‘The baser elements of humanity are not a surprise to me’

Justice Mukul Mudgal wants the Government to legalise betting in cricket.-SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

‘I have seen brother fight brother in property matters, industrial houses in dispute… So in that sense, it (the muck in BCCI and IPL) is not such a big surprise for me. But, (as a cricket fan) it definitely hurts you,’ Justice Mukul Mudgal tells Vijay Lokapally.

Justice Mukul Mudgal, who headed the Supreme Court-appointed probe committee, which conducted an investigation into the IPL scandal, describes the Supreme Court’s interim order on BCCI and IPL as “balanced”. The former Chief Justice of the Punjab & Haryana High Court sits down for a chat with Sportstar and talks about his love for Test cricket and rues the cricket mandarins’ apathy towards it.

How do you look at this Order?

I think the Order is very satisfactory. It is a very balanced Order. It does not hurt cricket. It protects the interests of the cricketers. It also protects the interests of the teams and the cricket viewing public.

But most cricket fans had expected a sterner action against the franchises and some of the corrupt elements of the Board…

Look, there are two things. One, what was said (on March 27) was only a tentative response-seeking proposal. It wasn’t the final Order or anything. During the course of an argument the judges sometimes raise queries. So those queries or observations should not be taken as decisions of the court.

You have always said that you are a lover of the traditional form of cricket. According to you where does cricket stand today?

I think IPL or T20 has given some great gains to the game. It has developed innovation, it has developed good fielding, bowlers have become smarter with slower balls, spinners have adopted new tactics and have come to the fore. But unfortunately attention spans have come down. Today I don’t think many players can play an entire 50-over innings, let alone a session of a Test match. The days when Dravid and Laxman played through an entire day without being beaten are a thing of the past now. Saving a Test match in the fourth innings is as interesting as any IPL game — like South Africa did against us. A good example is R. Ashwin, who I think is very good in T20, good in 50-over cricket too, but below average in Test cricket. I don’t think he should play Test matches. I don’t think he can take wickets against top Test teams. Unfortunately, because he is considered a full-time spinner, somebody like Amit Mishra is sitting out. Mishra should be India’s first choice spinner and if there is scope for a second, Ashwin should play.

You have tremendous respect and love for the game. How difficult was it for you to deal with cricketers, some of whom are icons, and dealing with corruption in the game...

It was disappointing. I have been a judge — I have been a lawyer for over 25 years, judge for about 14 — so the baser elements of humanity are not a surprise to me. I have seen brother fight brother in property matters, industrial houses in dispute… So in that sense, it is not such a big surprise for me. But, (as a cricket fan) it definitely hurts you.

Don’t you think the image of the game has taken a beating because of the BCCI?

It has taken a beating to an extent. But the BCCI is easily the best administered sports body in the country.

How difficult was the probe in itself?

The probe was easy, as I know and follow cricket very keenly. As for the dark side, as I said, it was not such a shock. One always had an inkling. Betting is a well-known phenomenon in Indian cricket. I have always advocated that betting should be legalised. We have a strange situation in the country where you can bet on horse racing — betting on the skills of an animal and a jockey is permitted — but betting on the skills of a cricketer is not. It makes no sense. And legalising it will earn tremendous revenue for the Government. It can lead to patterns to emerge, suspicious patterns can be spotted and things can be stopped before anything goes wrong. FIFA has a computer programme which detects unusual betting patterns and teams are warned in advance. They can even annul the results. So today, if a weak team is suddenly heavily betted on, then surely somebody who is in-charge of controlling them can always take steps to stop it. I am not suggesting that all match-fixing will stop but it can be reduced by a considerable level, at least 70-80 per cent.

A cricketer earns so much… Yet, why does he fall for things like this?

Chennai Super Kings players celebrate the wicket of RR’s Sanju Viswanadh during an IPL match at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on May 12. The Supreme Court-appointed probe panel has cast an eye of suspension on that particular game and has asked for further investigations.-R. V. MOORTHY

There are two or three angles to it. One, a peripheral player, who has no future, can sometimes be tempted into it. Secondly, even a celebrated player can do it because greed has no end. Money is never enough. Perhaps that’s the reason.

Did you get full co-operation from all parties involved?

The BCCI fully co-operated with us. They did not conceal anything.

But the same BCCI stonewalls every effort when the media seeks transparency…

That’s for the court to comment. You should ask that question to the BCCI. Of all the sports organisations in the country BCCI is surely the best run. The lot of sportsmen has improved. By and large they hold regular elections, everything goes pretty smoothly, the organisation of the sport is good. But there is still considerable scope for improvement and they could do with some more transparency. They do put in a lot of money in the development of the sport but still more can be done. The BCCI should be totally open about their affairs. They have nothing to hide.

What is the way forward?

The court has already indicated that it is only an interim order. On April 16 you will come to know.

Are you happy with the way cricket is run in India?

Yes, but it could be better. I am pained when Test matches are played and there are empty stands. You see, in places like Zimbabwe, school children are permitted to come in free. I think the BCCI, with so much of resource, should promote such ideas.

How much of IPL do you watch? People say that IPL has corrupted the game...

I wouldn’t say that. There are some bad eggs. But to say that the entire IPL is corrupt or all matches are fixed is not correct. But any avid cricket watcher can make out that something is not quite right. I don’t know if there is whole-scale fixing, maybe in some of the inconsequential matches. Like the May 12 (2013) match — CSK had already qualified. But there can be other reasons too.

Would you agree that certain meaningless matches incite or tempt ‘fixers’?

Yes, when the match doesn’t carry any relevance. But a team that has qualified will tend to relax also. Why should it play its crucial players or why should it strain itself and get an injury? I have written all this in my report. We are not saying the match on May 12 was fixed. We are only saying it requires more investigation.

When we say further investigation, what does it mean? Who will investigate — you or someone else?

It is for the court to decide. If the court asks us, we will be honoured, but it is not at all a way to self-perpetuate ourselves.

With your love for cricket and your experience of giving justice, what will really make you happy?

I will be happy if cricket becomes an absolutely clean game again and we start enjoying Test matches. There is nothing more exciting than a well-contested Test match.

But for that we have to reduce the number of T20s...

T20 games are not exactly a dampener. It is the lack of enthusiasm among boards of all countries that has affected Test cricket. I think, two-Test series are a joke. You must have minimum three, preferably five. I can understand the time constraints, but any series with less than three Test matches is a joke. It should never be there.

Is it fair of the media, the way it slanders cricketers or people from any walk of life by incorrectly reporting the proceedings of the court.

This trouble is not only in cricket. Taking observations as gospel is something that happens in other subjects as well. Sometimes the observations are sarcastic, sometimes a joke. Unless you are actually present there, you may not even know the context.