Hidden Agendas - Geoff Lawson on Waugh and Warne (16 January 1999)

16 January 1999

Hidden Agendas - Geoff Lawson on Waugh and Warne

Geoff Lawson

SHANE WARNE and Mark Waugh admitted having accepted payment for giving information that could be obtained from a hundred other sources for free, and were punished by the Australian Cricket Board...four years ago. Was their act a capital crime, a minor misdemeanour or just good management? The debate rages inside and out of Australia as to whether they have committed a horrible, unforgiveable, heinous crime or were simply na*ve and foolish. Some cricket-playing nations want them banned for life (is this so they don't have to play against two of the world's best?). The agendas are hidden and multiple.

If someone came up to you on a street corner and offered you £100 for directions to the nearest pub, telephone, taxi, post office etc., etc., what would you do? Probably raise an eyebrow, think twice (firstly to recall the information and secondly to think 'this is money for old rope') then take the cash and smilingly part with the reference. Last time I looked it wasn't a punishable offence to accept payment for doing very little - if it were, most of our politicians would be in some strife.

Giving weather and pitch opinions is in a whole different paddock to fixing matches for bribe money, yet there is an attempt to tar Waugh and Warne with the same brush. It is obvious that culprits from the subcontinent are eager to deflect publicity from their accusations which grow in solidity with each passing day of the Pakistani inquiry. What punishment will those who are found guilty of match-fixing face? Sarfraz has allegedly suggested the death penalty but I feel that is a tad harsh. You only get 20 years for murder in most countries but not Pakistan apparently.

Sadly, it was the players who were trotted out to face the media and treated like terrorists after a bungled kidnap, rather than the authorities who acted in secret after Waugh and Warne admitted the gaff. The ACB and the ICC did not see fit to inform the cricket public or their fellow cricket nations that attempts were being made to influence international cricketers. They lost a prime opportunity to forewarn and therefore forearm the cricket community.

It appears that match-fixing had its genesis in the early '90s although we may never quite know the extent to which games have been affected. The administrators involved at the time have since hidden behind written statements and underlings, not having the courage to show their faces and accept responsibility for their actions as the players have. Now there are inquires in two countries and already worms are emerging from the woodwork with more stories of bookmaking inducements.

Where it will all end is anybody's guess at this stage but when the dust settles will the ICC show decisive leadership? I haven't got my hopes up.

If they show the same timidity on a matter which affects the very fabric of cricket's integrity as they have on bowlers who appear for all the world to have illegal actions and are allowed to thrive at Test level, then we are in for some very dark times indeed.