Ex-Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor faces ICC ban after fixing approach

Published on Jan 24, 2022 11:22 PM IST

Taylor issued a statement on Twitter detailing the incident that involved his cocaine abuse and blackmail by alleged Indian businessmen, and his delayed reporting to the world body

Brendan Taylor(Twitter/Zimbabwe Cricket)
Brendan Taylor(Twitter/Zimbabwe Cricket)
By, New Delhi

Former Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor has said he was blackmailed and approached for spot-fixing allegedly by Indian businessman in October 2019 and faces a “multi-year ban” by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for not promptly reporting it to the world body.

Taylor issued a statement on Twitter on Monday, detailing the incident and the trauma he underwent for two years. The 35-year-old claimed he was invited to India on the pretext of discussing “sponsorships and the potential launch of a T20 competition in Zimbabwe” and was paid USD 15,000 as advance.

On his last night in India, Taylor claims to have attended a celebratory dinner where he took cocaine. It was recorded and used to blackmail him for spot-fixing, he said.

“I took the money ($15,000) so I could get on a plane and leave India. I felt I had no choice at the time because saying no was clearly not an option. All I knew was I had to get out of there,” Taylor wrote.

A sum of USD 20,000 was supposed to be paid to him after the fix was carried out. Taylor, one of Zimbabwe’s leading batsmen, went on to play 12 ODIs, seven T20Is and six Tests after the incident but claimed he has never fixed.

“I may be anything but I am not a cheat. My love for the beautiful game of cricket far outweighs and surpasses any threats which could be thrown my way,” he wrote.

Taylor called time on his 17-year international career last September as Zimbabwe's second-highest ODI run-scorer (6,684) and the format’s leading centurion (11 tons) for his country. He said he reported the incident to ICC only four months later due to safety concerns for his family, hoping the global governing body would “understand the delay”.

"I approached the ICC on my own terms and I hoped that if I explained my predicament, my genuine fear for our safety and well-being, that they would understand the delay. Unfortunately, they did not, but I cannot feign ignorance in this regard. I have attended many anti-corruption seminars over the years and we know that time is of essence when making reports,” he wrote.

He said he was resigned to an ICC ban. ICC refused to comment, and a formal statement is expected in the next two days.

Taylor said he has struggled since the approach. “When I returned home, the stress of what had taken place severely impacted my mental and physical health. I was a mess,” he said. He was diagnosed with shingles, a disease that causes painful blisters or rashes all over the body. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Excessive emotional stress that weakens the body’s immune system is considered a trigger for shingles. Taylor was also prescribed amitriptyline, a heavy anti-depressant that is used to treat nerve pain or prevent migraine.

Taylor said he was checking into a rehabilitation centre on Tuesday “to get clean and get my life back on track.”

“He should have been careful”

Players being approached to throw matches or fix passages of play is nothing new. A host of international cricket stars, including former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin and the late South Africa captain Hansie Cronje have been banned after being found guilty.

Former Zimbabwe captain and pace spearhead Heath Streak was banned for eight years in April 2021 after being charged with, and admitting to, five breaches of ICC’s anti-corruption code. The violations included accepting bitcoin payments from a potential corruptor. Streak’s ban ends on March 28, 2029.

The 2013 spot-fixing scandal in IPL led to two-year bans for the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. A probe report by a four-member committee headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal recommended the formation of the Justice Lodha Committee in 2015 for reforms in BCCI.

Neeraj Kumar, then Delhi Police Commissioner and a former head of BCCI’s Anti-corruption Unit, said Taylor had ample opportunities to avoid the trap.

“He should have been more careful. Why would a businessman invite you all the way to India to discuss sponsorships and competitions? He should have done his due diligence before flying out,” Kumar said.

“Then, what made him consume cocaine? Which elite athlete does drugs? I also believe he should have approached his parent board as soon as he landed home. They would have taken the matter with the ICC to investigate.

“I completely sympathise with his trauma and I feel very sorry for him. But, I must say, he walked into the trap. We have seen a number of international cricketers fall into such traps. It is really unfortunate,” said Kumar, who also investigated the 2000 match-fixing scandal that ended the careers of Azharuddin and Cronje.

BCCI’s current ACU chief Shabir Hussein Shekhadam Khandwawala said he is waiting for a full report from ICC.

“I am expecting the ICC to share their investigation with us, and if it needs our intervention, we will do the needful. This matter has got nothing to do with us, but I do feel bad for the player,” he said.

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin tweeted in support of Taylor.

“Spread the awareness! Most times the hand dealt to us at the poker table gives us an option to bet or fold! It is important to fold and leave the table! All strength to Brendan and his family,” Ashwin said.

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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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