Updated: September 25, 2018 12:23:04 am
Five international captains have been approached by bookies over the past 12 months, the International Cricket Council General Manager (Anti-Corruption) Alex Marshall has informed. Four of those captains are from the ICC Full Member countries, while the other one represents an Associate. The approaches have been reported to the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, but Marshall refused to reveal the names.
In December last year, The Guardian had reported that Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed and Graeme Cremer of Zimbabwe rebuffed offers from intermediaries and reported the matter to the relevant authorities. Today, the Afghanistan team management, according to an ICC source, raised an alleged spot-fixing approach to Mohammad Shahzad with the global body’s Anti-Corruption Unit. The ‘keeper-batsman was allegedly approached to under-perform in the inaugural edition of the Afghan Premier League T20 tournament, to be played in Sharjah from October 5 to 23. Shahzad immediately informed the team management about the approach.
“Corruptors love captains. They look for intermediaries. They look for weak links. Five international captains — four Full Members, one non-Full Member — were approached in the last one year. The corruptors like T20s. They like the explosion of T20 tournaments,” Marshall said, as the ICC hosted a media day at its headquarters in Dubai on Monday. Some startling facts emerged. Over the past 12 months, the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit conducted 32 investigations and out of those, 23 originated from the participants’ report. Players were suspect in eight of those investigations while in five it were administrators. The world body also probed three sting operations.
India Today news channel carried out a sting that was aired on the eve of the India versus New Zealand ODI in Pune in October last year. The video purportedly showed Pune curator Pandurang Salgaonkar sharing pitch information. The investigation didn’t bring any evidence of corruption against Salgaonkar, but the ICC handed the curator a retrospective ban for failing to report the approach.
In December last year, The Sun handed over a dossier to the ICC on attempts to fix the third Ashes Test in Perth. The tabloid published purported evidence of bookmakers offering to sell details of rigged periods of play. More recently, Al Jazeera’s purported sting claimed that five international cricketers — two from Australia and three from England — were allegedly involved in spot-fixing in Test matches involving India.
“The Sun and India Today shared materials (including the unedited part). Al Jazeera didn’t,” Marshall said, urging the channels and/or media outlets to share all materials, including the un-televised and unedited parts to help the Anti-Corruption Unit conduct proper investigations. “Corruption happened everywhere in the world, masterminded/initiated mostly by Indian bookies,” the Anti-Corruption chief added.
All said and done, the ICC so far has done very little to curb the proliferation of franchise-based T20 leagues. Also, it’s quite contradictory that despite the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit head talking about the bookmakers’ love affair with T20s, the world body has picked the shortest form as the driving engine to globalise the game. T20 International status has been accorded to all Associates. And the ICC has scrapped the 2021 Champions Trophy as well – an elite 50-over format tournament – and replaced it with a World T20. The tournament is scheduled to be played in India from October 22 to November 14 after the 2020 edition in Australia.
Both ICC chief executive David Richardson and Marshall were asked about the contradiction. “I’m sure a lot of bookmakers like T20s. But I don’t think it’s correct to say that the increasing number of T20s will increase the (corruption) risk. The bottom line is that the T20 format has attracted new fans and with more people following the game, the bigger the risk that there could be efforts to corrupt the matches. So it’s an indirect relationship between T20 cricket and the increase of corruption risk. But T20 cricket has increased the number of fans. And if that so happens (the increasing risks of corruption), Alex (Marshall) will have to work a little bit harder,” Richardson said. Marshall tried to put things in perspective. “My point wasn’t that T20s attract corruptors, but the explosion of T20 events, including some private events — and I mention some events are designed for the whole purpose of corruption — has presented a new option to corruptors. T20 is an exciting format and I said in my presentation that the expansion of T20 cricket is bringing in more countries, more players, more fans; and it’s a brilliant development. As I said earlier, responsibility also sits with the people who organise T20 events to ensure all anti-corruption measures are in place.”
According to a recent ICC survey, over 60 per cent of cricket viewership/audience still falls for Test cricket. But the game’s governing body hardly does anything to promote the most venerable format, thereby creating space for T20 tournaments to flourish. “I don’t think there’s one particular reason with regard to poor attendances in Test matches. There are a whole lot of issues. We need to improve the marketing of Test matches. The World Test Championship (starting next year) will provide (the opportunity) for everybody to put their efforts; marketing efforts and promotional efforts. That’s the first step, creating a context for Test cricket,” Richardson said.
The Olympics stalemate
With the BCCI still opposing cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics, it’s unlikely that the sport would be part of the quadrennial showpiece in the near future. Although the ICC wants cricket to be an Olympic sport, “for the greater good, with an eye to woo countries like China, Japan and the United States”, it won’t take the matter to the International Olympic Committee until all members are in agreement. The BCCI doesn’t favour the idea, as it might put the Indian cricket board under the Indian Olympic Association’s ambit.
BCCI and WADA
Meanwhile, according to an ICC insider, the BCCI has informed the world body that it would clear its stand on the World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) whereabouts clause by December this year. The WADA is pushing the ICC to bring all its members under the whereabouts guidelines. But the Indian board, it is learnt, has certain reservations over coordinating with the WADA-accredited Indian wing, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
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