Return of illegal bookmakers

Australia report bookie approach to ICC

Alex Brown

August 18, 2009

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Top Curve

Cricket's recent trysts with bookmakers

  • February 2007: Nagpur Police accuses Marlon Samuels of giving out team information to an alleged bookie, Mukesh Kochar. Police releases a transcript of the conversation between Samuels and Kochar, and the ICC bans Samuels for two years.
  • October 2008: Two ICL players are suspended from the league amid widespread speculation over match-fixing, though the ICL says they are suspended on "disciplinary grounds".
  • July 2009: Pakistan players complain of the presence of "suspicious characters" in their team hotel in Colombo during a Test series. The team management gets their rooms changed, and the ICC's ACSU clears Pakistan of any contact with bookies.
  • August 2009: An audio tape of a phone conversation between Mohammad Illyas, a Pakistan senior selector, and Salim Altaf, the PCB's chief operating officer, alludes to match-fixing in the ICL. Illyas, father-in-law of Imran Farhat who played in the ICL, accuses senior Lahore Badshahs players of having fixed matches.

Bottom Curve

The Australian team management has filed a report with the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit after a player was approached by a man suspected of links to illegal bookmaking. Cricinfo has learned the approach was made in the bar of the team's London hotel, the Royal Kensington Garden, following Australia's Ashes defeat at Lord's in July.

The player alerted senior officials immediately and, following ICC protocol, team manager Steve Bernard filed a report with the ACSU. The matter is currently under investigation. The player is not suspected of wrongdoing, and has been praised by a senior ICC official for his prompt reporting of the approach in line with the ACSU's player education programme.

Sources within the ICC and the Australian team, when contacted by Cricinfo, described the approach as "concerning" and part of a worrying resurgence in the presence of illegal bookmakers around major events. Sir Paul Condon, the chairman of the ACSU, told ICC meetings in Dubai and London over the past year that Twenty20 cricket posed the greatest corruption threat to the game since the dark days of Sharjah in the 1990s; a notion supported by recent media and anecdotal reports.

Cricinfo understands the ACSU is investigating additional approaches made to players by illegal bookmakers, or conduits acting on their behalf, during the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in England earlier this summer. One source said the ACSU was "well advanced" in several lines of inquiry, at least one of which also involved approaches made to players at a team hotel.

Senior officials are concerned that illegal bookmakers, emboldened by the new betting possibilities opened up by the Twenty20 game, are becoming increasingly prevalent around match venues and team hotels. After the inception of the ACSU in 2000 - in direct response to the match-fixing scandals involving international captains Hansie Cronje, Mohammed Azharuddin and Salim Malik - barriers were established to block bookmakers and their intermediaries from direct contact with players. But the approach to an Australian player during an Ashes series, coupled with those allegedly made to other international cricketers at the World Twenty20, have raised concerns that a new wave of corrupting influences is attempting to infiltrate the game.

"This shows that our education programme is working," an ICC spokesman told the Telegraph. "The player who was approached reported it straight away. We have the policies in place to try to ensure that we never go back to the times we were at a decade or so ago." The spokesman was also quoted by Times as saying that the ACSU "was content that all the World Twenty20 matches were clean".

A report in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this week, quoting an anonymous ICC source, warned that cricket was under renewed threat from illegal bookmakers. "Those in charge in the ICC understand that Twenty20 cricket has the danger of going back to the bad old days," the source said.

The report suggested that the apparent resurgence in contact from illegal bookmakers was in part attributable to the second IPL, a tournament at which the ACSU was not in operation, due to its $1.2 million operational bill. Lalit Modi, the IPL's commissioner, told Cricinfo last month the ACSU would be involved in future IPL tournaments, and an agreement in principle has been reached for the unit to police the Champions League Twenty20, scheduled to be played in India this October. "They have expanded their services and going ahead, all the tournaments, including Champions League and the IPL would have the presence of ICC's anti-corruption unit," Modi said, in a move welcomed by the ICC's chief executive Haroon Lorgat.

Lorgat last week announced there was "absolutely no substance" to reports that Pakistan players had been approached by illegal bookmakers at their team hotel in Colombo during the recent series against Sri Lanka. The matter was investigated by the ACSU.

