Should we stop playing cricket for a few years?

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: The Jamaican police have concluded that Bob Woolmer’s death was a murder and nothing but that. As the burly body of the Pakistan coach is lowered six feet under, the coffin that world cricket finds itself in is open.

The coffin mocks at us all, cricket aficionados the world over, be it in India or Pakistan, England or Australia or even Bermuda or Singapore. Men and women who live lives in sync with the time of the opening of the day’s play in far off venues that fall in a different time zone.

Inscrutable lovers of the game who don’t hesitate to stay up all night in long, interminable lines in front of a cricket stadium to get hold of a ticket. Fans who worship cricket and cricketers like it were a religion steeped in the very chromosomal make-up of their genes from which they just can’t get away.

A manic obsession which makes a huge section of people rearrange the very time table of the day in order to coincide with the moment when the first ball of the match is bowled.

Paeans are sketched by romantic cricket writers who ply their trade with pens whose tips are honey touched; rose tinted odes are painstakingly etched in praise and celebration of the game; the tradition it boasts of; of the glorious past it has the luxury of falling back upon every now and then; of the great deeds of cricketers who left us with a desire to see them perform for ever.

To help us seek deliverance from the banal realities of a harsh life lead under trying, enervating circumstances, be it in the chawls of Mumbai or the streets of Kingston.

But the view through the gloss of the colourful prism of cricket’s immortality reveals a shady world of chicanery, of skullduggery; of deceit and deception; where matches are fixed and simply unimaginable amounts of monies change hands in a day; where the love of the motherland and the respect thereof is hit for a six over the long-on fence. And greed and desire, the lure and the allure of quick, easy wealth stand intimidatingly close-in at silly point!

Where coffers are filled with ill-gotten, immoral, almost blood-tainted wads of currencies of different denominations of different countries. All at the cost of the sincere fan of the game who would have saved his salary to be in his seat in the gallery of some cricket stadium, somewhere in the world.

If Bob Woolmer’s death was a result of certain devious plans having gone completely awry; if Bob Woolmer’s death was because someone somewhere didn’t want his autobiography in which he was supposedly painstakingly trying to put together the bits and pieces, the flotsam and jetsam, the shreds and slivers of all that shamefully happens in the name of match fixing and the dramatis personae involved in various parts of the cricketing world- to see the clear light of day; if Bob Woolmer was strangulated fatally so that his voice would never be heard again; then there is something simply shockingly wrong with the game of cricket and its ethos.

It simply means that the game is populated by gangsters and hoodlums, thieves and thugs, murderers and mobsters, criminals and money launderers who could go the whole distance to seek their share of the pie. Hand in glove with some cricketers themselves.

The story of match fixing is nothing new, tracing as it does, its existence to the mid-1990s when it was first revealed. Inquiries have gone on, certain players have been named with incontrovertible evidence, some have been nailed but most others have simply gotten away, cricket matches are staged with monotonous promptness in one or the other part of the world, hush-hush phone calls are still made, winks and glances are systematically exchanged and the die-hard cricket fan still stands in line at 3 am!

Bob Woolmer’s death should seriously evoke a debate if cricket as it is played internationally between nations should be strictly banned for a few years until the muddy, blood-stained, stinking waters clear, until the game is cleansed of the detritus of crime and the situation is right for the toss to be called all over again.

Until then, we are all cheating ourselves to the hilt.

In the fake, almost fantasy fuelled desire to see a rousing six being hit over mid wicket or the middle stump being sent cart-wheeling to the first ball of the game!

The reality, though, is of the devil holding our hand and taking us for a walk through the garden of Eden.

I didn’t mean Kolkata, by the way.

It could be any where!