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ROTTEN APPLE

That something is rotten in the world of Indian cricket has been suspected for a long time. The match fixing and betting scandal brought some confirmation of this suspicion. A fresh scandal has again raised suspicions that cricket is not being played. Two national selectors, Pranab Roy and Kiran More, alleged that a young aspirant, Abhijit Kale, offered on the phone to pay them Rs 10 lakh each in return for a berth in the Indian team. The two selectors spurned the offer and reported the matter to the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The latter, without investigating the matter and allowing the young man to present his side of the story, suspended him for six months. Neither guilt nor innocence was established. The two selectors received phone calls. This is true. But are they certain that the caller was Kale' If so, how' The BCCI did not even consider the possibility of a frame-up or even of a prank call. Even if for argumentís sake it is accepted that Kale is guilty as charged, the question remains, why the approach to only these two selectors and not the others' What is Kaleís track record' Is he known to be unscrupulous' What do other players say about him' The Indian captain, Sourav Ganguly, first wrote off the allegation and noted Kaleís integrity but later retracted, saying that there could be some truth in the charge. This suggests that there is room for confusion and ambiguity.

There is obviously more than what meets the eye. There have been reports of persons involved in the selection process approaching players for bribes if they wanted berths in the team. Bribery, obviously, has not remained very distant from the selection process. One reason for this is that cricket today, especially at the national level, is a very lucrative occupation. A talented cricketer could easily be a crorepati in a few years. The selection process in India has perhaps only moved down a notch from nepotism to venality. Selection in India has never been a clean affair. Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was removed from captaincy by Vijay Merchantís casting vote because the two of them never got along. Mediocre or less-than-mediocre players like Sadanand Mohol and Suru Nayak went on tours of England because the former was a favourite of the then vice captain and the latter of the then captain. One Parthasarathy Sharma played for India because he was a relative of a heavyweight board member. The current scandal offers an opportunity to carry out an investigation to establish the truth of this particular case. The example of such an investigation will go a long way in cleaning up the selection process.

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