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By Nikhil Vaish
There is a blot on the integrity of cricket and seemingly nobody within the ranks of any of the major governing bodies is willing or courageous enough to wipe it clean. The matter has now gone far beyond the Indian Premier League (IPL), based on recently leaked revelations by Lou Vincent and others. Vincent is a former New Zealand batsman who confessed to fixing English county matches, also fingering his Sussex team mate, Naved Arif, as an accomplice.
While both men have been charged by the England Cricket Board (ECB), we are told that Vincent has provided the ICC’s anti-corruption unit with substantially more information than has thus far been disclosed about match fixing across the globe.
In some ways it was easy for the ICC to ignore the IPL match fixing scandal since the Indian league has never been officially recognised by them. IPL player statistics are not counted towards any official ICC rankings or awards. Besides that, the fact that this league was conceived and staged on foreign shores allowed them to keep it at arm’s length and turn a blind eye to all the media coverage that has dominated the off-field antics during the lead-up to the recent IPL 7.
They have also chosen to stay silent on the histrionics of the current BCCI President N Srinivasan, perhaps because he is the ICC Chairman in waiting. Srinivasan, as President of BCCI, failed to act when an illegal gambling and match-fixing scandal engulfed the IPL and the team he owns. His son-in-law, who was manager of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), has been indicted as one of the prime accused in the case. Not only did Srinivasan decline to set up an independent probe into the matter, but he also refused to step aside, despite calls from all quarters.
The fact that he is owner of one of the franchises, in a league that he governs, should have been sufficient grounds to disqualify him from holding the post of President of BCCI. It is an obvious conflict of interest, but professionalism and ethics seem in short supply in the cricketing world today. Instead of stepping aside, Srinivasan dug in his heels and unabashedly proclaimed himself King, openly challenging anyone to oust him.
It was not until India’s Supreme Court stepped in and severely reprimanded him that he was forced to step aside, albeit temporarily if he has his way. The court called Srinivasan’s refusal to step down “nauseating” and told the BCCI lawyer “you are filled with filth, there needs to be serious cleaning.” The ICC has yet to utter a word on these events, and for the moment Srinivasan is still slated to take over as its Chairman, starting July 2014.
Meanwhile, the Indian Supreme Court has appointed an independent panel headed by retired Justice Mudgal to conduct a detailed and thorough investigation into the matter and into specific people named in his initial report. His original report had raised serious issues and concerns about a number of BCCI officials and serving cricketers, lambasting the organisation for doing nothing in the wake of substantial evidence.
To add fuel to this fire, we have learned via yet another media leak that Brendon McCullum has come forward and provided more damning evidence of rampant match-fixing to the sleuths at ICC’s anti-corruption unit. According to him it has been going on for many years. McCullum is a hugely respected International cricketer who has served the sport in all formats of the game for more than a decade, and is currently captain of the New Zealand national cricket team.
In the leaked Daily Mail article, McCullum claims he was approached by a player “X” at the inaugural IPL in 2008 to underperform in a game. This person told him that the prize to manipulate match outcomes in this way was anywhere between $70,000 and $180,000 for each game. Additionally, “Player X” is said to have explained to McCullum that new-age cricket is all about fixing. McCullum said in the leaked report, “the Big Boys in international cricket were all doing it and he didn’t want me [McCullum] to miss out.”
When a man of McCullum’s stature and integrity comes forward with such serious allegations, the governing bodies have no choice but to take the matter seriously. No doubt all this new information will prove of interest to the Mudgal committee which is just about to get underway with its investigation into the IPL match fixing. One can only hope that McCullum’s testimony and revelations will make it much harder for the BCCI and ICC management to stick their heads in the sand this time around.
That there is illegal betting and some match fixing in cricket will not come as a surprise to anyone, but the extent of these latest revelations by both Vincent and McCullum show that it is much more rampant and commonplace, in all forms of the game, than previously imagined.
In the past, both International and Indian cricket players have been caught, fined and sometimes banned, but beyond that absolutely nothing has really been done to rid the sport of this plague. Instead of becoming more transparent and creating a zero-tolerance policy, it almost seems like the governing bodies were content with simply treating the symptoms.
Thus far, a lot of fans also seemed content to look the other way, as long as they continued to be entertained. However, these recent revelations should leave every fan wondering if the match they are watching is being conducted in the spirit of competitiveness or not. This time, one hopes that there will be sustained public outrage, and that it will continue to grow until we are all made aware of the facts. Until all the culprits are exposed and punished, and some real measures are put in place to combat this menace, the sport will continue to suffer.
As fans of cricket it is our responsibility to tell the BCCI (and every other governing body) that their conduct, even as non-elected representatives of cricket, is incredibly important in preserving cricket’s reputation. We must demand that these men are worthy of upholding the principles and values associated with this great sport; that they are able to discharge their duties with humility, integrity and honor. A culture of always putting the good of the game ahead of personal ambitions should be inculcated in players.
It seems many of these men have forgotten their purpose. So drunk on power have they become that they believe they can operate with complete impunity and function in an opaque manner with zero external scrutiny or governance. The cat is now completely out of the bag. All that is left is to see how crickets’ most powerful governing bodies will respond to this crisis, and if they have the gumption to truly restore our faith in what was once called a gentleman’s game.
(A career in advertising agencies in Bombay, London and New York kept Nikhil Vaish busy until 2008, when he took the plunge and co-founded a brand strategy, design & technology consulting firm. Writing is his love on the side, and he maintains a blog where he can let loose his alter ego and write about life, advertising, politics and other useless things).
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