What did it say about Congress that they accepted someone so unsuitable as Azharuddin?
Do we care whether cricket is fixed? If it is, does that change anything? Dare we believe that the game is about winning and losing when we know it is about cash?
Here in the rarefied ranks of the press we need no excuse to fly into a fuss about match-fixing, which for us is next to satanism. But we do not engage with sport at the emotional level of people whose idea of a fine day out involves squinting into the stadium sun or a couch and a game broadcast on television. For us, cricket is work - much more fun than a real job, but work nonetheless. We are not, or should not be, fans.
Cricket chooses its supporters like a painter chooses canvases: those most receptive to its passions will hold its colours brightest and best. The fans, not the players nor the arenas nor the competitions, lend cricket its magnificence. Without them, the game would be just a game. It would not matter. The sound of a six hit deep into a stand silent with emptiness is the sound of a tree falling in the forest, unheard and unloved.
That means it is up to the fans, not the press nor the ICC nor even the police, to decide whether match-fixing matters. If the folks who buy their own tickets to matches or give up their own time to stare at their own televisions enjoy cricket just the way it is, who is anyone to tell them they should not bother with something crooked?
The bright and beautiful morning of June 15, 2000 in a regal room in Cape Town was neither the time nor the place to meander through such wayward thoughts. There, in a dark suit and under the darkest of clouds, stood Hansie Cronje. All around him, the world glared. He took guard not at the crease but at the witness stand, and admitted to consorting with people who cared nothing for cricket and everything for money. He did not do so willingly - the cold, calculating Cronje had attempted to deny and lie his way out of trouble, but too many people cared too much to know the truth. Eventually, it had to out.
Or so those of us huddled in the press gallery at the King Commission thought. The real truth is that, to this day, many South Africans cannot see why Cronje should have been punished. Either that, or they think he was the fall guy for a gang of as yet unmasked corrupt players. Or even that he refused to do the underworld's bidding, thereby provoking them to destroy him.
That Cronje himself destroyed his career and his integrity by accepting the first, second, third or fourth lure cast toward him by a cricket crook is not a popular view in South Africa. That he was physically destroyed in a plane crash two years after he had been banned from cricket for life only adds to a lopsided legend that will never be destroyed.
At the time of his death, Cronje was in his second year of study towards a masters degree in business leadership and had been appointed as a financial manager by a manufacturer of earth-moving equipment. As the chief executive of the firm pointed out, Cronje had "the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a court of law, and that hasn't happened yet". The chairman went further: "Mr Cronje has no criminal record against him, as many people in our country unfortunately have. He would have got the job even if his name wasn't Hansie Cronje".
But the weird logic of a couple of cooky capitalists is as nothing compared to thousands of voters looking past Mohammad Azharuddin's admitted involvement in match-fixing to entrust him with their interests in India's parliament in 2009. At least he lost this time, but probably not because his constituency realised he had confessed to being corrupt. And who can say that he will not be back in the Lok Sabha in future?
As alarmed as we must be by people who would put so much trust in a man who did not deserve that privilege - for a start, what did it say about Congress that they accepted someone so unsuitable as a candidate? - Azharuddin's example tells us that the voters who put him in parliament, many of whom would have been cricket supporters, care less about match-fixing than they do about what they will eat for lunch.
Similarly, Cronje, had he lived, would by now have been completely rehabilitated into a South African society that did not think he had done much wrong in the first place. As it stands, the airbrush of history has erased all his warts. Attempts to correct the picture prompts aghast appeals to not speak ill of the dead.
Which, at some warped level, is as it should be. Cricket is loved because it entertains. Cronje and Azharuddin were masters of that as well as the darker arts.
That also means the fans get the game they deserve. Good luck to them.