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By Suresh Menon
Suresh Raina is not suspected of any wrongdoing, according to the report in the UK newspaper The Sunday Times which is questioning instead the reaction of the Indian board (BCCI) secretary N Srinivasan. That is a legitimate question, but the focus remains on the player, thanks to the tyranny of the Internet which has on many sites done away with words like ‘alleged’, which indicate doubt.
There is so much ambiguity in the whole affair that about the only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the person alleged to be apparently involved to a possible bookie is a woman. The closed circuit TV cameras in the team hotel picked up Raina’s companion “on more than one night” as one report has it. Sportsmen on tour tend to taste more than the local cuisine, and it would be a pity if now companions have to be cleared by the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council.
Still, such is the climate in which cricket is played today that every single unexplained telephone call, unclear companionship, the slightest deviation from the straight and narrow leads to cries of ‘bookies’ and ‘fixing’. The original newspaper report has said that Raina is not suspected of being involved with bookies, but will he pay the price for an overenthusiastic board secretary so used to having his way in the cricket world that he might have overplayed his hand?
The secretary has said that the Indian board has not received any report on Raina from the Sri Lankan board, but the ICC is apparently investigating why such a report was sent to India rather than to the ICC. This is curious when the Sri Lankan board secretary has said, “We are not aware of any such incidents, and we have not submitted any reports to the BCCI.”
There is just enough confusion in all this to make Raina appear the fall guy. Transparency demands that the ICC as well as the two boards come clean and either clear Raina officially or ramp up the investigation so the nudge-nudge, wink-wink technique does not ruin a promising career. When the same story is repeated over and over again, it will be Raina who will look the villain, not Srinivasan. One way out is to sue the newspaper or newspapers (and television channels) which construct stories out of rumours and hearsay. If Raina can’t do it himself, the BCCI must do so. To throw mud on a young player, however indirectly, is a terrible thing to do, and the parent body has a duty to protect its players.
Not by trying to hush up the story and indulge in some muscle-flexing, but by attacking it head-on and trying to get at the truth in a straightforward, transparent manner. If by its ham handed manner of trying to bully another board into withdrawing the story the BCCI has raised the temperature of the debate, then someone must be held accountable there.
If the reports that speak of the BCCI’s request (to use the more polite term) to its counterpart to withdraw the story are true, then that is a good example of the kind of clash of interests that has plagued the Board Secretary. After all, Raina plays for the Chennai Super Kings, Srinivasan’s team in the IPL.
In the ideal world, Raina would have nothing to worry about. No one is accusing him of anything. But guilt by implication is a charge that could land up at his door thanks to the overbearing ways of the BCCI. In which case, it is not the media he ought to sue, but his own cricket board!