Not many people know this besides some sports journalists that perhaps cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's biggest achievement is not the 100 international centuries he has scored for India or the matches he has won through his batting and sometimes his bowling. It is his role in keeping some dubious cricketers suspected of match fixing outside the team.
When the match fixing scandal broke in 2000, it was Tendulkar and at least three other senior cricketers who came together and ensured that not just the players banned by the BCCI in match fixing but even those whose performance and conduct was dubious were never picked for the Indian squad again. They went about the job quietly, making no public statements. But the cricket board was conveyed of their concerns and the BCCI, which was afraid of spectators turning away from the sport, quickly acquiesced.
It is another thing that the BCCI, for reasons best known to it, didn't bother to pursue a case against a former Indian captain; this when the then South African captain Hansie Cronje had claimed that he had been introduced to bookie MK Gupta by the Indian player. The CBI also claims that it had proof against the player.
The other cricketers involved were not charged with match fixing by the CBI which was then investigating the case, as the agency couldn't find strong evidence against them.
However, while captains got changed over the years, the said cricketers were never picked again to play for India. Sachin & Co were not on a vendetta mission. In fact the players who were 'unofficially' barred from playing for India again had been under suspicion even before the match fixing scandal broke. For instance one cricketer, known to be one of the fastest runners between the wickets, had also figured in the most run outs.
Then there was a wicketkeeper who was the only one on the field to not appeal for a catch in spite of the ball being clearly nicked by the batsman. There was also a batsman who got out carelessly in a Test in spite of being asked to bat cautiously by the team management.
In fact a couple of these cricketers even publicly wondered why they were never picked for the team. Ironically these cricketers and even those who were believed to be involved with match fixers and bookies are now in television studios giving their views on the current spot fixing scandal and dissecting the performance of cricketers who are currently playing for India.
For those who are wondering how spot fixing and match fixing continue despite cricketers having been banned on this account in the past, this is your answer — banning a player or erasing his records is not a deterrent enough; what is needed is that the cricketers be prosecuted.
The spot fixing controversy is also a lesson for those players who slog all day playing cricket in Shivaji Park and other grounds in Mumbai that there is no substitute for hard work.
Yes, cricketers like Dhoni have a huge number of bikes that cost lakhs of rupees and everyone may want to own them, but they have not come the easy way. The takeaway from the Sreesanth affair is that there are no short cuts to success and no matter how secret your involvement in match fixing, you are bound to get caught sooner or later.