May 18, 2014

Cricket has a history of being blind to corruption

Despite all the red flags alerting to the fact that there must be a zero-tolerance policy towards fixing, administrators have done little to initiate it

As details emerge of former New Zealand player Lou Vincent's plea bargain and confession of fixing, the thought keeps recurring that the officials don't take the issue of corruption seriously enough.

Four years ago a frustrated Shane Watson blurted out his lament: "Maybe they [ICC] don't want to get to the bottom of it [fixing] because it might run too deep."

If you think Watson was being overly sceptical, I've put together a tell-tale list.

The Australian Cricket Board covered up details when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne took money from a bookie for pitch and weather information back in 1995.

In the late nineties, there were whispers of shady characters hanging around the Indian dressing room during Sharjah matches. Not long afterwards captain Mohammad Azharuddin and batsman Ajay Jadeja were banned for their involvement in fixing.

Following those bans there were strong rumours circulating that further investigations had been halted because officials were worried the Indian team would be decimated. I confess to wondering at the time - just like Watson did years later - if the abandonment had something to do with the depth of the corruption.

There was the thorough and illuminating report of Justice Qayyum into the Salim Malik affair and other fixing controversies in Pakistan cricket. Despite the judge's hard-hitting summary, that report has largely been ignored by officials. And it's not only Pakistan officials who failed to take notice. Read Qayyum's report and take note of the names of some international coaches who have been appointed and interviewed for jobs in recent years. Then look at some of the recent ICC Hall of Fame inductees. It's illuminating.

Then came the Hansie Cronje affair. While Cronje was banished in disgrace, the fall-out didn't stop there. Two players, Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams, received six-month bans, but the former returned to international cricket and enjoyed a successful career. Other members of Cronje's team who attended the infamous meeting to decide if a game "should be fixed" have gone on to have careers in and around cricket.

There's the not-so-small matter of Bob Woolmer's suspicious death. The coach of South Africa during Cronje's discredited reign and then in charge of Pakistan during a limp 2007 World Cup campaign, Woolmer died in Jamaica in very strange circumstances. I don't mean to suggest Woolmer was involved in any scandal, but it wouldn't surprise me if he was about to reveal some misgivings. I do doubt his death was due to natural causes.

With controversy raging over fixing in cricket, the ICC had an executive member who was president of his country's board while he was a bookmaker. Surely, given the prevailing atmosphere and the need to send a strong message to the crooks, this was at best a misjudgement.

Another misjudgement involved England's unusually cosy reception and acceptance of substantial funding from later-convicted fraudster, Allen Stanford. The man photographed welcoming Stanford's helicopter at Lord's was Giles Clarke, chairman of the ECB. Recently Clarke was a major player in the revamping of the ICC, which substantially raised the profile of the big three - India, Australia and England.

While Clarke's involvement with Stanford was purely a failure to do proper diligence, another member of the big three, N Srinivasan, has been stripped of his BCCI presidency by the Indian Supreme Court. However, the court's concern over Srinivasan's involvement (or otherwise) in the Chennai Super Kings scandal isn't shared by the ICC, which has him listed as the incoming president.

Given the damning information overheard in cricket corridors - even without cocking an ear - and Ed Hawkins' informative book, Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy, the officials are hard-pressed to claim lack of available information as a defence.

Many of Vincent's allegations involve T20 matches, which should concern administrators considering the high value placed on that format to fortify the game's financial future.

The officials erred by not adopting a zero-tolerance policy against corruption from the outset. Despite many dire warnings since, they still haven't elevated their sights.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul on May 19, 2014, 23:29 GMT

    Bringing Stanford into the argument is a red herring, and distracts from the good points made in the article.

    Due diligence would never have uncovered the reality behind Stanford's money. He was fully licensed and regulated. It was only the later global financial crisis that revealed what was really going on. There is no way the ECB could have foreseen what had eluded the powers of the US financial regulators.

  • Android on May 19, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    well said Mr C.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    Eggyroe, whilst I tend to agree with you (there are possibly degrees of blame in some cases), and I'd like to see the most blatant offenders prosecuted, I think the other real concern is whether fixing, particularly in T20 leagues, goes beyond the players and becomes somehow "institutional". That could turn those leagues into a sort of cricketing version of WWE, where the outcome is scripted.

  • John on May 18, 2014, 18:38 GMT

    Another excellent article about the corruption in cricket.It basically boils down to cricketers who wish to play the game under the Laws of Cricket fair and square or those who wish to fix games to receive underhand payments.Surely it all comes under the rules of the ICC that all games have to be played above board and with a level playing field.All players caught match fixing shall be banned for life with no reprieve,irrespective of age and who or what they have achieved in the game.It all gets down to the fact that players who stoop to match fixing are cheating the paying public,and at the end of the day the paying public want an untainted game won by the best team.The ICC must crack down hard on any cricketer caught match fixing and have the ultimate mandatory deterrent in their arsenal to ban cricketers caught in the future and to allow spectators a fair crack of the whip and value for their admission money and with no match fixing.

  • James on May 18, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    Another good Chappell article. Thank you.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2014, 13:20 GMT

    I used to wake up in the middle of the night and would listen to the cricket commentary over radio in a very slow mod so my dad can't hear otherwise. Now I have cricket channels 24/7 but won't care who won it.

  • Dru on May 18, 2014, 12:21 GMT

    Must agree with Ian that the ICC has been weak on this front which has led to this being a bit of a cancer in the game. The current situation with the ICC will only make things worse - sorry I cant define the issue as CI will not publish it - even more sad and unfortunate.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2014, 11:28 GMT

    Its killed the game for me, turning a romanticist to a sceptic overnight

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