as training or equipping the state boards to have their own ACUs which can closely monitor their leagues. At the moment, there is a laissez fare approach to such tournaments which is not acceptable.
Lastly, the fact that all those cricketers who were found to be involved in match or spot-fixing have gone scot free and have even re-entered the arena of Indian cricket is really shameful. This nullifies any deterrent and makes the sin of fixing look passé and easy to forget. Until the BCCI finds a way of ensuring that tainted cricketers stay away from the game, things will remain this way.