India's role will be key to fighting corruption - Mani
Ehsan Mani, the former ICC president, has urged cricket boards to take responsibility to curb corruption in the sport by engaging with their governments and law enforcement agencies to punish the perpetrators they find. Mani said while the role of the ICC was limited, India's role in this exercise could be "significant" if it found a way to monitor and regulate the illegal betting industry in the country.
"Every time it is the players who are under the radar. The ones who corrupt the cricketers are somehow never punished," Mani told ESPNcricinfo. "One was hoping that the conviction of three Pakistanis and one English cricketer would send out a strong message and frighten players, but this I think is not going to work. In the long run, it is the root-cause that has to be dealt with."
An undercover operation by the Sunday Times stated that two Indian bookmakers had claimed they remained undeterred by the recent prosecutions of professional cricketers, the game continued to offer plenty of opportunities for spot-fixing and that professional cricketers could be easily be lured in all forms of the game. In the report the bookies had said that they had recruited players from several countries to throw part or all of international matches, including the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan. The ICC denied there had been evidence to "prompt an investigation into the match."
Mani defended the ICC's actions in the current environment, saying its role was limited as the influence of the illegal betting industry was hard to control. "They don't have the authority to set up the sting operations in any country so the responsibility [should be] laid on the individual boards to follow up. The problem is the illegal bookies in the subcontinent - most of them are from India and some are in Pakistan. They work in a grey area where there is no control and monitoring."
The Sunday Times reported the bookmaker's laundry list of fixing 'rates' offered. "Tens of thousands of pounds are on offer to fix matches, typically £44,000 ($70,000) to batsmen for slow scoring; £50,000 ($80,000) for bowlers who concede runs; and as much as £750,000 ($1.2m) to players or officials who can guarantee the outcome of a match," the newspaper reported the bookmaker's claims.
The figures did not surprise Mani who said players could be easily tempted when they were offered large sums of money for little effort. "I'm afraid there will be some $600m involved in the upcoming one match between India and Pakistan on March 18. So for them [illegal bookmakers] investing $5 to 10m on a player is nothing. These days fixing a whole team isn't possible but controlling individual player is viable and it could be common."
The ECB, Mani said, had been proactive in the Westfield case, asking players to come forward to reveal what they knew. They board responded robustly to concerns that the county circuit was as vulnerable to the influence of illegal bookies as the international game. The Indian board, however, Mani said, needed to take cognisance of the newspaper report. Even the BCCI had declined to respond, with the IPL governing council chairman Rajeev Shukla saying, "Newspapers can publish anything, unless we get something concrete from an agency or ICC, I don't think it would be appropriate to react to it."
Mani said India could play a significant role by making betting legal. "These problems will never finish until the Indian government finds a way to regulate illegal book-making. I have seen the ECB showing concern, asking players to come and tell them what they know after Westfield's sentencing. I think it's the member boards who have to step up to engage the law enforcement agencies to work with them to clean up cricket."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent