Match Fixing – Cricket’s Titanic

Date: November 5, 2011 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Scientists believe around 90 per cent of most icebergs are beneath the ocean’s surface.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) will be hoping that the latest spot-fixing case played out in a British court is not the sport’s metaphorical iceberg.

The jail sentences handed down to former Pakistan captain Salman Butt (30 months) and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif (12 months) and Mohammad Amir (6 months) have rocked the cricket world.

For the first time in the sport’s history players have been incarcerated as a result of criminal proceedings with the charges of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments being laid following an explosive sting mounted by the now defunct News of the World newspaper.

The charges arose following the now infamous vision of three no-balls delivered at preordained times during the England-Pakistan Test at Lord’s last year.

The deliveries in question were bowled by Asif and Amir and orchestrated by Butt and Mazhar Majeed, the players go-between.

The most concerning aspect of this sordid case from the ICC’s perspective is not so much that the sport has once again been tainted by the spectre of player dealings with bookmakers but the very nature of how it was all uncovered.

It would be both naive and fanciful to consider that a British newspaper journalist could mount a sting that could result in capturing the only case of spot-fixing in the contemporary game.

The worry for the ICC is that the sting merely proved what many had long believed – that despite the sport’s vocal assertions that it had been largely cleaned up following the suspension of three Test captains – Salim Malik, Mohammad Azharuddin and Hanse Cronje – more than a decade ago the game is still muddied by the spectre of illegal betting activities.

Each of the three former international skippers were publicly humiliated and banned for life by the sport’s governors.

It was the ultimate penalty that could be levied by the ICC and yet this latest episode, played out before a packed gallery at the Southwark Crown Court, shows the sport is still easy prey to the far-reaching tentacles of unscrupulous characters within the murky world of illegal gambling.ย Already stories are circulating of the extent of the hidden part of the ICC’s iceberg.

Whilst not admissible in the London court, Canadian police have unearthed evidence in the form of mobile telephone text messages that implicate as many as six Pakistani players with illegal bookmaking activity in regard to the Lord’s Test against Australia in July last year.

The Australian team, currently in South Africa, has been stunned by this latest development, just as it was when doubt was cast over its win against Pakistan at the SCG in January last year.

Ironically, the Test at Lord’s between Pakistan and Australia was played and promoted as part of the ICC’s “Spirit of Cricket” initiative.ย Alas for the ICC, it is extremely difficult for it to actually uncover evidence of spot or match fixing.

It is not able to undertake secret stings such as the one conducted by the News of the World due to the likelihood of itself being held to account on entrapment charges.

So, without the help from the likes of the media and police authorities it is largely powerless to root out the problem despite spending upwards of one million dollars each year on its Anti-Corruption and Crime Unit.

The London court’s jailing of the three Pakistani players and the possibility that more may be found guilty of altering outcomes on the field will bring to bear enormous pressure on the ICC to take a stance on the continued involvement of Pakistan in the international arena.

Former Pakistani captain Salman Butt was at the helm when many of these allegations have arisen.

The ICC will be praying that he is not found in time to be the skipper of the sport’s Titanic

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