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May 9, 2001
Maybe there was nothing in it. Or maybe it was a sign that the shadow of match-fixing still looms heavy upon the world of cricket. Or maybe it was something in between. Whatever the significance, it was enough for Australian Cricket Board chief executive Malcolm Speed to tell the world yesterday that someone suspicious had been telephoning members of the Australian team in India in March.
Speed told a media conference in Melbourne on Tuesday that three members of the Australian touring party - wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, bowler Colin Miller, and coach John Buchanan - received telephone calls in their hotel rooms in Chennai during the Third Test in March from a man seeking information about the pitch, the state of the match and its likely outcome.
Nothing else is known about the man, except that, according to Gilchrist, he was "of Indian descent". In all three instances, which took place on the final morning of the Test before the team left their hotel for the ground, the Australians immediately terminated their phone calls.
Australian tour manager Steve Bernard was informed of the suspicious calls and asked the remaining members of the squad if they had been approached in the same fashion. None of them said they had.
Australia began that day's play leading by 131 with three second innings wickets in hand. They lost their last three wickets for the addition of 23 runs. India needed 155 to win and did so with just two wickets to spare, winning the series by two Tests to one.
Following the incident, the ACB notified the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit. Malcolm Speed said yesterday that the Board of Control for Cricket in India had also been notified at the time as a matter of courtesy, however last night BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele told reporters that this was the first time he had heard about it.
As no allegations of illegal conduct by the mystery caller have been put forward, there is no police investigation.
Whether or not there was really anything untoward in these telephone calls is something we will probably never know. What this incident does show is the degree of caution that is being exercised by, and indeed expected from, international cricketers today, and how the ACB - stung badly by its handling of the Warne/Waugh episode in 1994 - is bending over backwards to show the world its committment to fighting corruption, even with seemingly trivial incidents such as these.
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