Return of illegal bookmakers August 18, 2009

Australia report bookie approach to ICC

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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