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Mervyn Westfield went from county cricketer to criminal after being caught up in spot-fixing while playing for Essex. He has spent time behind bars, but is now rebuilding his life by warning others of the dangers of being sucked into a murky world. He will also resume playing cricket this season, at club level in Essex, and is not feeling sorry for himself. In his first significant interview, he speaks to the BBC's Joe Wilson.
He never spent the money and didn't even carry out the spot-fix correctly, but the stark fact is he took £6,000 to deliberately bowl badly. It was a decision which eventually left him in one of Europe's most secure prisons. At Belmarsh, he learned how to live alongside murderers and exist on 10 minutes of outdoor activity a day. "Whatever punishment they gave to me, I had to take it," he said. "I did wrong and got punished for it. I've just got to accept it.''
Concrete blocks for stumps, a crudely-cut plank for a bat, and a chewed-up tennis ball, all carried off the pitch for honking motorists waiting to pass, then wheeled out again for a few minutes, until the next four-wheeled intrusion appears. Street cricket has been a centrepiece of the South Asian childhood for generations, but if Sri Lanka's authorities are to have their way, it could soon become extinct on the island.
On Wednesday, a Sri Lanka Police spokesperson said playing cricket on the roads could lead to arrests, adding that three poor Colombo souls had already been apprehended for this 'offence'. It is a symptom of Sri Lanka's rate of economic progress. In years gone by, cricket had had the critical mass to dominate the streetscape, but since this decade's economic growth kicked in, the tide has turned for traffic.
Though police have deemed cricket the biggest threat to traffic flow, other activities that may block the road - like washing parked cars and mixing concrete - may also lead to trouble. In cricket, though, as in so many other spheres of Sri Lankan life, much-vaunted development has been the death knell for a slice of old-world Sri Lankan charm.
Writing in the Hindustan Times, Kadambari Murali Wade, the former editor of Sports Illustrated India shares her experience of meeting with the Mudgal Committee that was probing the spot-fixing and corruption charges in IPL 2013.
Drawing on her experience of an investigative story published in the magazine, and her interactions with the committee, she says that mere allegations or suggestions of corruption by the committee are not likely to help the cause of Indian cricket.
The ACSU does get information from several sources, players, journalists, officials etc. They reportedly even have several players on an unofficial watchlist. However, they find it difficult to push forward because of a lack of evidence that will stand up in court. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to note that a Supreme Court-appointed committee seems to think there is enough "evidence".
Everyone knows that Indian cricket needs to be cleaned up. But it can't be done on the basis of allegations, unless they've received hard evidence, allegations by a committee of this magnitude could be even more damaging.
Andy Flower likes to tap into the knowledge of other sports, and their coaches, as he decides on the best way to go about his job. That job has now become very tough in the wake of the Ashes whitewash and there are suggestions he will walk if he doesn't get his way over Kevin Pietersen. Sir Clive Woodward, who guided England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, writing in the Daily Mail, provides an view from outside the cricket world about how the ECB need to go about rebuilding.
No matter the sport, the head coach must be the only man who is unequivocally in charge, yet even Flower's job title of 'team director' muddies everything. In our national set-ups both in cricket and rugby, too many key decisions are being made by committee. That in turn leads to popularity contests and allows compromise to come into play. When things go wrong reports are commissioned -- the 2006-07 Ashes whitewash sparked the Schofield report -- but nobody fronts up to take the blame.
Cricket in Pakistan has a history of being tinted by ethnic and religious factors. Nadeem Paracha, in Dawn, presents a chronicle of curious selections, protests and regional rivalries, notably when a 24-year-old was appointed Pakistan captain.
Shortly before the series, Miandad was quoted by the press as saying that the senior players in the team were not co-operating with him. Majid Khan took offense and invited nine players to his home in Lahore and told them that he was going to refuse playing under Miandad. He said that Zaheer [Abbas] had agreed to do the same. The board decided to side with Miandad and he led a brand new team against the Lankans in the first Test of the series at Karachi's National Stadium.
Deccan Herald runs an editorial on the challenges facing N Srinivasan and the responsibilities to be undertaken by the man who was recently re-elected as BCCI president for a third term.
The way Srinivasan mowed down his detractors was quite ruthless. Niranjan Shah and Sudhir Dabir were shown the door at the first hint of taking sides with the rival camp led by Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar. Lalit Modi, once his closest aide and now his strongest critic, has been banned for life from the activities of the BCCI. It's time then for Srinivasan to show the same diligence while reconstructing the battered image of BCCI.
The BCCI's decision to impose a life-ban on Sreesanth for his alleged involvement in match-fixing, has evoked mixed emotions from players and fans alike. While many have welcomed the board's tough stance, others have been left perplexed by the fact that such a harsh punishment was handed even before the Patiala House Court's verdict was out. Nirmal Shekar, writing for the Hindu, too believes that the board might have jumped the gun in order to find a scapegoat.
A lynch-mob mentality has always come in handy for men in power in this country -- no matter whether it is politics or sport or whatever. Law may be blind, but in the BCCI's case scapegoating is done with great relish and with eyes wide open. There is absolutely no attempt here to build up a case for Sreesanth & Co. But the law should take its own course. The Board believes it is a private body ... and it cannot pronounce judgments on critically important ethical issues when cases are pending in courts of law.