"The ICC and its members have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and rightly so because the integrity of our sport with its spirit is one of its greatest assets," Lorgat said. "On that basis it is entirely appropriate that any suggestions in relation to that subject are always reported to and properly investigated by the ACSU. I am pleased those investigations have indicated nothing untoward has taken place on this occasion but it is a reminder that all of us - players, officials and supporters - must maintain our vigilance to ensure we remain on top of the issue of corruption."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by fairdinkum on (August 20, 2009, 4:03 GMT)

OK BangaloreKid I have read Malcolm Conn, just one commentator making one comment in the whole pantheon of commentary. And what did he say, that BCCI refused to allow ACSU at IPL in South Africa and concerns were raised in an article in the London Sunday Telegraph that this could allow bookies to return to cricket. Is this BCCI bashing? Now this article above clearly refers to the issue that if ACSU is not vigilant at IPL then there is danger. Modi of BCCI allows ACSU in, Lorgat of ICC applauds it. This is just fair commentary and then I read your prejudiced comment "you will soon find commentary blaming BCCI for the bookie approaching an Aussie". There is nothing in any journalist's articles under discussion here that is unfair or doesn't focus on the issue. Contributors to forums like this cannot be included as reflecting commentary by journalists.

Posted by ToMegaTherion1986 on (August 20, 2009, 2:15 GMT)

It is good to see that this was delt with promptly. The last thing the game needs is another Cronje, Azharruddin or Malik. It certain dose seem like the ICCs protocals are working and the education of the players in this area seems to be sinking in very well. Weel done to the player who reported it, and as a fan of the game Thank you.

Posted by henchart on (August 19, 2009, 15:40 GMT)

Bookies continue to approach cricketers and the Investigations taken place so far and the subsequent disclosures are merely tip of the iceberg.BCCI has not done enough and less said about the ICC ,the better.

Posted by Itchy on (August 19, 2009, 14:32 GMT)

Congratulations aries_ravikumar - you have posted the most confused and illogical comment I've ever read on Cricinfo. Steer clear of the Kingfishers while typing, champ!

Posted by TwitterJitter on (August 19, 2009, 13:02 GMT)

@nabilion - You are making my point. By using "BCCI is not promoting test cricket" claim to bash them on match fixing is kind of deviating from the issue, isn't it? That was what my comment was about. Keep issues separate and just focus on match fixing. I agree that most if not all of the bookies could be Indians but when did that become BCCI's fault? BCCI is not Indian government. I agree that Indian journalists have a responsibility to focus on corruption - more so than the rest - but unfortunately most of Indian so-called journalists are just match reporters. English journalists are the best of the available lot and my point is half way through a good article they mix up this issue with other prejuidices they have against BCCI and not do justice to what will be an otherwise good piece on corruption in cricket. As for some of Aussie journalists, they can't make out a difference between a cheer leader and journalist.

Posted by TwitterJitter on (August 19, 2009, 12:25 GMT)

Baseball in theory should be as susceptible to match fixing as cricket. I am not sure why there is problem there and only in cricket. Is MLB doing something to eliminate this problem or is it coincidence that there is no impact there? I think the players are the key element in eliminating this problem because they are ones who have to come into contact with a bookie before any fixing of the match can take place. As long as the players keep reporting these kind of incidents and ICC/individual boards educate their players to report these encounters it will easy to catch them.Corruption in my opinion is 1000 times more dangerous to integrity of cricket than doping can ever be and needs to be taken far more seriously than it is now.

Posted by TwitterJitter on (August 19, 2009, 12:20 GMT)

@Number_5: There is no BCCI bashing in this article. This one is highlighting a most important issue of cricket in cricket which to be frank is 1000 times more dangerous than doping. The ones I am talking about will come in the next few days. Just follow articles from Malcomm Conn in "The Australian". English journalists are the only ones in cricket who do journalism than just reporting which is admirable but four paragraphs down it will loose the focus and blame BCCI for match fixing troubles. I even mentioned that IPL and CL need ACSU more than anything else but you will soon find commentary blaming BCCI for the bookie approaching an Aussie during Ashes which will just do injustice to the corruption issue.

Posted by elsieb66 on (August 19, 2009, 12:10 GMT)

Dear aries_ravikumar - if you read the piece instead of jumping to anti-Australian conclusions and diatribe, you will see that the player alerted officials immediately. "Chill dude and have a beer".....? What are you on about?

Posted by NumberXI on (August 19, 2009, 7:21 GMT)

The Ashes is such a high profile test series - if this bookie was able to approach an Australian cricketer, what exactly was the ACSU doing? Is it the role of the ACSU to "actively" address such instances after they occur, or were they not even "employed" for the Ashes in the light of, as Cricinfo puts it, recent "anecdotal reports"? This yet appears to be yet another case of the ICC paying lip service to a major evil threatening the sport, but being selective in actually implementing its own requirements.

Posted by Homer2007 on (August 19, 2009, 5:39 GMT)

1. The fact that an Australian player was approached in his hotel and this was preceded by other players being approached during the World Cup T20 speaks of organizational incompetence, when you juxtapose it with the knowledge that the ACSU and the ICC was concerned by the "apparent resurgence in contact from illegal bookmakers" that was"in part attributable to the second IPL", a tournament that preceded the World Cup and the Ashes.

Ordinarily, heads would have rolled for this. But that wont happen anytime soon at the ACSU, will it?

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