|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Games||Mobile|
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.
"Three cricketers have been pursued for corruption. They have not only been banned from the game, they now face time in jail. As deterrents go, there cannot be a more daunting one for future cricketers who may be tempted," writes Osman Samiuddin in the National.
And for the three individuals, is there sadness that they are lost? There was when the scandal first broke and there was when they were then banned from the game, particularly at losing bowlers as gifted as Amir and Asif. Their careers had already been broken by the time of the trial.
But now their lives stand to be, which evokes an altogether different, indescribable emotion. It can only be captured by the news of the birth of Butt's second child, a boy, born about an hour before the verdict was delivered; a life created just as one responsible for it was all but finished.
Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph: It is thought that, when Mr Justice Cooke passes sentence on the three Pakistan players towards the end of this week, Amir might escape a prison sentence on the grounds that he pleaded guilty; and his youth - he was officially 18 at the time he bowled two deliberate no-balls in the Lord’s Test last year - will also be taken into account. But the stigma will remain: Mohammad Amir fixed. And maybe the cricket world should not feel compassionate towards him but, rather, that the ban and the sentence to come are right.
"An easy quid begins to look a whole lot less easy when a sportsman stands to go to jail for it," writes Greg Baum in the WA Today. Sportsmen frequently are called hardened, but not in the sense of criminals, who factor the risk of incarceration into their dealings.
In the Guardian, Vic Marks says: The trio's guilt comes as no surprise to former players. Indeed, a "not guilty" verdict from Southwark would have been far more depressing for the game. A simple photo from that Lord's Test match of August 2010 was as eloquent as any barrister's summing up.
There was Pakistan's captain, Butt, at mid-off as his bowler entered his delivery stride. Any cricketer knows that a mid-off fieldsman would be focusing on the batsman at this moment, in anticipation of the ball being hit in his direction. Where was Butt looking? At his bowler's feet, checking, presumably, that he would indeed bowl a no-ball, as had been agreed with the News of the World's "fake sheikh", Mazher Mahmood.
"Maybe Amir, dazzled by the quick money which his father and brothers could not expect to earn in their lifetimes, would have fallen in almost any circumstances. He could have said no, but with what encouragement, what support, what suggestion that he had another choice?" asks James Lawton in the Independent. "These are the questions that must haunt the cricket authorities, particularly as represented by the Pakistani cricket board and the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit."
Also in the Independent, Stephen Brenkley revisits the day the spot-fixing scandal broke.
Can cricket afford to gloat at itself after the spot-fixing verdict? Lawrence Booth, in the Daily Mail, does not think so, and says that it must be kept in mind that it needed a newspaper to do part of the ICC's anti-corruption job.
Seen in that light, the prosecution of the Pakistani cricketers looks less like a vindication of cricket's capacity to self-police than a ruffle of the hair for tabloid journalism. What if the News of the World train their sights elsewhere next time? Who will shine the light in dark corners then? There is no definitive answer - and that, for cricket, is the scariest aspect of this sorry saga.
Insufficient. Harsh. Inevitable. The spot-fixing verdict has elicited all sorts of reactions around the cricketing world. Scyld Berry of the Telegraph takes a look at the three talents that have been lost, for at least the next five years.
Try standing still and, in one hand, flicking a cricket ball 180 degrees. Asif could do that when running in, in his delivery stride, an astonishing sleight of hand that only a handful of pace bowlers — at most — have mastered. The purpose is to reveal to the batsman the ball’s shiny side, then to deceive him by flicking the seam over.
By the end of the series against England, after six Tests in two months, Asif was fading — and we now know he had other things on his mind at Lord’s.
In the same paper, Berry goes on to analyse the verdict itself, and concludes that the sanctions aren't a strong enough deterrant for pontential future transgressors and, more importantly, undetected culprits still playing the game.
There is so much smoke — rumours of spot- and match-fixing — circulating in world cricket that it is very unlikely there is no fire. And those already engaged are going to look at the sentences dished out in Doha and work out that the reprisals they will face from the underworld for ceasing to match-fix are far worse than a five-year ban.
Given Mohammad Amir's age and background, the tribunal should have not come down so hard on him, writes James Lawton in the Independent. He says, the officials who allowed Amir to be corrupted thus should have been the ones taking the rap.
The ICC put three cricketers in the dock but you have to ask the whereabouts of the people who were in charge of Amir's well-being, the Pakistani officials who left their team quarters open to the forays of a man charged with setting up irrefutable evidence that he could, for an agreed fee, engineer corrupt behaviour on the field? No one was saying that if proven guilty Amir should escape any form of punishment, only that there should be an understanding of his quite grotesquely vulnerable position.
Robert Craddock in the Courier-Mail wonders, in the aftermath of the Pakistan trio being handed bans ranging from five to ten years, what a player would have to do to earn a life ban.
Would you have to perform a Hannibal Lecter and eat a rival's liver with "fava beans and a nice chianti"? Hannibal would have been an even-money chance of getting a suspended sentence (perhaps losing 10 per cent of his match fee) had he been put on trial by the International Cricket Council.
Peter Roebuck in the Sydney Morning Herald argues that a sense of proportion needs to be retained.
The response to the infractions of sportsmen is out of proportion and smacks of hypocrisy. It's as if sport was treated as a separate world, a legendary place populated by heroes and villains. In fact it is merely part of the wider world.
And in the Australian, Malcolm Conn wonders why it took a tabloid newspaper to uncover the scandal when the ICC has its own anti-corruption body.
A strong and decisive punishment was vital against players so obviously guilty of corruption. Anything less would have completely gutted an already grubby and poorly administered game made more vulnerable by the riches of the IPL. Are the ICC and its organs capable of protecting it? The answer appears to be, without the News of The World, no.