Spot-fixing controversy September 3, 2010

Had sufficient evidence to charge players - Lorgat

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, spoke to Cricinfo on the process that led to the suspension of the three Pakistan players linked to the spot-fixing allegations during the Lord's Test.

Is this the biggest scandal cricket has faced since the Hansie Cronje revelations?
In terms of corruption, yes. Corruption is a dangerous thing, any form of it.

What specifically led you to suspend the players?
As we said, we were busy working and formulating our understanding of all of the issues that had transpired, all the allegations that had been made, and connecting all the dots. We needed to be pretty certain that we could formulate a charge before we could provisionally suspend the players. We were putting all the facts together while we were assessing our position.

What did you try to impress upon the PCB?
Earlier in the week, [we urged them] to do the right thing, which was to not select the players because there were just too many allegations, too much speculation and the public would not have confidence in the players. They [the players] needed the opportunity to clear themselves, so we were throughout the course of the week trying to impress upon them to do the right thing and not involve them in the remainder of the tour, for their own sake. And then on Wednesday night, Mr [Ijaz] Butt was quoted as saying that they were available to play. We realised that if that was indeed the case, we needed to move quicker. We worked quite hard to complete what we needed to do. We were surprised the next morning when they announced the non-selection, but by then we had progressed to a point completing our work.

Ijaz Butt kept reiterating that the players would not be suspended pending inquiries. What caused the change of mind in the space of 12 hours?
Again, when we met with him, we impressed upon him the need to protect the players on one hand, and to protect the integrity of the game on the other hand. The right thing would be to not avail those players for selection.

What was the ECB's stance throughout all of this?
The ECB were of a similar mindset, that they should not be involved in the series. I'm sure their concerns would have revolved around the public support [for the limited-over series] which would have been their primary concern. I am not sure if their commercial partners were impressing anything upon them.

Were the ICC concerned that sponsors would have pulled out if you had allowed the players to continue being in the series?
I would always do what is the right thing. We would not take any actions if we did not have sufficient claims, we would have to manage commercial partners. On the other hand, the right thing to do is to charge the players because we have got sufficient evidence. So I would always try and do the right thing.

They are still allegations at present, but if proven guilty, what is the ICC thinking in way of possible sanctions?
I would not like to pre-determine their guilt nor pre-determine what sanctions are appropriate. We would not tolerate any kind of corruption in this sport.

Who will the independent panel comprise of?
My understanding is we have got a panel of commissioners and there would be a selection from there. The chairman of the Code of Conduct commissioners is Michael Beloff QC. The players have 14 days to consider the charges and respond. It is after that we would move into the remit of determining. The players might decide to confess - who knows what, there is a criminal investigation today. That may or may not have a bearing so it is premature to determine whether there is guilt or not, what sort of sanction is appropriate or not. It is too early.

You said you wanted to do the right thing. If the crime is severe would you not rule out a life ban?
I would not rule out any sort of punishment. It is dependent on what the findings are.

"If it is becoming apparent that agents are a challenge to deal with, we might have to find some accreditation system that we might need to put in place."
Haroon Lorgat

What are the long-term plans?
We must separate individual players, their misdemeanour or not. We must separate them from the Pakistan team and Pakistan board. If individuals have transgressed in any way, we deal with individuals. As far as Pakistan, and the system in Pakistan is concerned, nothing has changed in our view that they shouldn't continue to play international cricket.

Although the ACSU has done well to curb the malaise of match-fixing in the decade after Hansie Cronje confessed his crime, corruption is once again on the resurgence. Are you concerned?

Not long after I got into the ICC, we reminded all of the members, all of the players that we simply cannot get complacent. With the advent of Twenty20 we have raised that awareness. We don't feel what some people are suggesting because we know that we will have to remain vigilant. All those reports about players about approaches (from bookies) that is through the education process, through the awareness that we create. Those players were not disclosing those approaches. So in my view it was somewhat unfair criticism of the ACSU. In fact if you listen to some credible , independent people, they acknowledge what the ICC is doing in fighting corruption in cricket. Sports Illustrated said the other day that baseball should have something like the ACSU on board.

Given that the ACSU is largely deployed under the ICC banner, what about cricket like the IPL and the proliferation of T20 events? Paul Condon said Twenty20 is the biggest challenge to the integrity of the game, should the ICC re-think its decision to deploy the ACSU only when asked for?
Do you mean being involved or deploying the ACSU in IPL? I would say we have the responsibility to assist members in so far as ensuring that corruption is not ongoing in their leagues. Because if starts at the domestic level, it will permeate the entire game.

What is the ICC's view on the PCB? Given the track record in match-fixing allegations, surely, the ICC needs to be more stringent and possibly slap some punitive action against them?
You cannot work on the basis of allegations and perceptions. We got to be factual about it. Unless there is hard evidence we cannot proceed. Don't forget the governance structure we have got: Pakistan Cricket Board, like every other member board, is autonomous. They have got the responsibility to look after their affairs. Unless they request our assistance in a direct fashion to get involved we cannot go there and do what you are suggesting.

With the ICC's wide reach and expertise don't you think you can help the PCB bolster its structure to make players, particularly those from outside usually traditional backgrounds, aware of potential dangers in the game?
We will be very willing to assist any member. But as I said earlier we can offer but it must be accepted. We cannot demand.

Given the Majeed case, shouldn't there be a process through which legitimate player agents are authorised and bonafides established?
Yes. I understand in England for example the players' association accredits agents. We always would look to see where we can improve the protocols. And if it is becoming apparent that agents are a challenge to deal with, we might have to find some accreditation system that we might need to put in place.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo