Posts Tagged ‘match-fixing’
With the cricketing year now over following the conclusion of the two Boxing Day Test matches, it is time to reflect on what the past 12 months have meant for cricket as sport. There have, of course, been low points as well as high, with the spot-fixing trial in October a particularly sobering one that laid bare the stranglehold that corruption has on our sport.
However, a New Year is not usually a time to dwell on past misdemeanours, and this one is no different. While there have undoubtedly been low points, it is my opinion that 2011 has witnessed a record number of high ones. From the increasingly excellent performances of all of the Test-playing nations, through to the positive signs at board level in Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and including the re-emergence of fast-bowling as a force to be reckoned with, 2011 has provided many enlightening moments.
The Test game has shown signs of rebirth, with many of the matches closely fought, as teams such as Zimbabwe – who enjoyed a triumphant second coming in August against Bangladesh; the West Indies and Pakistan - seemingly showing a much steelier resolve under their new captains; New Zealand – who triumphed over Australia; and even Sri Lanka - showing signs of moving on from the Muralitahran era – all combining to make Test cricket more competitive and less predictable. The underlining factor amongst all of this is surely that the game’s administrators have finally grasped the need to produce more ’sporting’ pitches.
The appointment of Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman to replace the discredited Ijaz Butt is also a positive sign for the administrative side of the game, as is the ICC’s determination to make member boards less political in their make-up. Indeed, Ashraf has already shown an admirable resolve to move on from the isolationism that accompanied Butt’s final months in charge and is already making positive noises about restoring cricketing ties with India and bringing international cricket back to Pakistan by the means of a home series against Bangladesh.
However, for me, the most reassuring sign coming out of 2011 has been the sight of the first shoots of the game’s regrowth in Africa. Zimbabwe’s better-than-expected return to the top table has been well documented, but it is the organisation of that country’s domestic structure that is most exciting for the future of the game. In spite of cricket all but disappearing during the middle of the last decade, it has re-emerged as a more vibrant beast and is now much more representative of the broader Zimbabwean population. The selection, this time on purely meritocratic grounds, of black cricketers such as Keegan Meth, Brian Vitori and Njabulo Ncube, and seeing them playing under a captain such as Brendan Taylor, who clearly understands the weight of responsibility placed on his shoulders, is a sight that should give hope to cricket lovers everywhere.
And it is not just in there where African cricket is thriving. Kenya, led by their talismanic CEO Tom Sears, have finally got around to organising a meaningful domestic competition, while the player/board disputes appear to have finally been resolved; and Uganda has continued its steady, and thus far unnoticed, ascent towards cricket’s top table. Indeed, the two Ugandan teams that were invited to participate in the Kenyan domestic competition more than held their own. Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana and Namibia are also showing tentative signs of growth and are providing a timely nudge to the ICC, which seems intent on forcing cricket on America, as to the where cricket’s future may lie.
With three Pakistani cricketers behind bars tonight and the trial itself throwing up more questions than answers, was the judge, Mr Justice Cooke, right when he indicated that this case represented the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as far as fixing in cricket is concerned, and if he was, just how big is the iceberg?
The most astonishing day of an astonishing trial came yesterday when agent Mazhar Majeed, under cross-examination prior to sentencing, admitted that corruption was rife in the Pakistan team and that there were competing cells engaged in corruption within the team. Majeed alleged that a player, named only as “X” and not involved in this trial, was the creator of this particular cell, in collaboration with Salman Butt, and that he paid £65,000 to fast bowler Mohammad Asif to “buy” his loyalty.
Now how seriously these claims, made by a man who boasted that he knew Brad Pitt and Roger Federer, should be taken is open to debate. Indeed, if they were isolated allegations then they could be dismissed as the deluded utterings of a power-hungry man, but they are backed up by startling evidence – both new and old.
To begin with, the News of the World investigation named several other players in connection with the scam last August, including Umar and Kamran Akmal, Imran Farhat and Wahab Riaz – all of whom have since played for Pakistan – and claims that were repeated in court by Majeed. Thankfully the ICC is at least considering launching an investigation into some of the claims, but their Anti-Corruption Unit have no police powers and some vital evidence is known to have been destroyed.
