May 19, 2013

Anti-corruption efforts need to be proactive

Rather than relying on police investigations or media stings to uncover rot in the game, cricket has to get tough with its own

There was a time when cricket looked upon T20 as a saviour. However, following revelations of another major corruption scandal in the lavish-spending IPL, officials must now be wondering about the wisdom of opening up more fixing avenues to crooks.

Early indications suggest the current investigation will be far reaching, with more players dragged into the net. It'll be interesting to see if some of the cricketers crack and start helping with the investigations by implicating others. This is an area where previous corruption scandals haven't revealed much, but sooner or later players need to become a source of useful information.

For this to happen, they will require some guarantees in order to be rid of their fear of the consequences of being whistle-blowers. This is an awfully large obstacle to overcome.

In a perverse way, cricket's best weapon in the fight against corruption might be the revelation that a really big-name player was involved in a scam. That way the outcry would be so widespread as to galvanise all parties into action against the crooks.

When I first heard the news of the latest scandal, I wasn't shocked. There's so much information available, it's hard not to believe that where there's smoke there's fire. However, I was staggered it occurred on Rahul Dravid's watch. Such is the widespread respect for the Rajasthan Royals captain, not just for his achievements but also for his integrity, it's hard to imagine a player giving anything less than 100% for such a man. The fact that players under Dravid's captaincy allegedly indulged in spot-fixing highlights the magnitude of the problem cricket is facing.

In a game that has suffered previously because of captains being directly involved in corruption, this is one time when you can be sure - as certain as is possible in such a dirty business - the skipper was blameless.

Worryingly, once again cricket, and in particular the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), also appear to have not been put out. Apparently they took no part in the current investigations, and despite a number of arrests and convictions over the years, the game has had very little success in bringing to book any of the villains.

I'm not surprised at this lack of success following an exchange with a member of the ACSU in 2010, which culminated in me responding, "Don't you understand how the corruption works? It's not the players who decide when and where the fraud occurs."

It's frightening to think the ACSU may not fully grasp that once the crooks get their hooks into a player, he has only one way out - the same way you exit the mafia.

The game needs a cricket solution to corruption along with a legal one. If cricket relies solely on proving the guilt of these miscreants in a law court, the problem will never be eradicated and eventually the game will lose all credibility.

The ACSU, with the backing of the officials, has to be more proactive. They need to rattle a few cages and occasionally ignore the Marquess of Queensbury rule book. When they are convinced their suspicions about a person are valid, they should demand cricket plays its part and wields the axe at the selection table. If offenders are permanently omitted it's difficult for lawyers to wage war on the basis of non-selection.

This may sound draconian and drastic but that's the only way cricket is going to win this dirty war. The heavy lifting can't always be left to police investigations, or television and newspapers to produce undercover stings. If cricket doesn't earnestly engage in this battle, it will find itself in an even bigger fix.

Any future fixes may not be right royal ones like this latest scam, but too many more and they won't need to be of that magnitude to tarnish cricket's reputation drastically.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

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