Of Cricket, Bookies and the Lok Sabha

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court asked BCCI president N Srinivasan to step down to enable an impartial inquiry into allegations of spot-fixing in IPL matches. His son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, was indicted in February 2014 of illegal betting and passing sensitive information in relation to matches to bookies during IPL 2013. While Srinivasan is an industrialist, the controversy has stoked the question of why so many business men and politicians are heading cricket associations across India. As some claim, has cricket been hijacked? Sportsmen seem to be singularly absent in many of these senior roles. For example, in Himachal Pradesh, Anurag Thakur, also the present Lok Sabha member for Hamirpur constituency, became the youngest selector, at 26 years of age, in 2001 to select the Indian Junior Cricket team. He is the president of Himachal Pradesh Cricket association. Presently, the state vigilance bureau is seeking prosecuction sanctions against him and others in relation to irregularities in the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.

Illegal betting and corruption in Indian sports is at epidemic levels. Two former presidents of the BCCI had themselves said IPL games were routinely fixed. More attention should be paid to the bookie network. In May 2013 arrests were made in a major crackdown on bookies within Delhi and Mumbai. Evidence from these arrests and subsequent investigation suggested an active transnational bookie network that stretched across India, Pakistan and Dubai. One could only wonder why so many politicians head these organizations, when it is widely known how manifest the bookies are within this arena. One could only hope these bookies are not illegal funding sources for politicians and business men alike.

Even so, it seems Cricket is not the only thing taking illegal betting action nowadays. Despite IPL 2014 occurring at the same time, the Lok Sabha election seems to be gaining more heat among bookies. Punters have set their rates and the odds are in favour of the NDA coming into power with Modi as PM. The odds for Modi being 6-5 against. His odds have narrowed from around 8-5 against three months ago. For Rahul Gandhi, the signs are worse. His odds of winning have widened from 9-5 against three months ago to about 2-1 against today. The rate being offered by punters for the NDA bagging 220 seats is 20 paisa to a rupee. Punters have suggested that the elections have overtaken Cricket in illegal bets placed across the country.

It seems nothing is sacred when it comes to placing a bet. Unfortunately, it seems behind every bet, whether it is cricket or the elections, business men and politicians are not far behind. 

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