Paying to get into cricket team

Kohli’s revelation underlines need for reform

Paying to get into cricket team

The fields of cricket are littered with promising careers destroyed by corruption — Virat Kohli managed to escape such a fate due to his hard work. The Indian captain has said he was ‘broken’ when, as a teenager, he was not selected in a Delhi junior team after his father refused to pay a bribe. This should be a shocking piece of news, but it is not — bribery and nepotism have been a way of life in cricket for long, and the Delhi association is reputed to be among the most venal ones in the country. Being ‘broken’ as a teen made Kohli smarter: ‘I realised that this world runs like this.’ Kohli learnt the bitter lesson early. Boys with dads willing to pay a bribe, or a player with his father or uncle in a cricket association, might simply walk into a team at the expense of a more deserving youngster. There are countless examples of politicians or senior government officials whose progeny managed to be selected despite possessing only modest abilities and records.

Virender Sehwag, another Delhi boy, learnt bitter lessons as a teenager when he was not given opportunities — but like Kohli after him, Sehwag smashed so many runs that it became too scandalous to ignore him. But players who are not mentally strong like Kohli and Sehwag simply fall by the wayside. Cricket needs urgent cleansing — this, in fact, has been the theme in Indian cricket for the past seven years, since the betting and spot-fixing scandal came to light in the IPL in 2013.

The Supreme Court got deeply interested in the issue and spared no effort to set up a system of accountability and transparency in cricket’s administration. However, the wily old administrators refused to budge, installing relatives or friends in positions of power in state associations. With that ended the possibility of a grassroots change — at the district level, the selectors could also be running a cricket academy, resulting in favouritism. Men such as Kohli and Sehwag managed to rise despite the system, but many others continue to fall and perish. Will the Supreme Court’s efforts be in vain?

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