Fawad Ahmed's presence in the headlines, having so far been a feel-good tale of success and survival, had taken a sour turn when his decision to appear for Australia sans their sponsor, Victoria Bitter's logo, on his uniform has invited criticism from from former sportspeople. Cricket Australia made their support for Fawad amply clear and Sharda Ugra writing in the Australia India Institute explores Australian cricket's migration from the supposed 'pale, male, stale' stereotype.
It is understood that the contract between Cricket Australia and Carlton & United Breweries, owners of VB, contained an opt-out clause about wearing the alcohol sponsor's logo because of a player's religious belief. Fawad's Australian team shirt was not an after-thought that had led to the logo being ripped off or covered with black tape minutes before he went on to the field. It is part of a larger, constantly evolving picture
Fawad's swift rise raises a point which is applicable to several international athletes. It asks how much, and what playing for a country, any country, means in the modern day, writes Osman Samiuddin in the National. Fawad's story is not very different from Kevin Pietersen's, in that it just places notions of individual progress and excellence above collective pride.
Does not the pride and honour of individual achievement naturally supersede that of representing a country? That is, it must feel great to be acknowledged as one of the top individual athletes in the country, more so than the feeling of pride that comes with representing your country. In other words, the identity of the country an athlete represents - or any attachment to it - may not be as important to the athlete as the desire to be among the best at whatever discipline the athlete has chosen and be recognised as such by being selected to represent their country.
David Warner's decision to review an obvious edge off his bat to Jonathan Trott, has been met with much ridicule and criticism from the fans, pundits and players alike, as his eventual dismissal was met with a wave of boos from the Old Trafford faithful. Barney Ronay, writing for the Guardian, tries to find some logic behind Warner's actions.
Perhaps Warner hoped vaguely some gremlin in the DRS would gum the works in his favour. The easier conclusion is that his judgment, such as it is, had been mangled by the fevered nature of his reception at the wicket: not just from the crowd but also from Joe Root who walked uncomfortably close before Warner had faced his first ball and seemed to be offering some helpful words of advice on high summer conditions at Old Trafford. Increasingly that initial sense of bafflement over Warner's choice of late-night victim - Really? Little Rooty? - seems less obviously clear-cut.
The BCCI's internal probe regarding the spot-fixing scandal has raised questions about the credibility of the board and the manner in which it conducts the IPL. In his column for the Mint, Ayaz Menon says that, even as legalities and rules fall in a grey area, taking cognizance of public sentiment is an important step for the BCCI, if it has to assure the public that it stands for the benefit of the game.
Recasting the dos and don'ts for administrators, franchise owners, their friends, players, et al in the IPL is an immediate imperative. Appointing an ombudsman and a couple of independent members on the governing council would have great value too. There are just too many loose ends to make for full credibility, as has become evident over the past six years--this could be detrimental to the brand value of the IPL. Taking cognizance of public sentiment would be an even bigger step in the right direction. I am not in favour of cricket coming under the control of the government, but being open to scrutiny under the right to information (RTI) law is not necessarily a bad thing.
With the Australian team facing a barrage of criticism from fans, pundits and former players for their dismal performances in the Ashes, James Lawton, of the Independent, looks back at the 2001 Ashes that Australia won 4-1 and says the team can draw inspiration from Steve Waugh's indomitable leadership.
Waugh, in any reasonable assessment, became a non-combatant after sustaining a serious calf injury in the third Test that settled the series. Yet while Australia suffered their one defeat, at Headingley, Waugh could be found running alone across the rugby league ground behind the cricket stand. It was painful rehabilitation beyond the call of any sportsman's duty, you had to suggest, but Waugh would have none of it. "Listen mate," he said, "If you are captain of the team you have to put a little bit extra in because how can you ask any of your players to do the same when it is needed? We've won the series but that's not the point. Every Test match is important."
Much of the criticism against Australia has been aimed at the temperament and shot-selection of the batsmen. Andrew Flintoff, writing for The Sun, highlights the major difference between the two teams over the course of the series so far.
I am all for talk of playing positive cricket - but as a batsman, that means being positive in attack AND in defence. While I used to love batting with the tail and taking it to bowlers, sometimes a pitch or a situation forces you to just hang in there. Ian Bell got this spot on at Lord's. He came in at 28-3 on the first morning of the Test and rebuilt through a solid, positive defence. Australia don't seem to have sussed this basic tactic out and England's bowlers are loving it.
Along with Australia's poor performance, talk about DRS and the role of the umpires has also dominated Ashes headlines. Alan Tyers of the Telegraph, bemoans the use of technology that robs cricket of some poignant moments.
Slaves now to the technology that was supposed to improve the game, we debate the use and misuse of the DRS where once we talked of cricket. It is not worth a five per cent increase in decision-making accuracy. Sport is not about justice, it is about skill, heart, fallibility and drama. Constant reviewing of so many wickets is robbing Test cricket of its most painful, poignant act: the guillotining of a player's participation in the piece. They say, "We have the technology so we should use it". No. It is like a mobile phone going off during Hamlet's dying speech. Again and again and again.
Assam Cricket Association secretary Bikash Baruah has discovered just how difficult it is to step into former India captain Sourav Ganguly's shoes. Baruah had reportedly distributed a picture of himself sharing a dais with Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. Newspapers in Guwahati had run the picture with a caption that quoted Baruah as saying he had asked the actors to set up an IPL team to represent India's northeast.
Upon further investigation, though, it was revealed that Baruah had doctored the picture. The original had featured Ganguly with the two actors, and Baruah had had his face superimposed on Ganguly's. For his canniness - or that of his Photoshop expert - all Baruah ended up with was an FIR, filed against him by India's Freelance Journalists' Association.