Harmanpreet Kaur is one of the biggest stars of Indian women’s cricket. And the 29-year-old skipper of national T20 side has been on a high since her heroics in the World Cup last year.

She was fast becoming the darling of cricket fans; T20 leagues across the world were lining up to sign her; and the Punjab government honoured her by giving her a job and a post of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

On Monday, Harmanpreet’s world came crashing down when the state government decided to remove her from the post for submitting a fake degree certificate to get the job.

Though her manager has denied any wrong doing and the government has decided against further legal action, Harmanpreet’s reputation has been left in tatters with many questioning the need for a sportsperson of her stature to indulge in such an act of forgery to get a job. After all, she has an annual contract of Rs 50 lakh from the BCCI and is playing in a couple of T20 leagues across the globe.

It is not clear whether Harmanpreet’s degree certificate from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, was found to be fake during a routine check or someone brought the issue to the notice of the authorities.

It is worth noting that she had sent a petition to Union Railway minister Piyush Goyal to waive off the penalty amount she would have had to pay her previous employers, Western Railways, for breaking her five-year employment bond. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh had personally appealed for the waiver to help her join the state police force.

In isolation, Harmanpreet’s submission of the fake degree certificate is an act of forgery by an individual. But take into account the bigger picture and it once again proves the lure of high profile government job for even those players who are financially well off.

While government jobs under the sports quota have been given at the state and Union government level for a long time, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have jumped on the popularity bandwagon and have been offering high-profile jobs in the police and revenue department to eminent sportspersons.

But since these posts fall under the purview of the Public Service Commissions, the applicant has to have a minimum academic qualification to be eligible for the job, even though the government has waived off the requirement for the relevant examination. In Harmanpreet’s case, it was a graduate degree in any discipline, without which she can only be employed as a constable.

Not the first case

Harmanpreet isn’t the first one to be caught using a wrong route to get the job. A few years ago, wrestler Narsingh Yadav was caught cheating during an internal written exam at the Maharashtra Police Training Academy to make him eligible for a posting as DSP after a two-year training period.

“I am not very highly educated.... As a sportsman, I have always focused on sports. I realise my mistake and hope it is not made into a big issue,” Yadav was quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror then.

It is clear that these high-profile jobs need special acumen, along with an understanding of law and administration, a skill that most sportspersons cannot afford to spend time and energy on.

Then why do these high-profile sportspersons go out of their way to lobby for these jobs and, in the above two cases, even cheat?

The answer probably lies in the stature of these posts that the jobs in the Petroleum Promotion Board or even Railways and other Public Sector Units do not offer. Most of these players are used to adulation and fan-following during their playing days. The jobs of a ticket collector, or a manager in a PSU don’t really match up to the public profile most of these sportspersons build during their hay days.

Need strict action

This probably also explains why the likes of Rio Olympics silver medallist PV Sindhu and former world No 1 Kidambi Srikanth opted to quit their Petroleum jobs and join the Andhra government as Deputy Collectors. They took a few other perks from the government despite the obvious questions about whether they will actually work in that position after retiring from the sport.

In 2014, many top Maharashtra sportspersons who were given direct recruitment in Class I and Class II positions were hankering for the revenue department or deputy collector’s post, while then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan wanted them to take up responsibilities in the sports department. Nothing has changed four years later as sportspersons continue to seek jobs outside the department they can contribute the most.

While the post offered is for the establishment and the sportsperson to decide, sweeping Harmanpreet’s case under the carpet as a mere error of judgement would set a pretty bad precedent.

The state government has already stated that it is not interested in taking any legal action, while the Committee of Administrators overlooking the day-to-day running of BCCI has so far kept mum on the entire episode.

They had taken a laudable step of holding back the central contract of speedster Mohammad Shami following allegations of domestic violence against him. Harmanpreet’s act of submitting a fake certificate is a severe offence too.

And since she has been proved guilty, it remains to be seen what action the mandarins in the Cricket Centre take to preserve the image of the sport and those investing their time, money and efforts to make it big the right way.