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ICC chief promises 'vigilance' after Kaneria arrest

cricket Updated: May 16, 2010 12:33 IST

AFP
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World cricket's top administrator has insisted officials are "extremely vigilant" when it comes to 'spot-fixing' after Pakistan's Danish Kaneria was arrested in a betting probe.

But International Cricket Council (ICC) president David Morgan, in an interview with AFP in Bridgetown, Barbados on the eve of the World Twenty20 final between Australia and England, insisted: "I can honestly say to you that I have no knowledge of any spot-fixing that I am refusing to tell you about."

Kaneria and a colleague at English county side Essex, Mervyn Westfield, have been arrested in connection with a police investigation into betting, a club official confirmed Saturday.

Both Test leg-spinner Kaneria, 29, and 22-year-old pace bowler Westfield were questioned on Friday before being released on bail.

It is understood the match under scrutiny was a 40-over win against Durham last September. The investigation centres on the practice of 'spot-fixing' whereby money is placed on individual details in a match.

"I've been aware of the potential problem at Essex for a little while," Morgan told AFP at his Barbados hotel in Bridgetown on Saturday, ahead of Sunday's showpiece match at the Kensington Oval.

"And I was made aware by Mr (Haroon) Lorgat (the ICC chief executive) yesterday (Friday) that those two cricketers had been seen by the Essex police," Morgan added.

"There is a police inquiry and therefore there is absolutely nothing I could or would wish to say (about Kaneria and Westfield's arrest)," insisted Morgan, a former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

In its recent past, cricket has had to deal with several match-fixing scandals, most notoriously including betting scams involving the late former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje.

But in an era of spread betting, the issue of spot-fixing, where events such as the number of wides in an over can be gambled on, is potentially even a bigger problem for cricket as results do not have to be "fixed" for an underhand betting coup to take place.

Turning to the issue of spot-fixing in general, Morgan said: "Cricket is full of discreet events - overs of six balls, powerplays, in first-class cricket the morning, the afternoon and the evening (sessions).

"There are lots of these discreet events that attract people who gamble."

However, he insisted the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit, which is about to be headed up by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, formerly the senior police officer in the British province of Northern Ireland, was on the case.

"What is very clear is that we are extremely vigilant. We have the anti-corruption and security unit," Morgan said.

"They look very carefully at movements in terms of the amounts bet on particular issues and so on.

"I think cricket is very fortunate in that we've had 10 years of operation of the anti-corruption and security unit," he added of an organisation which has effectively been run for that time by Lord Paul Condon, a former head of London's Metropolitan Police, who steps down in June.

"There is no more I can say about spot-fixing. We are vigilant and will continue to be so," Morgan said.

"But I can honestly say to you, that I have no knowledge of any spot-fixing that I am refusing to tell you about."

Both of the bailed Essex players will be free to continue playing until September 15, meaning Kaneria will be available for Pakistan's Test tour of England, which also includes a 'neutral' Test series against Australia.

Kaneria told AFP in April he was "surprised and shocked" to see his name linked with the investigation.

"The story is baseless," he insisted. "I have played my cricket for Pakistan as well as for Essex, with pride and honesty... For the last two years I have been Essex's best performer and have never done anything wrong."

Kaneria has taken 254 wickets in 58 Tests since making his debut against England in 2000.