The first game of Test cricket was played in March 1877, between Australia and England. Charles Bannerman scored the first ever Test century-165 not out-and Australia won that game by 45 runs. (The first international match was played between Canada and the United States in 1844)
What a way we’ve come since then. We’ve had the addition of cricket-playing nations (there are 10 now), new technology, one-day cricket (and coloured clothing), rule changes, third umpire, the white ball, and numerous other items.
Forever termed the ‘gentleman’s game’, one could argue that the influence of not only any devices within the game, but also anyone who is not affiliated with an organisation, match or team, has changed the cricketing landscape forever.
There is one (of a couple) of huge aspects of sport these days, and that’s money. And in some of the more under-facilitated nations-Pakistan is a brilliant example-match-fixing (the act of being offered an incentive to do a deliberate action) has become almost commonplace. And players are getting in trouble for it.
While those such as Cricket Australia (CA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have attempted to put measures in place that stop any illegal activity, players still seem to find ways to circumvent those measures. However, given the tendency of the BCCI to “skew” data and use shady behaviour to achieve their goals, the England Cricket Board (ECB) would serve as a better example.
When it was the simple times-ie players and umpires, with no distractions-the rate of match-fixing and accepting illegal payments was small, albeit still rife. Now, with a team like Pakistan receiving almost nothing compared to Australia or England, the desperation to have a good cricket career and a good life off-field has become almost a necessity.
The Pakistan match-fixing scandal of 2011: bookmaker Mazhar Majeed approaches then captain Salman Butt, and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. Amir and Asif were to bowl no-balls at specific points in the game, and Majeed was caught on camera informing reporters of his plans.
All players received prison sentences, and Majeed was arrested.
While this certainly kicked some national cricket organisations, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) into a higher gear to fight activities like this, it still isn’t enough. The ICC’s Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) was set up in 2000, and was designed to crackdown on the phenomenal rise of betting on the illegal markets. However, this definitely hasn’t stopped some from finding a way to pay under-paid players and give them something to use to setup a life off-field.
So where has the term ‘gentleman’s game’ drifted off to? Well, for starters, the money involved in cricket-player contracts, expenses, etc-has skyrocketed. The influence of loads of cash has become the norm for almost every athlete to seek. Only now, there are some non-affiliated people who have ‘penetrated’ the cricket circle and are often offering large sums of money.
This constant denigration of cricket’s reputation has been cause for calls to be made to ban anyone suspected or involved in illegal activity to be banned from cricket for life. The message being sent that these sorts of actions are destroying cricket’s reputation has simply not been strong enough.
Here’s the other reason, which probably doesn’t see so much of the light in this topic: professionalism. The 1970’s saw Australian cricket flip onto its back with the introduction of World Series Cricket (WSC), courtesy of conglomerate Kerry Packer. The “rebellion” saw Australian Test players move over to play cricket for huge sums of money, and both Australia and other Test playing nations (along with the Marylebone Cricket Club) attempted to stop WSC from going ahead. In the end, while the actual series only lasted a couple of years, the change to the cricketing world went right to the core.
Player payments for national teams have now risen substantially, and prize money for tournaments such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) is enormous.
Now, heading into a new and unpredictable future, the number one priority for ALL national cricket organisations, and the ICC, is to utilise any units or resources already in place to combat. Bottom line: with the amount of illegal activity undertaken in today’s cricket world, the need for a clean, fair game has become stronger than ever.
Follow me and my rantings on Twitter: @Davis_Harr