An interview with a perennial culprit
There are things in life that you believe in; there are things you don’t. Then, there are things that you wished you could believe and there are things you wished you didn’t believe. I was first told about the man whom you are always a few lines away from knowing, during my childhood. It was told as a part of the onerous ritual to shove a ball of rice into my mouth. I often demanded 2 such tales to give my mom a moment of relief. I lapped up all such mythological tales and believed such men and women existed.
Lord Varuna was the one who was incumbent for rains. There were times when I wished I could be Mr.Varuna, so that I could bunk school. I was too young to realize that had I been Varuna I would have never needed to go to school.
Later, during my early teens when the first computer made its visit to my home, and when I first had the luxury of accessing the mystical World Wide Web through a brick sized modem that took several hours to connect, I came to know that different cultures and civilizations referred to my hero by different names. The Greeks called him Zeus, the Mayans called him Chaac and the Chinese called him Bi Xing.
A few years later, when my science teacher bothered to draw the pictures of the Sun, water bodies, and clouds and connected them with arrows to show me the rain cycle, I realized Varuna, Zeus or Chaa, however you call him, was a result of people’s inability to explain a natural phenomenon. Sanity triumphed over my superstitions and I soon became an agnost.
But life didn’t end there.
Understanding something partially is as dangerous as not understanding something, if not worse. Science, technology and all the knowledge we have garnered which we believe is complete and logical enough to explain the functioning of the universe are half baked truths. They are in fact double-bluffs. Exactly like those double-bluffs employed by fast bowlers – sending a man to deep square leg and deep fine leg with another under the helmet standing at short-leg, and then bowling a slower yorker.
In my two-year investigative journalistic career where I tried to trace down the bookies and tycoons who were behind match-fixing and spot-fixing in cricket, I travelled across continents, came across Americans who were expert cricket critics, met an ISIS militant who was an avid MS Dhoni fan and a South American Inca priest who gambled on cricket matches.
But the most important discovery I made is the celestial influence almost all cricket World Cups and most cricket matches had. I inadvertently stumbled upon my childhood hero, who actually existed and lobbied the troposphere to manipulate what the Earthians know as the weather. The myths knew his existence, just that they could not logically prove it.
I somehow jockeyed him to give me an interview. He agreed to meet me in a hotel in Casablanca, Morocco. It was a hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and people chiefly spoke French there. Flanking inebriated men and women and weed smelling ghastly rooms, I reached the terrace where the mystic man was smoking a cigar.
He was dressed in a long leather rain coat with a sleek pair of Ray-ban glasses covering almost his entire face. Almost every bit of his exposed skin was daubed in what looked like sunburn cream.
He looked like a charlatan heading a multi-national business. From his looks, it was obvious that he was an extraordinaire tactician, an erudite schemer and an expert manipulator who precisely knew which string to pull to make a fabric unravel. He was a playboy who had more girlfriends than the number of sperms in a single ejaculate. He was a centillionaire who owned a galaxy and a Demosthenes who had toppled governments. Here are the excerpts of my chat with him:
How does it feel like to be someone whose very existence is clouded?
(Let’s out an evil laugh) See, you people are fools who believe in things that you wish were true. Your scientific brain wishes that your limited knowledge about weather and climate is right, hence, you believe in it. Your complacency is your undoing.
Don’t you feel it is immoral to fix matches?
Son, I don’t fix matches. People fix matches. I just help them and I am paid. It’s a part of my job. Tycoons make calls and I am obliged to agreements.
But isn’t it wrong to alter the outcomes of games for money?
Why is it wrong? How is it wrong? England lures cricketers from Zimbabwe and South Africa using money. That is not wrong. IPL entices cricketers using money. That’s not a crime. Franchises put money on their own team. You call it business and that’s not immoral. And hey! How did you decide on who would the big three be? Team performance? No, you wanted the richest boards to rule the roost. Now, do you mean to say that altering the outcomes for money is wrong?
However, you see, this takes the contest out of play?
Again son, don’t gloat about through your ugly convictions and hyper morals. India prepares dusty square turners, knowing the visitors are allergic to dust. The English tracks are so green at times, that you wonder whether they are endorsing the go green movements. Australian tracks have a cushion underneath the surface that even a medium pacer brings the ball to your face. No one likes giving their enemies an equal opportunity. So where is the contest here? And why should I be bothered about contests?
