August 28, 2009

Kenya

Flawed Odumbe must not be allowed back

Martin Williamson

Maurice Odumbe's campaign to rekindle his cricket career now that his five-year ban for associating with a known bookmaker is over, continues to gather pace, aided by sympathetic local media coverage and a reputation forged at the 2003 World Cup.

Listening to Odumbe talk about the role he still has to play in the game, it is easy to forget how someone who was a role model to a generation of young Kenyan cricketers threw it all away for some easy cash.

Odumbe is keen to portray himself as someone who was badly wronged, who was stitched up by a disgruntled wife, by a spurned girlfriend and by those jealous of him. He has never shown any remorse, and as recently as earlier this month continued to refuse to accept he did anything wrong. "I have forgiven the people who made me suffer," he said. Still sinned against rather than sinner.

With that in mind, it's worth recalling what Justice Ahmed Ebrahim said at the end of the ICC hearing in 2004.

"Far from shouldering this responsibility, Mr Odumbe has shown himself to be dishonest and devious in his behaviour in relation to the game of cricket. He has been callous and greedy in the way he has conducted himself. There is no suggestion that he was in desperate straits and in dire need of money because of some serious difficulty which may have befallen him. The evidence, if anything, shows him living a lifestyle of pleasure and irresponsibility.

Far from taking heed of the warnings of the dire consequences which would follow such behaviour ... Odumbe chose to thumb his nose at [the ICC] and continued his dishonest ways. He has exhibited no remorse. He has not indicated any intention to mend his ways. Instead he has chosen to cast doubts on the honesty and integrity of people who have despaired of his behaviour."

It is also worth noting that Odumbe chose to stay silent at the hearing, so the only questioning he has faced about his conduct has come in the friendly local media.

What is certain is that even contemplating the return of Odumbe would be about as backward a step as it would be possible to take. On the field he is too old - he is 40 - and until this month hadn't picked up a bat in anger in five years. Off it, he has proved a deeply-flawed role model.

Even if he were five years younger and worth a place in the side, Cricket Kenya should refuse to have anything to do with him. By his conduct at the hearing and his lack of any remorse for, or even acceptance of, what he did in the five years since, he shouldn't be allowed back into international cricket.

If he were, then he would tarnish his team-mates and international cricket by association, and it would send out all the wrong signals in a game which has done so much to clean up its act.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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