Saturday, 8 June 2013

ICC failed to spot the fixing?

By Muhammad Asif Khan

No society in the world is absolutely free of crimes and similarly no business in a society is entirely corruption-free however the custodians do put in place reasonable measures to curb the wrongdoing as much as possible.

Ronnie Flanagan - chairman, Anti-Corruption & Security Unit.
Mainly two aspects are important to put a lid – somehow – on the malpractices in any system. (A) Strict check and balance mechanism (B) Stern punishments.

So it would be safe to say that like other systems – where corruption exists – the game of Cricket, which is indeed not free from wrongdoings, could also be safeguarded to a larger extent with effective measures and here also, the custodian – the International Cricket Council (ICC) – claims to have put in place a formidable mechanism to counter the malpractice then where have we gone wrong?

The flurry of corruption stories in Cricket is narrating a different account altogether. The ICC will probably not admit it but the frequent emergence of the corrupt practice is indicative of the fact that the system to safeguard the game of cricket was not up to the mark.

The two counter measures mentioned above needed to elaborate further.

(A) Strict check and balance mechanism:
Keeping an eye on any affair starts from the education of the relevant individuals, here the ICC seems up to the standard as they have provided all the necessary material to the players and officials. Theoretically, all are aware of the crime but what difference does it make? This literature is like the penal codes present in various countries but still crimes are being committed everywhere.

So, if education doesn’t work alone then move on to the next step of vigilance. In this scenario the ICC, with the help of its Anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), strives to keep an avid eye, however the ACSU has hardly unearthed any kind of fixing in a cricket match thus far. This service was either done by the Police or by a media organisation through sting operations.

Does it mean that the ACSU has failed completely? This can’t be said with certainty. They might have busted a number of such bids but I have no knowledge of it.

I have been told that they do gather information from legal betting houses to evaluate the betting trends and irregular fluctuations but again betting is not legal in most of the cricket playing countries, so this effort is not entirely worth it.

The option left for the ACSU is to keep a watchful eye on the players and their movements because in the absence of a mandate they can’t review the bank accounts of the players neither they can tap phone calls or monitor emails etc.

At the end of the day, the ACSU is left with their experts to monitor the game and try to pick any irregularity in a particular match. Here comes their weakness, since they are neither cricketers nor are familiar with the technicalities of the game hence a deliberate effort on the field can go unnoticed. What will the ACSU do if a bowler, after setting an on-side field, throws the ball on the off-side?

With the frequent emergence of the wrongdoings, the ICC needs to strengthen it’s anti-corruption unit. Apart from providing them with more powers, the inclusion of technocrats in the ACSU could serve the purpose in a better manner.

(B) Stern punishments:
After investigations the phase of handing out the punishments needs to be looked at as well. Whenever such unpleasant event occurs the axe always falls on the players and that’s it. For instance, the Pakistani trio – Asif, Salman and Amir – were penalised and the chapter was closed. Similarly, the runaway wicket-keeper, Zulqarnain Hyder was also dumped. He might be lying all the way, but where were the investigation? The ICC or the home-board must have carried out a probe but nothing has come to the fore as yet. After every inquiry only a player is seen as the sole culprit, it is about time that the associates within, should also be taken to task.

Danish Kaneria, is also in the news for all the wrong reasons, he recently uttered a name from within the Cricket board set-up and claimed that he was introduced to the alleged bookie by a team official during a tour to the West Indies but again ‘all is well’ in the house and no-one is bothered.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) claims to have put in place a foolproof mechanism to stop the recurrence of unpleasant events but again the entire focus is on the players. Have the other staff members been given the same warnings etc?

In the notorious 2010 spot-fixing episode or the fleeing of Zulqarnain Hyder nobody other than the players were questioned. If someone succeeded in escaping then it was the failure of the managers too. Why the player preferred escaping rather than informing the team official is also a question to be reviewed. It shows the lack of trust in the team management for sure.

Coming back to the penalties and the powers, the cricket boards or the ICC has in this regard? Again the answer is unsatisfactory and the reason is simple. There is no such legislation in the penal codes of majority of the cricket playing nations.

In England the Pakistani trio was jailed because there is a law there to safeguard the rights of the legal bookmakers. In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or elsewhere there is no such law available to sentence the perpetrators of a fraudulent act. I am not advocating legal betting, but laws, in the name of cheating on the cricket field, should be framed to make the penalties worth.

The ICC member boards can work with respective legislators to form such laws to put some sort of fear in the players’ mind. Otherwise everyone knows that they would get away with a maximum penalty in the form of a life-ban or a hefty fine, but on the other hand, they would earn a lot of money too in quick time. This huge amount of lust must be canceled out with fearsome consequences. 

In the end, with the fear that the malpractices in the game of Cricket will not probably end, I wish and pray that just and substantial actions will be seen in the future.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif 

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