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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.''
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.
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.
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.
In Caravan magazine, Prem Panicker comments on the culture of a 'moral safe-house' within the BCCI, a result of the fact that the board has done little to guard itself against corruption as was evident from the recent instances of conflict of interest within the board.
The problem is rooted in the fact that in the years since 1996, the BCCI perfected to a fine art the business of cricket, and brought unimaginable wealth into the sport, without any revision of operating procedures to guard against corruption. Thus means, opportunity, and the ability to rationalise aberrant behavior--the three classic elements of the fraud triangle--came together. And to this, the BCCI systematically added a fourth element as a safety net: over-arching political patronage.
With the IPL facings its toughest credibility test, the Indian Express' editor-in-chief, Shekhar Gupta, highlights the flaws in the governance of the tournament, including the conflicts of interest that border on corporate fraud and "cricketing permissiveness". The controversy, he says, has presented the BCCI with a critical choice where they can either make the IPL a serious cricket league or reduce it to a mere spectacle.
Some controversy hits the IPL every year. But this controversy is by far the most crippling. Because this has put the credibility of the very league in doubt. It has brought criticism and apprehension to the minds of all kinds of stakeholders, from politicians, who want to nationalise the BCCI or ban the IPL, to Pepsi, which may want out as its lead sponsor. This time, the BCCI cannot blame a mere individual and hang him. Nor can it rely on the old cynical and lazy notion that cash will solve all problems. It has to clean up not just the IPL, but itself, make a promise of transparency and offer itself voluntarily to some kind of an impartial, outside oversight, if not RTI
The sting operation on the umpires show that the problem of match-fixing is not just limited to the players. However, a likely solution to the problem is hidden in the grainy video shown in the news channels, argues Sandeep Dwivedi in the Indian Express.
For years old-timers have moaned about the fading importance of on-field officials but in these depressing times the need of a virtual eye on all actions that influence the result can't be overstated. Umpires may feel redundant because of the advent of infra-red imaging, ball-tracking technology and super sensitive sound receivers on cricket fields, but when trust is lost, second opinions aren't just advisable, they should be made mandatory.
Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, questions the lack of consistency in the penalties handed down to Salman Butt and Danish Kaneria. Butt was convicted and sent to prison, but still has a chance of resuming his cricket career after serving his ban. Kaneria - not convicted of any offence in court - was given a life ban by the ECB and the door for a possible return to cricket remains shut.
None of this means that the inequity, in terms of Kaneria, is wrong but rather it is the relative leniency bestowed on Butt that is at odds with the seriousness of his misdemeanour. Despite warnings Kaneria kept the worst of company and at the very least was the cynical ringmaster of a circus intent on maintaining immense corruption within the game.
The Mervyn Westfield case proves that the spot-fixing malaise is not restricted to players from any particular country, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian. Inconsequential domestic matches will only encourage temptations, he says.
On the broader front this tawdry episode might resonate with county committees and the England and Wales Cricket Board when they reconsider – yet again – the Morgan report. Westfield's demise came about in a meaningless match at Durham, which happened to be televised and which was therefore available in the subcontinent. It was the ideal game for a spot of fixing since no one beyond Chester-le Street and Chelmsford cared a jot about the outcome.
Sir Paul Condon, in the Daily Telegraph, says the ICC should also consider punishing national boards if their players have been found guilty of being involved in corruption.
So what is the best way forward? The ICC must have the courage to support its current anti-corruption infrastructure. More resources may be necessary to monitor the growing volume of matches and tournaments. The ICC must insist and ensure that every national board, team management and tournament organiser has accredited measures to prevent and detect malpractice.
In future, if cricketers are found guilty of corruption, consideration should be given to punishing national boards and if possible tournament organisers, if they have been negligent with regard to the guilty behaviour.
In the National, Osman Samiuddin says the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit has done more than its critics think to curb corruption in cricket, and needs our trust.
James Lawton, in the Independent, says that while member boards or the ICC may not have done enough to eradicate corruption in cricket, the sport should have someone to meet Mohammad Amir and tell him he can still make use of his gifts upon his release.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan remains at the head of those unimpressed by the decision of the ICC to ban Amir for a mere five years. Vaughan says there should be no quarter, that Amir has forfeited the right to play the game for which he was so superbly endowed. He speaks, persuasively enough, of the need for a deterrent.
Yet the value of a deterrent has always been in direct proportion to the means of enforcement and how does that sit with the feeble record of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit in the Pakistan affair?
The same paper carries a report on the "demeaning conditions" at Wandsworth Prison, where three of the accused could be in for a tough time.
In the Express Tribune, Imran Yusuf writes that the lack of apology from the PCB after this scandal shows that the game is being run by people who don't really understand the meaning of sport.
We are made mugs for getting up in the middle of the night, lunatics for investing deep emotional attachment, and fools for arguing with friends in deadly comic earnestness our take on a team’s strategies.
Paul Kelso, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says the convictions of the three Pakistan cricketers are a hollow victory in the battle against corruption in the game.
In the Daily Mail, Paul Newman says cricket has reached its tipping point vis-a-vis corruption and now has an ideal opportunity to eliminate fixing.
In his column in the Daily Mail, Nasser Hussain wonders if he'd played a match during his career that may have been dodgy.
An editorial in the Guardian hails the investigations into the spot-fixing scandal as a major breakthrough, and calls for greater powers for the ICC to tackle corruption.
Agents and players may been sentenced in this case but the bigger criminals are still at large, says Richard Williams in the same newspaper.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck writes: "Never forget that at the time of his criminal activities Salman Butt was captaining his country. Never forget that he was at the pinnacle of his career and at the top of a huge cricket community in a nation of 180 million people. Never forget that cricket is one of the few consolations available to the poor of that nation. Never forget that Pakistan is a troubled country with a fractured history, and that cricket is its national game. The scale of the betrayal is numbing."
How much money do people want? It is a question that can just as easily be put to dictators with their billions, bankrupt bankers awarding themselves fat bonuses, politicians rorting the system, squillionaires avoiding tax and the rest of the fallen. Sportsmen do not exist in isolation, are not God's special creations. They are corrupt because the world is corrupt.