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May 19, 2014

I feel sad for cricket

Paul Ford
Lou Vincent, once a gregarious ambassador of the game, has now fallen from grace  © Getty Images
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As Socrates the philosopher (not the penalty-taker) said about 2500 years ago: "He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have."

I'm no philosopher, but I know corruption really is a bitch, especially when New Zealand cricketers are tangled up in it. Conceding to the corrupt and the corrupting is the slipperiest of slopes and it breaks my heart that a bloke like Lou Vincent appears to have lost his way so appallingly. For anyone who loves cricket, an inauthentic contest eviscerates the integrity of the game, and it cuts deep.

Even the most cycloptic observer with a strong belief in a presumption of innocence would concede that the raft of leaked allegations, testimony and confessions - complemented by mind-bogglingly accurate details - does not bode well for the protagonists here. There's a lot of smoke, and the fire is an inferno.

The fixing files of the past few days have made some bilious, some angry, and some pompous beyond belief. But me? It just makes me sad.

I feel sad that an investigation by the ICC can't be completed without the evidence gathered being kept in-house, not leaked chapter and verse to journalists who are doing their job (and doing it well). The ICC is a leaky old cutter with a few pirates in the crew, it seems.

I feel sad that New Zealand Cricket has become obsessed with pointing out that none of the games under investigation involved the national team or were played in New Zealand. If the dodgy dealings involve actions by players with ties to New Zealand, depressingly that is enough to cast a pall over the game in this country.

I feel sad for those who have come out to dance on Vincent's grave. We've seen Iain O'Brien pen a fascinating column in the Telegraph where he states that he knew Vincent was involved in spot-fixing as far back as 2008 "without a shadow of doubt".

By publishing the ins and outs of a chat he had with Vincent in a curry house, O'Brien has held himself out as a wise head who knew more about the current maelstrom of allegations than most. His discussion with Vincent was obviously well-intentioned, and aimed at pushing Lou down back to the right side of the tracks. But the piece ends with O'Brien pondering out loud in a nagging sliver of self-doubt: "Should I, as an ex-player and now commentator, be reporting suspect activity to the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit?" I reckon that sounds like quite a good alternative to waiting four years to confront Vincent in a curry house, then waiting another two years to write about it in the paper.

I don't know much about mental illness, but I'd hazard a guess that when you're in those dark, demon days with only your own stupidity and greed to blame for your predicament, a former team-mate publishing the details of an old conversation must be hard to stomach. I guess Lou had it coming, but it felt a tad opportunistic.

I feel sad that a chap I admired as a player, a gregarious ambassador for the game, and a free spirit, has sunk so low. Just over a year ago, I was surprised that Vincent's retirement from the game via a tweet was so low-key. Now I understand that it was less likely to have been an oversight by the powers that be, and more likely to be them deliberately ignoring a tarnished player. Today his Twitter account has been deleted and his reputation is fast heading for the outhouse. If the reprehensible and dodgy things he stands accused of and has confessed to are true, then he should pay the price.

Most of all I feel sad for cricket. The words of a different Lou - American judge Louis Brandeis - are ringing in my ears: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

Like the pain associated with lancing a pus-filled sore on the road to recovery, the body blows to the game's integrity in flushing out corruption are a necessary evil. Yes, I feel sad for the game and what is to come - but it must be done.

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here

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Keywords: Corruption

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Posted by RambunctuousRex on (May 19, 2014, 15:16 GMT)

Wholly echo your thoughts. It's a lovely game - an enriching and nourishing one. I hope it survives with its soul intact.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Ford
Paul Ford (aka Paul Holden) is a co-founder of the beloved Beige Brigade, the patriotic and long suffering Kiwi supporters' cult that is a bastion of things brown, tan, tongue-in-cheek and tenuously cricket-related. Paul lives in Wellington, somewhere between the Basin Reserve and Karori Park, and his favourite shot is the front-foot pull. @beigebrigade

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