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July 13, 2014

The Vincent punishment

Paul Ford
Does the crime justify the time?  © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by   on (July 13, 2014, 17:40 GMT)

Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that cricket itself is not very serious (or is at least conflicted) about getting rid of corruption. The ICC's hand was forced in Lou Vincent's case but it's hard not to view both the macro and micro pictures with a cynical eye. Mystifying selections, self-defeating in-game tactics combined with the continued rise of certain powerful off-field figures makes you start fearing for what is really going on.

Posted by shillingsworth on (July 13, 2014, 14:09 GMT)

Perhaps a life ban does stop someone from coming clean. Equally, it could deter them from becoming involved in the first place. Both are valid points. Belief in the latter is apparently 'Neanderthal' but name calling without addressing the substance of the argument is strangely not.

Posted by CricketChat on (July 13, 2014, 13:30 GMT)

It's almost naive to expect people ever admitting to wrongdoing voluntarily. Most usually come out in the hope gaining some sort of sympathy when their shady involvement is about to be exposed. With the trust broken permanently, they can never hope to attain position of public responsibility. Except for a very close few, rest of us wouldn't like to be publicly associated with such characters.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2014, 12:35 GMT)

Bang on. Exactly my thoughts on the subject. When people who never confessed voluntarily get away with 5 year bans and somebody who confesses gets a life ban.. Something is wrong.

Posted by Jonathan_E on (July 13, 2014, 12:24 GMT)

how about *not getting involved* in fixing, and thus not getting a lifetime ban?

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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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