Growing up in the nineties in India when cricket was the ultimate passion and an unparalleled mania, there was one event which had the most impact on the fans. In late 90s, a match fixing scandal involving a number of high profile cricket players with bookies and punters in India and Pakistan emerged. As a result Indian cricketers - Mohd. Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia faced bans. But more importantly it turned a whole generation of cricket fanatics to disillusioned cynics. Never was the game of cricket same again. Fans still cheered when India played, but it was not like before. You could never trust the outcome and any bad performance by the cricketers was seen with suspicion. To me it was a tragedy of faith. It was probably the worst event in professional sports history, but sadly the hurt caused to a billion hearts is not quantifiable.
More than a decade later, cricket in India is a much bigger money spinner. It has changed drastically and has come to resemble an organized industry. Human passions are being milked for money by the industrialists and what appeared quaint when it all started is being accepted by an ever growing majority. Events of more than a decade ago remain etched in the memories but the sands of time have put them in the background.
How did the cricketers involved in the episode fare? Ajay Jadeja and Nayan Mongia occasionally are seen on TV providing commentary and match analysis in the studios. But the home run was hit by the king pin, captain of the cricket team involved in the racket - Azharuddin.
He contested the Loksabha elections in 2009 on an Indian National Congress ticket from Moradabad. And to the surprise of many he won the election. He now represents Lakhs people in the Lower house of Indian parliament.
Think about it for a moment. A person who cheated a billion people, instead of being prosecuted by law has been elected to represent the same people where his job is to protect their interests and work for their development. You got to be kidding me! How the hell is this possible.
Are we so forgiving as a nation. Or is it that the rest of the candidates were even worse then him? Hard to imagine. I am told that the candidate against him was a Hindu and Moradabad is a Muslim majority district. I am uncomfortable swallowing the reality of caste/religion politics. I am aware of the Indian propensity to forgive the scamming politicians who have no shame going back to their constituencies asking for vote and being involved in ten different corruption cases at the same time. But if Match fixing doesn't make the cut what will? If Cricket is a religion in India and we ignore the crime against what we are most passionate about as a nation, what will we ever stand for? I am wondering if it is the extension of the "Spirit of Mumbai" which Mumbai summons the morning after a terrorist attack and reports to work. "Spirit of Moradabad", "Spirit of India". Nobody cares if the Motherland gets plundered and raped. We forgive the rapists, we even make them our Kings.