Pokhaal Bhaath, the Industries Minister of Kukka Karchindi came to Bharat on a three day visit. Kukka Karchindi, as you know, is a tiny little anarchy situated somewhere in Central Africa. Pokhaal was received at the Vaayu Port by his counterpart Cummission Singh.
After the preliminaries, the two got down to some serious conversation in the deluxe suite of the hotel in which Pokhaal was booked.
"You know Singh why we have chosen Bharat as our consultant. It is because we have a lot in common."
"Your Jamvant, for instance."
"Jam who? "
"Jamvant - the elderly statesman who was a part of Lord Rama's expedition to Sri Lanka."
"Oh, yes!" mumbled Singh whose knowledge of the scriptures was rather limited.
"Well, Jamvant bears a striking resemblance to our King Pichhi Kukka's great ancestor Nalla Pilli."
"How interesting," grunted Singh drowning his fourth of the tax payer sponsored whisky.
"Now our king is a very sentimental person. He called me and said, "Pokhaal the only country we can truly trust is Bharat. So go there and gain enlightenment."
"On what aspects of life you want to gain enlightenment," drawled Singh now comfortably into his sixth peg.
"I want to know which is your most successful industry and why?"
Singh heaved a sigh of relief. For a moment he thought Pokhaal would ask him some intricate details and he would be stumped like he was in the Parliament quite often.
"The answer is quite simple really - Cricket."
"Cricket! Come on Singh! You seem to be playing games with me. I am interested in knowing about your number one industry and not in how your bureaucrats spend their leisure hours."
"You don't understand Pokhaal. Cricket is an industry. In fact it is much more than that. It is a national obsession. It is a religion. And it is a religion which unites rather than divides all Indians. When the Kargil conflict was going on our patriotic brethren were more concerned about the battle between India and Pakistan in England rather than the friendly unlimited overs war between India and Pakistan on the frozen peaks and slopes."
He stopped and looked at his watch.
"Come on Pokhaal I'll give you a live demo of what I have just said about Cricket."
Five minutes later the two of them were speeding away in a Mercedes. They stopped at an imposing building.
"What is this?"
"This is government hospital. Come let us go inside."
They went around the hospital. It was quite empty except for some patients who seemed to be in a serious condition.
"You have very few patients here and I also don't see any doctors and nurses. Has your computerization gone up to such high levels that you can manage without medical professionals."
"No, no. Please follow me, all your questions will be answered."
Singh led him to a door which was closed. He opened the door and the two of them entered a huge room. It was jam packed. Pokhaal could see doctors, nurses, compounders and scores of patients with their heads, hands and feet in bandages. A few of them were in wheel chairs, some were sitting and others kneeling. Each and every occupant of the room was staring at one corner of the room where there was table. On the table was a TV.
"What is happening? Is cloning being telecast live?"
"No nothing as common place or trivial as that."
"It is an India Pakistan match and the final over is in progress."
Just then the door opened and a harried looking elderly gentleman rushed in. He caught hold of a doctor's arm and shook it.
"Doctor Jhandu, please. My son will die if you don't quickly perform the operation."
"Have patience Verma or Sharma or whoever you are. Don't be selfish. You are only concerned about your son. I am concerned about the entire nation."
"Where does the nation come in?"
"Come on, haven't I told you? Every time I have not watched the final over of an India Pakistan match India has lost. Do you want the same thing to happen. Don't you have any patriotism?"
Later when they reached the hotel Pokhaal asked Singh, "Friend, I am impressed by the passion generated by cricket but you know, many nations are passionate about sports. Where does the question of industry come in?"
"Cricket is our greatest industry. It is also our most profitable business. It is managed by BCCI - a registered non profit organisation. Over the last 11 years BCCI's income has shown a compounded annual growth rate of 28.4% and its profits have jumped annually by 59.1%. That is far better than our best private sector performer could manage. And BCCI is also the richest board in the world."
"Wow that is really impressive? If they have turned the game into a mega industry than your players must be really be a talented lot and also brilliant performers."
"Talented yes. Performers no."
"What do you mean."
"Exactly what I say. India hasn't won a test series abroad in ages. Our one day record too is almost as abysmal. Earlier we used to be called tigers at home and lambs abroad. Now we are called langurs at home and orangutans abroad."