As for the PCB itself, they too are making small steps in the right direction. Their new team, led by the impressive Misbah-ul-Haq and boosted by a couple of potential new heroes in Junaid Khan and Azhar Ali, is going about its business in an understated but successful way in the UAE, and chairman Ijaz Butt has been relieved of his post. However, the reactions of a minority of their ’fans’ and some of the players’ families are alarming - a select few have suggested that the three players were victims of a set-up operation – while the feeling persists that if more had been done after the conclusion of the Justice Qayyum report a decade earlier then cricket may have been spared its present pain. It is a sad fact that players implicated in that inquiry, and in others since, continue to play and coach cricket in countries all over the world; a fact that serves to remind us that this is far from being a Pakistani-only problem.
Indeed, it would be easy to turn this case into a vilification of one country’s sportsmen as is so often the case, but the problem runs far deeper. Australians have been implicated in the past – Mark Waugh and Shane Warne are still under suspicion in some quarters – while Hashan Tillakaratne has warned of the problems in Sri Lankan cricket only to be silenced. English county cricket has the ongoing case of Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield, with Marlon Samuels of the West Indies; Herschelle Gibbs from South Africa and Maurice Odumbe of Kenya all linked to cases in recent past. The IPL and ICL have also been plagued by whispers over the years, as a format that is ripe for corruption is played among teams that have no real identity. Meanwhile the increasing television coverage of worldwide domestic cricket is making it ever easier to bet on games played many hundreds of miles away, thus creating the perfect conditions for corruption to thrive and leaving the impression that the Judge may just be right when he said that it could be the tip of the iceberg.
What do you think is the answer and if you were charged with cleaning up cricket what would you do? Please let us know in the comments below.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat has been moved to react to a news story published in the Times of India alleging incidents of corruption in the ICC Cricket World Cup match between Australia and Zimbabwe.
While Australian openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin started their innings slowly in that match, few seasoned cricket viewers and anybody who had been watching much of the tournament, thought anything untoward was going on. Both players were taking their time on a slow pitch against a wily operator in Ray Price and the team were making their first appearance of the tournament.
Most will have reacted as Haddin did to suggestions that his side were under any sort of scrutiny from the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) – by laughing it off as nonsense.
However, the fact that we are still discussing the issue this deep into the tournament, and long since Zimbabwe have returned home, goes to show how seriously any allegations are being taken at the moment.
In a strongly-worded statement, Lorgat said: “An article by Mr Dayal in yesterday’s newspaper made a number of claims about an ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 match between Australia and Zimbabwe that can only be described as fictional.
“We do not comment on the activities of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and for good reason. However, after several misleading and downright false stories appearing in recent weeks it is time for us to show our displeasure and expose those responsible for affecting the integrity of the media.
“It is also patently false of the reporter to claim that the ICC ever suggested to it that the match was corrupted. The ICC confirms that, in terms of its policy, at no stage did anyone from the ICC speak to the journalist on this topic.”
It is unusual for the ICC to so much as pass comment on such speculation and articles but it does show how important they feel it is to prove that the game is as clean as they can possibly make it.
The last thing this World Cup – which to be fair has produced some great entertainment – needs is any hint of corruption or wrongdoing, particularly in the wake of Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif all being banned following spot-fixing late last year.
And that is why the ICC has felt it important to condemn what it calls such ‘wild claims’ of corruption in order to protect the integrity of cricket.
Salman Butt (ten years), Mohammad Asif (seven years) and Mohammad Amir (five years) have all been handed lengthy bans following their involvement in the match-fixing scandal.
That all three could yet end up playing international cricket again in the future (although in the case of Butt and Asif in particular, this remains somewhat unlikely) has sparked intense debate.
There is sympathy with the plight of Amir – he appears set to appeal on the grounds that five years out of the game for two new balls is a disproportionate punishment but also widespread condemnation that the players were not banned for life.
Of course, they are also, along with managed Mazhar Majeed, set to stand trial in the UK and if found guilty could face prison sentences of up to seven years.
Has the tribunal been lenient? Or have the players been unfairly treated? And is there any way back when the bans are up?