NO one should be surprised by the claim made by former Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor that an Indian businessman tried to lure him into the murky world of match-fixing in 2019. In a detailed statement he posted on social media on Monday, Taylor said that in the October of that year, he was offered $15,000 by an Indian businessman to merely travel to India to discuss potential sponsorship deals and the possibility of a T20 competition in Zimbabwe. Once in India, he says, he used cocaine during a party with the businessman and his associates. He claims that the men then coerced him into agreeing to indulge in match-fixing, warning that they would make public a video of him using cocaine if he did not agree. He says he said yes only to get away from India but never actually got involved in match-fixing.
It’s no secret that though betting and gambling are illegal in India, our country is the epicentre of cricket’s illegal betting enterprise. It’s estimated that illegal bets worth over $200 million are placed on every One-day International match played by the Indian team. Taylor comes from a weak team, and his statement reads like the plot of a crime thriller, but the methods used by illegal betting syndicates and corruptors have often been dramatic in the past — for they are willing to go to any length to rope in a player and get him involved in match-fixing. The one clear mistake he made was in reporting the matter to the International Cricket Council after a four-month delay.
This case, and cases of match-fixing and spot-fixing in India, must lead to serious introspection and dialogue among officials, players and lawmakers. The Justice Lodha Committee had recommended in 2018 that betting on sport be legalised in the country. Curiously, online gaming and betting are thriving in India because the law is vague and ambiguous about them. The Karnataka High Court ruled last week that match-fixing is not a crime under existing Indian law. Indian lawmakers and legal fraternity must seriously consider the idea of legalising betting and criminalising match-fixing in the country, as the Law Commission of India suggested in 2018.