"But if they have the talent why don't they win? And if they don't how come BCCI still mints money.
"An interesting question. They don't win because they don't play to win."
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I say. Indian cricketers play to lose," Singh said and seeing the puzzled expression on Pokhaal's mug continued, "There is a very interesting business tool that has been invented in the sub continent. It is called match fixing."
"Oh! I have heard of that. In these parts the parents of the girl look for a suitable boy for their daughter."
"No, no. That is match making. Match fixing is something far more ingenious, daring and hugely profitable. A syndicate of bookies, middle men and players is involved. A few of the players of the team are persuaded to 'throw' the match in exchange for a hefty sum."
"B..but that is sacrilege, it is blasphemy. And what about national pride, winning for the country and all that."
"Come on Pokhaal. All these are outmoded values. Just as cannibalism is out of fashion in your county, stuff like national pride etc has become anachronistic in Bharat. No cricketer worth his salt would waste his time on such sentiments. And moreover, come to think of it there is definitely an element of pride in match fixing too."
"See before our colonial masters introduced us to Cricket we were savages. They taught us the game and in the process refined us. So how did we return the compliment. We invented match fixing and shared it with the West. We turned a mere sport to the most profitable industry and invited the entire world to share the bounty. We have made betting a global phenomenon. Almost every cricketing nation has a couple of players who have joined the ever growing pantheon of match fixers. I feel so proud when I think that today the world is looking up to Bharat and its people for advice and inspiration. After inventing zero centuries ago we seemed to have fallen into deep slumber. Now at last we have given the world an invention which can be compared with the best. I feel like holding my head high and declaring 'Mera Bharat Mahaan'!"
"But if the public knows the cricketers are throwing matches isn't it enraged. In our country this kind of thing would have reconverted us to cannibalism. We would have boiled our sportsmen nice and tender and had them for breakfast."
"No, not in our Bharat. For us corruption is neither a new phenomenon nor a strange one. It has been institutionalized by our politicians. It has become a way of life here. From the lowly clerk to the highly placed minister everyone is corrupt. In fact over the last decade or so Bharat has found a pride of place in the 'most corrupt list of nations'. The public too has become tolerant of corruption. It is no longer an issue which excites concern or arouses any interest."
"But still Singh, isn't winning important to Indians."
"No it is not. Our greatest scripture Geeta says 'Do your duty and never bother about the result'. We believe in enjoying the journey without bothering about the destination. We revel in watching the game of glorious uncertainties and do not contemplate on the certainty of defeat."
"But tell me you are a politician and yet you do not seem to have any respect for your tribe."
"But I am not a true blue politician."
"What do you mean?"
"I was not born in politics. Nor have I achieved it. I had it thrust on me."
"I don't understand."
"My father was the erstwhile king of the underworld. His name was Chhota Chhotu. And he was the right hand and left leg of Bada Bhondu who was the right toe of B.I."
"Barood Ibrahim. Well my father made a lot of money but had to take a lot of risks. So he decided to induct me into politics which was far more lucrative and far less risky. So, much against my wishes, I joined politics. But I am still not happy."
"I don't command the same adulation as a cricketer. You ask any youngster what he wants to be. He would say Sachin Tendulkar or Ajay Jadeja. No one will take the name of a politician. And as far as money is concerned what I would be making in my entire career of three decades a cricketer would make in three years or less. So I have decided my son will not follow me. I'll make him a cricketer."
"But does he have the talent?"
"Who needs talent? If players can be bribed to throw matches can't the selectors be bribed to select players with no talent? All he needs to know is how to fix matches."
"And how will you learn that?"
"No problems. An enterprising former cricketer has started a correspondence course on 'How to fix matches and not get caught'. There is also web site on the net which teaches you online the subtle nuances of throwing matches. Its URL is WWW. MATCHFIX.COM. It is managed by the leading match fixers from around the world. And I was told on the very first day it registered 74,500 hits!
The next day at the Vayu Port as Pokhaal was preparing to board his flight, Singh asked him, "So friend after attaining enlightenment in Bharat what will be your words of advice to your King."
"I'll suggest that we revive the dead industry of cannibalism. It seems simpler, safer and far less harmful than either Cricket or Politics. As cannibals we only eat human flesh and bones. But your politicians and cricketers feed on the nation's soul."