So, your argument is that it is not a crime to rain for money?
No, I don’t feel guilty about it. So no.
How did it all start? Were you dragged in to the business?
No. Actually, raining was something that was natural to me. I have been raining in cricket for a very long time. In fact, I played a ‘small’ role in the much-vaunted ‘first’ Ashes test, when England lost to Australia for the very first time. But it wasn’t until 1971 that I realized my ability to alter games. They say, if you are good at something, don’t do it for free. That’s exactly what I did.
There was this Test match in Melbourne. I was sick and had no control over my incontinence. It kept raining for three days. Then, the officials decided to abandon the Test and play a one-off one day game consisting of 40 overs. And then, the rest is history. If I could amend the history of a game, then I thought I could alter game results.
So, which match was your first victim?
As you said, not many believe in my existence. Getting in touch with humans was a hell of a task. Some, whom I approached at first thought that I was a scoundrel or a crook trying to cheat people in the name of rain god. I was also aware of the perils of letting too many people know me.
So I had to make the right moves at the right time, surreptitiously. I had to wait for four years for my first assignment. A man in UAE wanted to make a huge fortune, hence, he asked me to rain off the World Cup group stage match between West Indies and Sri Lanka in 1975. I completed my first mission successfully. But didn’t get many chances after that.
There is a wide belief that you don’t like the South African team. Why is that?
See, as I told you before, you morons believe in everything that you wished were true. To be honest, the first South African match that was rain affected in a World Cup was fixed.
By that time, I had managed to convince the English side that I could help them salvage some pride by winning their first World Cup. When England reached the semi-finals, their board knew that going beyond it would be an uphill task. Hence, I was hired. I was asked to rain until South Africa needed around 20 runs off one ball.
In the other semi-final, New Zealand was expected to win. So, The English board wanted to interfere during the final too. They paid me an advance and I was all in readiness for the final. But, Pakistan created an upset by beating the fancied Kiwi side.
The English became smug and thought Pakistanis were mere pushovers. They wanted me to refund the advance. I refused. Then, they threatened to compromise my identity. I became a prisoner of circumstances and I yielded to their demands. I didn’t rain in that final, and you know what? The English had their bottoms kicked in the finals!
But after that I hardly stood in the middle of South Africa’s way. In 1999, Alan Donald was ball watching. In 2003, it rained but South Africa had their chances. You can’t blame me, if they can’t properly infer information from a data sheet. That’s just elementary school stuff. Then, in 2015, it rained. But it was predicted. The South Africans won the toss and elected to bat first knowing that it would rain during the first innings. To make it worse, they were slow too. You can’t blame me for everything!
What are some of the matches you helped fix, that you can’t forget?
There is one Test match. It was in 2000, I reckon. South Africa had won the series 2-0. But there was one match remaining. There were some gamblers who had bet that England would win. So they hired me and bribed Hanse Cronje, the South African captain.
South Africa batting fist scored 155 for 6 on the first day. The plan was to rain off the next 3 days. Then on the last day, Hanse would go to the English and enter into an agreement saying that his team would declare at around 250 and then the English have to forfeit their first innings. South Africa would skip their second innings, which meant that England would have to chase somewhere around 250 to win. And they won it!
As is the case with most things, there would be things that you would rue, right?
Exactly. Instead of saying that I rue such failures, let me tell you that they hurt. They sting! When Australia toured India in 2001, they wanted me to rain at strategically calculated times to negate India’s spin bowling.
In the second Test, when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were in the middle of a gargantuan partnership, the Aussies realized India’s spin could be threatening during the last session, hence, wanted me to rain during the lunch break. They thought a wet outfield could make it difficult for the Indian spinners to grip the ball.
But, watching Dravid bat, I passed out. So, I could not rain when I was supposed to. You know, Dravid was such a genius. He would defend, defend, defend and defend until the oppositions relaxed and then would catch them off guard. Indian spinners went on to win that game for India, and I was handed the worst embarrassment of my life.
You say you have had connections with cricket boards. So, don’t you think that one day cricket as a whole might turn against you?
