Cricket: Money runs deep down the wicket


(Image: 9Cric)

(Image: 9Cric)

There is no doubt that “money talks” in the international sporting world.  Unfortunately, to the detriment of the game, it extends beyond this realm, even digging into domestic and local matches and events.

Recent events have dug up some shocking accusations and finger-pointing; and former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent is at the centre of it.

All that is needed is a subtle sign something is different in the match, but the normal fun might not pick it up.  Even officials don’t pick it up, until a) a player comes forward and confesses their involvement or b) investigators pick up some detail about the match that seems off.

What has transpired over the last week or so makes the game look something ugly.  Vincent has agreed to fully co-operate with officials, but trying to find the tail-end of this will not happen soon.

In Ed Hawkins’ article for the Daily Mail on Friday, May 16, Vincent is quoted as saying in official ICC documents:

When you’re under whatever this power is that XXX has over me, I felt I couldn’t say “no” to him . . . I didn’t want to throw away the chance of getting all that money.”

Little else could paint a picture as negative as the above sentence.  To pile sand on top of the run-ups, though, is this scorecard: http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/166/166839.html.  While Vincent in time took any approaches to management, investigations have still revealed his involvement in too many matches that have been allegedly fixed.

It is a roundabout roller-coaster that never seems to stop, yet players fall off the wagon at even the slightest misstep.

Delving deeper into the pool, and the money offers kept coming for Vincent from Asian and Indian bookmakers.  The lure of such numbers is unnerving, and the amount of incidents now cropping up needs to be cut down and eradicated.

Fellow former New Zealand players Chris Cairns and Daryl Tuffey have been linked to the corruption allegations, but it is Vincent that has brought it all to light.

With much of world cricket corruption almost inextricably linked to the Indian market, any kind of approach is now treated incredibly carefully.  However, there is still the issue of anti-corruption units working with full authoritative force.

The ICC has set up their own unit, but, much to the chagrin of fans and even players, swift responses have not been the ultimate course of action.  Instead, there’s drawn out court cases, statement retractions, and decisions reversals.

English author and investigative sports journalist Brian Radford penned Caught Out a few years ago, with the tagline “shocking revelations of corruption in international cricket.”

In an extremely revealing and “tell-all” type of book, Radford has gone right to the pointy edge to detail all the misgivings and situations that continue to taint the “gentleman’s game.”

Even in 2001, the circumstances were precarious.  Players were far more frightened in speaking out, fearing being labelled negatively in cricket circles.

Simply banning players for several years is not going to be the answer; much the same as someone is ousted for using prohibited substances.  It goes deeper and must be stopped.  Penalties need to justify the severity of the incident.

Focus on Pakistan and India – and Radford directs a lot of his book towards this side of the ledger – and it is clear just how much has been hidden.  Even in 2001, just after the formation of the anti-corruption unit (ACU), the targets were being strung up to be knocked down.

Qasim Omar, a former batsman for Pakistan, offered to blow the whistle on “elite” and major operations at the time.  Lord Paul Condon, who was the first head of the ACU, after much deliberation with Radford and colleagues, agreed to meet with Omar.

Condon’s words rang like a bell being hammered at dawn:

“Qasim Omar’s revelations are a very important part of the jigsaw.  My terms of reference are that we support criminal investigations anywhere in the world.  There are not enough hours in the day to cope with it.” (Radford, John Blake Publishing, Page 8, 2011)

The sheer sums some of these players are being offered would be enough to help them live comfortably.  Bookmakers reap it big from a lot of these markets, and this is what must be stopped.  Unfortunately, shutting down one avenue just leaves room for another to open, no matter how hard the law is laid down.

Lou Vincent in domestic action

Lou Vincent in domestic action

For Vincent, the cycle continued, even after he defied instructions from bookmaker “VG”.  Then, by taking an offer from another bookmaker, “NG” – who Vincent was introduced to – Vincent went to VG to tell him about the plan to underperform for Sussex.  After a string of offers, and two players rejecting Vincent’s approaches, Vincent fixed a match in the 2012 Twenty20 Champions League.

What is being seen here is a system almost desperate to work and catch out the bad guys, but stumbles on its speed to knock those who fix back into the sheds.

Vincent revealing his sources and naming matches that he either fixed or knew were fixed is an important step in making the ICC open their eyes to the world of corrupt cricketers and people betting.

It is in the hands of the ICC to really send a message to all players, international and domestic in particular, that match-fixing and illegal monetary exchanges are simply not going to be an acceptable practice in the future.  The risk of getting cut or suspended from the game should be enough to deter some, but it seems this dilemma will never disappear down the cracks.

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