Desperate measures are called for to stamp out corruption in cricket

2010-09-01 00:00

IT’S taken a sting operation by British newspaper News of the World — not the efforts of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit — to expose the latest Pakistani betting scandal.

The British tabloid has pointed fingers at Pakistani players Salmon Butt, Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Asif and Kamran Akmal for alleged involvement with bookie-cum-agent Mazhar Majeed.

These shocking revelations are a further thorn in the side of the ICC’s elite investigative unit put together at considerable expense in 2000. The ACSU (Anti Corruption and Security Unit) was established after a match-fixing scandal that led to life bans for captains Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin and Pakistani Salim Malik.

The fact that the ICC initially appointed former head of London’s Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Condon to head the ACSU shows just how seriously they view the threat that match-fixing poses to international cricket. In the wake of the News of the World’s allegations it’s understandable that the ACSU has not escaped harsh criticism.

Prior to his retirement from the ACSU in June, Sir Paul Condon admitted that match-fixing would never be completely eradicated

It’s an almost impossible job description, but in my opinion the ACSU’s biggest downfall is their failure to protect its cricketers.

Inexperienced international cricketers are impressionable and present easy pickings for bookies and corrupt players.

These opportunists can easily lead naive players astray and persuade them that they have their best interests at heart.

Although none of the allegations have been proved, I believe Mohammed Amir presents a good example of how an inexperienced player could easily be manipulated.

At the tender age of 18 Amir is the newest Pakistani fast-bowling sensation. In just a handful of test matches he has claimed 50 test wickets. Amir comes from a remote village near the Swat Valley and a humble background.

Until it’s been proved it remains complete speculation on my part, but it is possible that he may have been approached by senior members of the touring party. It’s possible that he was encouraged to listen to the agent/bookie and that he was persuaded to bowl the no-ball with an accompanying attractive financial reward.

Young cricketers like Amir look up to their seniors and can be easily influenced and intimidated. It’s here that I believe that the ICC’s ACSU has an important role to play. Inexperienced players need to be educated and made aware of the threat of match fixing and the dire repercussions they could face if they become involved.

In addition the ASCU needs to be able to protect the anonymity of players to prevent them from being victimised should they decide to come forward.

The replays of the no-ball in the contentious test match against England highlight a massive overstep by Amir.

The replay also shows no-balls bowled by Mohammed Asif at exactly the time mentioned in the videotaped conversation with Mazhar Majeed.

Scotland Yard has taken over the investigation and the cricketing world is waiting nervously for their findings.

The job of stamping out corruption in cricket is an enormous challenge for the ICC, but desperate measures are called for.

Match fixing has the capacity to destroy international cricket and to devastate its supporters who have every right to feel betrayed.

 

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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