Steve Waugh's call for lie detectors to catch fixers not the best idea

Since the results of the polygraph tests can be misleading, it is important that lie-detectors are not relied upon to accuse players for their involvement in fixing © Getty Images

Former Australia skipper Steve Waugh called for the use of lie detectors to catch hold of fixers in the game and reduce the anti-social element from it altogether. Aayush Puthran explains the failings of the technology and how its repercussions are far drastic than other technologies in cricket like the Hot Spot.

‘The stronger the antagonist, the cooler the protagonist looks.’
It’s a formula for every hit story. India’s Champions Trophy triumph and the subsequent victories in the West Indies and Zimbabwe wouldn’t have been celebrated as much if the cricket fans were not troubled by the spot-fixing and betting controversy that the Indian Premier League (IPL) was embroiled in.
However, away from reel life, it is important to assess who the antagonist really is. He can’t be a scapegoat just to make the protagonist look like a demi-God. The lure of money has found many cricketers in its net and its open hunger has been a taboo in the game. While it is not a new phenomenon, it is uglier than ever.
When a few West Indian players went to play the rebel tour in the 1980s, there was a social outcry. When Ian Chappell commented, “Fair dinkum Greg, how much do you sacrifice to win 35,000 dollars?” after Greg Chappell ordered his younger brother Trevor to bowl the infamous underarm delivery, it was ‘not cricket’. But this time, it is criminal — fixing!
While, it needs to be wiped away from the game, it is imperative that the innocent are not found guilty due to the poor application of the technology. In cricket, the Hot Spot is the latest technology to come under the scanner for its failings and the game wouldn’t need another system that is inaccurate or misleading.

Former Australian skipper Steve Waugh’s call for having a lie-detector test to catch hold of culprits involved in fixing too has its own failings.
A lie detector works on three indicators: heart rate/blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity. The reactions of these indicators are assessed on a series of structured but unstandardised questions.
Players who are naturally anxious in person or get overawed by the happenings in the environment, which is kind of obvious, will be showing signs of irregular conduct, even if they are honest. It is also important that the interrogator is not biased or prejudiced and is not asking leading questions. At the same time, offenders can be let off if they know their way to beat around the lie detectors.
Social liar: Lying is a social phenomenon and many people don’t feel guilty or anxious while lying. As a result they don’t show fluctuations in the heartbeat or blood pressure while doing so.
Drugs: Anti-psychotic or anti-seizure are popular drugs taken by hardened criminals while going for lie-detection test. They are used to calm oneself down. Thus, the results of a lie detector test won’t be able to assess if the person is really lying.
Questions need to be narrowed down in order to get important information.
According to American Psychological Association, “Most psychologists and other scientists agree that there is little basis for the validity of polygraph tests. Courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have repeatedly rejected the use of polygraph evidence because of its inherent unreliability.”
Since the results of the polygraph tests can be misleading, it is important that lie detectors are not relied upon to accuse players for their involvement in fixing. When a mere accusation is enough to tarnish a player’s image, it is tough to imagine the implication, even if it does not hold legal acceptance, if a failed-technology like lie-detectors finds a cricketer guilty. Unlike the Hot Spot, the repercussions of lie detectors are worse and best avoided.
The game needs to be cleansed and it may not be appropriate to let a thousand guilty go scot-free, but it is essential to not damage the image and dreams of one innocent who truly loves the sport.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)