No, they won’t! I bet you that they won’t. The boards are divided by their rapaciousness. They are greedy. They want to have the better of each other. They are all opportunists. They won’t rise together as a unit. Should they be able to do that, cricket would have been a truly global event by this time. As long as they are divided, I will keep exploiting them.
Besides, they have all made large profits. You think boards are for the betterment of a team but truth be told, some work against it. The moment these corporates and big companies came into cricket, money became their main interest. See, no one decides the success of a tournament by the quality of cricket. You make as much money as possible, then the tournament is declared to be a hit.
People on earth knew my existence but they have pushed it under cover so that they could avail themselves of using me, just like how certain countries are privy to the existence of alien life but are content keeping quiet about it.
But, cricket has developed the DLS method to counter your threats?
(Rolls out with laughter) Such ignoramuses! Do you think DLS is to stop me? Well, boy they are programs that can exactly predict when to rain and how long to rain so that a particular target can be set for a side using DLS. It has actually made my job easier.
In the 4th ODI between Sri Lanka and Australia, Australia was feeling insecure about defending 222, hence I was paid to rain. On the same tour, in the second T20 match, Sri Lanka posted 160 odd runs on the board. Australians had a tough phase with the bat. They calculated how long I should rain so that the game would be brought down to a 5 over affair. I played my part perfectly, but the Lankans edged ahead.
Moreover, DLS is just a cure. You are not trying to find a prevention.
There are plans to build domes over grounds to stop you lobbying the game?
With players like Chris Gayle, do you think it is feasible?
When you rain, don’t you think people, especially those who visit the stadium, would be bored?
Boring? Boring is preparing flat tracks to fool all those fools who watch all five days of a Test match. I make games interesting. I rain and shorten long dull games. I convert 50 over matches into 20 over matches and 20 over matches into 10 over affairs.
I rain off matches in World Cups and provide context to dead rubbers between Test nations and minnows by allowing net run rate to come into equation.
You spoke of converting 50 over games into 20 over games. The Champions trophy final between India and England in 2013 was rain curtailed. Was it fixed?
Hell yeah. The plan was to pip the Indian spinners to the post. And the ploy almost worked, but during the fag end of the game, Indian spinners somehow clawed their way back into the game. I was summoned immediately to shed some more fluid, but before that Ishant already had two wickets.
Was it the only final you fixed?
No, there are two other finals. The one in 2007, I was paid by Gilchrist’s friend. He had put his money on Gilly to score a big hundred. He suggested Gilly use a squash ball and then had me rain a little of the first portion off, so that the number of overs would be reduced allowing Gilly to play freely.
Then in 2012, a Jamaican gambler deployed me to scare Sri Lanka with some rain drops. I did just that and Mahela got out playing a rash shot thanks to your DL par score. But, that bloody man failed to make the full payment. Hence, I took revenge in 2014, sending hailstorm to Dhaka.
You must be making a lot of money. What do you do with such a lot of money?
Well, earth is not the only place for me. I have the whole universe to travel around. I have a lot of expenditures. Having a consort in each galaxy is really expensive, you know? During my holidays, I go to Neptune where I rain diamonds for my girlfriends.
Why don’t you try your hands at any other sports? In other words, why only cricket?
You designed the game in such a way, that I can call shots directly. You think raining is the only thing that can be done to fix games? Sometimes, I make the skies cloudy so that the ball would perform magic in the air. Sometimes, I hold out to make sure the pitch is baked to produce a hell of a lot of spin. At times, I bring bad light into play.
Cricket is a game that depends a lot on what transpires in the troposphere and I am just making use of it.
Now, what if you get caught?
I won’t. I am experienced enough to avoid getting snared. I might know both the husband wife in a family but I will make sure that they don’t know that each of them knows me. If not, do you think I can put up with both ECB and CA?
Forget cricket. What about floods and storms on earth? You son, you promised to reserve yourself only to cricket related questions. These are areas you would not want to know about.
Thank you so much sir for your graceful gesture. I had a great time interviewing you. If you don’t mind could you intimate about any of your future assignments?
Well, an Irish punter wants me to disrupt the 2019 World Cup for not allowing associates to participate. I am still deliberating on it.