Lord Condon, the first head of ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, is clearly suggesting that spot-fixing is as common in cricket today as other gambling past-times such as roulette, blackjack, slot machines or the increasingly popular online casino phenomenon are in the world at large © Getty Images
Lord Condon, the first head of ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, is clearly suggesting that spot-fixing is as common in cricket today as other gambling past-times such as roulette, blackjack, slot machines or the increasingly popular online casino phenomenon are in the world at large © Getty Images

 

By David Green

 

The article by Lord Paul Condon, the first head of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU), in the London Evening Standard represented worrying reading.

 

Whilst most of us feared that the extent of match-fixing in the 1990s went beyond the few cricketers that were hung out to dry and ostracised from the game at the time, Condon made it clear that the stain on the sport was not confined just to the likes of Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin and Salim Malik.

 

Indeed, Condon stated that match-fixing had been rife since the 1980s “in the late 1990s, Test and World Cup matches were being routinely fixed”. He also said that “Every international team, at some stage, had someone doing some funny stuff.”

 

Whilst Condon’s comments have provoked much consternation within the game, it does beggar the question why, if things were as bad as he said were, not more players investigated, banned and shamed. This is yet another stone to cast at the door of the ICC in the week that their much vaunted Test Championship has been postponed until at least 2017.

 

Condon suggests that by the time of the 2003 World Cup, the wholesale fixing of matches had been eradicated and the much more sophisticated practice of spot-fixing had taken over.

 

If Condon is right, then spot-fixing has been going on for more than eight years and if this disease has infected the premier international limited-overs competition and a Test match at Lord’s, one can only imagine how deep this curse runs in both international and domestic cricket across the globe. The trial of Mervyn Westfield in January next year will tell us more.

 

Condon is clearly suggesting that spot-fixing is as common in cricket today as other gambling past-times such as roulette, blackjack, slot machines or the increasingly popular online casino phenomenon are in the world at large. But whilst these are harmless and enjoyable ways of winning (or losing) money, the sinister growth of spot-fixing is most certainly not.

 

In the wake of the sentences handed out to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, this columnist advocated some immediate steps for the ICC and the individual cricket boards to take. These included life bans for anyone found guilty, suspensions whilst investigations are undertaken and increased powers for the ACSU.

 

Cricket needs to wake up to the fact that it has a real problem and take the right steps to get its house in order. That means tough decisions and real action, not the fannying around that is the ICC’s current approach.

 

(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)