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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Cricket

Officials to blame for fixing rot setting in cricket
Ian Chappell
May 18, 2014
First Published: 00:56 IST(18/5/2014)
Last Updated: 00:58 IST(18/5/2014)

As details emerge of former New Zealand player Lou Vincent’s plea bargain and confession of fixing, the same thought keeps recurring: “The officials don’t take the issue of corruption seriously enough.”

Four years ago a frustrated Shane Watson lamented, “Maybe they [ICC] don’t want to get to the bottom of it (fixing) because it might run too deep.” If you think Watson was being overly skeptical, I’ve put together a tell-tale jigsaw puzzle titled, ‘The officials’ track record’.

The Australian board covered up details when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne took money from a bookie for pitch and weather information back in 1995. 

In the late nineties, there were whispers of shady characters hanging around the India dressing room during Sharjah matches. Not long afterwards, captain Mohammad Azharuddin and batsman Ajay Jadeja were banned for their involvement in fixing.

Following those bans there were rumours that further investigations had been halted because officials were worried the India team would be decimated. I confess to wondering at the time - just like Watson did years later - if the abandonment had something to do with the depth of the corruption.

Damning report
There was the thorough report of Justice Qayyum into the Salim Malik affair and other fixing controversies in Pakistan cricket. Despite his hard-hitting summary, that report has largely been ignored by officials.

It’s not only the Pakistan officials who failed to take notice. Read Qayyum’s report and take note of the names of some international coaches appointed and interviewed for jobs in recent years. Then go through some of the recent ICC Hall of Fame inductees; it’s illuminating.

Then came the Hansie Cronje affair. While Cronje was banished in disgrace, the fall out didn’t stop there. Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams received six-month bans but the former returned to international cricket. Other members of Cronje’s team who attended the infamous meeting to decide if a game ‘should be fixed’ have gone on to have careers in and around cricket.

There’s the matter of Bob Woolmer’s suspicious death. Coach of South Africa during Cronje’s discredited reign and then in charge of Pakistan during a limp 2007 World Cup campaign, Woolmer died in Jamaica in very strange circumstances. I don’t doubt that Woolmer wasn’t involved in any scandal but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was about to reveal some misgivings. I DO doubt his death was due to natural causes.

Dubious link
With controversy raging over fixing in cricket, the ICC had an executive member who was president of his country’s Board while he was a bookmaker. Another misjudgment involved England’s unusually cosy reception and acceptance of substantial funding from later convicted fraudster, Allen Stanford. The man photographed welcoming Stanford’s helicopter to Lord’s was Giles Clarke, chairman of the ECB. He was a major player in the revamping of the ICC, substantially raising the profile of the big three - India, Australia and England.

While Clarke’s involvement with Stanford was a failure to do due diligence, N Srinivasan has been stripped of his BCCI presidency by India’s Supreme Court. However, their concern over his involvement (or otherwise) in the Chennai Super Kings scandal isn’t shared by the ICC, which has him listed as the in-coming president.

Given the damning information overheard in cricket corridors and Ed Hawkins’ informative publication, “Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy”, the officials are hard pressed to claim lack of available information as a defence.

Many of Vincent’s allegations involve T20 matches, which should concern administrators considering the high value placed on that format to fortify the game’s financial future.

The officials erred by not adopting a zero tolerance policy on corruption from the outset. Despite many dire warnings since, they still haven’t elevated their sights.


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