July 13, 2014

The Vincent punishment

What incentive do other players have of confessing their involvement in fixing if a lifetime ban is all that they can expect?

Does the crime justify the time? © Getty Images

Last Wednesday I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. The catalyst was a story on the TV current affairs show 3rd Degree with a tousle-haired Lou Vincent as the main protagonist.

Vincent was parked up in his lounge, at the crease with Paula Penfold asking the questions. It was 40 minutes of compulsive viewing, but frequently frustrating and infuriating. "Life as a corrupt cricketer is complicated... " intoned Penfold in one voiceover. Oh, come on, cry us a river.

Vincent portrayed himself as a pathetic, naïve soul being led into the den of corruption by a person he looked up to and admired, but could not name. He spoke of hero worship and blind faith and bat bullying. As a cricketer and as a person, he had a reputation to protect, and he let himself down.

The story sought to play the sympathy card - poignant shots of him looking into the distance, rebuilding his life, quivering with fear of security concerns, treading the local cricket ground turf for the last time - but I found myself questioning Vincent's motives for confessing. Was he driven by a confusing morass of broken promises? Or because the expected US dollars never made it to his pocket? Or was there a sprinkle of guilt and conscience?

It seemed that not getting paid for the dicey fixing antics in the ICL for the Chandigarh Lions was a primary trigger for him to contemplate doing the right thing. But even then, it took a hell of a long time for that to happen.

I slammed my receding hairline onto the floor in annoyance when Vincent was asked if he'd ever been involved in fixing games for New Zealand. He found the prospect preposterous. Preposterous for 50 grand maybe?

I slammed my receding hairline onto the floor in annoyance when Vincent was asked if he'd ever been involved in fixing games for New Zealand. He found the prospect preposterous. Preposterous for 50 grand maybe? As Dutch writer Janwillem van de Wetering once said: "Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough."

The predicament Vincent has found himself in means his credibility is in the toilet, and it's hard to take anything he says at face value. That's the collateral damage that comes with being a cheat.

The back channel on Twitter was awash with support and body slams for both interviewer and interviewee. Some admired his candidness and testicular fortitude in fronting up. Others thought it was faux theatre and crocodile tears.

We reminded everyone of his star turn in a Phoenix Foundation music video - resplendent in Beige Brigade clobber at Cornwall CC in central Auckland.

As Vincent and his wife swung on the love seat on the lifestyle block in their gumboots and rabbited on about the next chapter of their lives beginning, I was glad this chapter was all over.

****

A few days after the swinging gumboots, I reflected on Vincent's appearance as he did a rerun of the TV story, almost word for word on a national talkback radio station, Newstalk ZB.

I switched over to hear NZ Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills speak some sense, as he is often prone to do. Mills excoriated Vincent's cheating but made the point that the man from Kaukapakapa had, eventually, done the right thing voluntarily. He'd then seen his confidential confession hit the papers as part of a corruption investigation process leakier than Delilah's bucket.

It's easy and convenient to say that banning Vincent from all cricket until Armageddon is the perfect punishment - and just desserts. But it's also a bit ridiculous. He's done wrong by the game, but I believe he should have been given a sniff of redemption. A life ban is effectively "throwing away the key", and I think that's pretty Neanderthal.

Vincent could be rehabilitated into a productive cricket citizen - perhaps he'd never be a shoo-in as the treasurer at Kaipara Flats CC but leaving the dressing-room door ajar for him to contribute to the game as part of a desire to put things right feels like a good idea. Maybe not for a few years, and closely managed, of course.

Here I care much less about the ramifications for Lou, and more for the other players weighing up that terrible decision: confess or conceal? If the corollary of a confession is a life ban, that makes for a pretty crappy incentive to do the right thing.

I suspect cricket is going to have a hygiene issue for some time to come.

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

Comments