Facts, fiction and modern match-fixing paranoia

By Trevor Chesterfield | March 24 2010

Denials are such convenient ways to hide the truth. Not only do they so often lack transparency they are always full of innuendos. There is an imbedded maliciousness about them that carries the rhetoric of a politician caught in a lie or in this case that of a cricket player in a web of malpractice intrigue in refuting such allegations.

Although it need not be a cricketer, but the history and the legacy of one Hansie Cronje, explains just how false some denials are. The hero of a nation, the icon of a devoted following, wasn’t going to admit to an open meeting almost ten years ago that he cheated and lied.

When he did admit four nights later his culpability at having been seduced by money offered by Indian bookies, it is like the cases of paedophiles in the Roman Catholic church, too scared to admit what others had known for years, but a cover up followed until faced with the evidence. People supposedly acting as messengers of God corrupting minors with indecent acts that scarred innocent children; in Cronje’s case, a white African tribe attempting to find salvation in a post-apartheid era having among them one a barefaced liar.

It is about ten years ago, in Nagpur, he was finally caught by the Indian police on a wire tap and taped to prove just how false were his denials to which he finally admitted with shame-faced bravado to a stunned nation that did untold damage to the game.

Rumours are always circulating how players are still approached by bookies eager to ensnare a player or players and officials, even administrators in their corrupt game. Now comes leaked information from sources within Sri Lanka Cricket that involves a case of investigation by the International Cricket Councils anti-corruption and security unit said to have taken place in Colombo.

While the ICC policy is to decline to comment on the movements of the ACSU and their investigations, they have not denied there has been an ongoing investigation either and that it involves some Pakistan players, Indian bookies and a manager’s report to the ICC which lifted the initial lid off the latest can of white ants to try and chew their way into the underbrush of player greed and make a killing or two.

Since the Cronje admission to malpractice, the sordid side of the game keeps emerging, and a long list of culprits that go back way before that fink Salim Malik snickered with sneering smirk at Cronje on a day in January 1995 “Did John call you?”. As Cronje admitted to the King Commission on the South African captain’s behaviour, he did get the call.

While questions remain why Cronje didn’t tell anyone in the United Cricket Board about such a telephone call and its conversation and alert the administrators to such dirty deals, Sri Lanka’s now erstwhile manager, Brendon Kuruppu, had no qualms in exposing the crooked scammers to the ICC in a letter that had the ACSU arriving in Colombo to investigate the claims and exonerate the team.

This it is suggested was as a result of approaches made in England by Indian bookies to certain players regarding information and other malpractice plans during the ICC World T20 event. Sri Lanka lost the final at Lord’s to Pakistan last year.

During the Pakistan tour of the island weeks after the Lord’s final, it was claimed that bookies made approaches to players at the team’s beachfront hotel, that despite strict security, the Pakistan players were open to discussions. All denied of course. What has emerged since explains just how fabricated such denials are.

Now there is an interesting twist in the plot. Sources in Colombo say it is known two senior Pakistan players met Indian bookies in the hotel lobby/lounge early in the tour as well on their return from Galle, with the players later smuggled to a casino near the hotel. Taking part in the arrangement and the negotiations was a SLC official who had a hand in the players being able to slip past security in disguise.

All this met with vehement denials by the Pakistan team management that bookies had access to the players or were in rooms on the same floor.

Now it is being suggested in Lahore that part of the PCB report on the lack of player discipline during 2009, fingered such incidents at bookies meeting players on several occasions, highlighting the rendezvous at the casino as well as the beachfront hotel and two other meetings in Dubai before the Champions Trophy in South Africa last September.

There is more as well, but the PCB report on player’s behaviour on the 2009 tour of Sri Lanka is only one of the many question marks about Pakistan’s 2-0 defeat in the Test series with the result of the first Test in Galle said to feature in the report. This is a game where Sri Lanka fielded a bowling attack that was the least experience in almost a decade.

Pakistan went into what became the last day wanting 97 to win on the fourth morning, with their second innings total at 71/2. They were bowled out before lunch for 117 to lose by 50 runs. Mohammad Yousuf was not out twelve and Salman Butt had twenty-eight. They had not any problems with the bowling the previous afternoon. Suddenly Thushara Mirando and Rangana Herath, recalled to replace the injured Muralitharan, were taking wickets.

There was a one post-match comment as well by an observer – “How many dollars would buy Pakistan’s remaining eight wickets for less than fifty runs”. Yousuf who had scored a brilliant and professional century in the Pakistan first innings was suddenly batting like a novice on the last morning.

It is known that the ACSU met with certain SLC officials before leaving for India where they are now involved in watching matches at the Indian Premier League. The ACSU are said to have a thick dossier detailing corruption matters involving a number of officials and players of most countries.

While only the weather saved them from a 2-1 Test series defeat against New Zealand, the tour of Australia lurched from one public relations fiasco to another. It wasn’t that the cricket was poor, rather that Pakistan were totally incompetent and against an Australian side in a rebuilding mode.

It was the Sydney Test and Kamran Akmal’s abysmal wicketkeeping that threw away a game they were in with a chance of winning. It sparked not only the inquiry by the Pakistan Cricket Board that finally resulted in the purge of players and strong inferences that bookies were involved. It also laid bare the hypocrisy that surrounds the game in Pakistan and how the uncertainty of life on the troubled, bomb-littered streets has turned the side into a troupe of Bedouins, making them easy prey for bookies dressed up as vultures.

It is amazing as well how Ijaz Butt the board head honcho was forever rebutting claims of malpractice by the team. When faced with hard evidence, he and the board had no option but to sack and fine players including three captains in Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Shahid Afridi, the latter because he decided he no longer wanted to be a vegetarian.

(First published on http://www.crickblog.com/ – March 24, 2010)

©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).

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