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ICC in a fix

After lecturing for years that the boards must plug the leaks whereby ICC meeting minutes are leaked to the media, they themselves now have some explaining to do

ICC in a fix

It looked like a clever move by the International Cricket Council (ICC), until it was bungled by a leak. Something that Rashid Latif had suggested to the body’s Anti-corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) — that they should go undercover or offer plea bargain to find out who are the fixers — and which was dismissed by them because of legal implications, was actually the course they took now.

Perhaps it was a move by the ACSU to show that it had some teeth, even though it has been ECB’s anti-corruption officials who seem to have gathered the evidence. ICC’s anti corruption watchdog has being largely criticised by officials, boards and past players for failing to come up with a single catch over the past ten years or so.

Considering players had been caught by wiretaps and media stings mostly, everyone was asking where the millions spent on ACSU officials riding shotgun all over the world had gone.

Possibly they were worried at what they were hearing; that the ACSU might be restructured or downsized and placed under a committee controlled by the Big Three. Time was short. They had to go for the big bust that showed that they hadn’t been catching 40 winks behind the sunglasses rather than catching the crooks.

So they coaxed a crook into spilling the beans. Holding out one to dry wouldn’t have given them the numbers to make up for ten years of bird watching. Make a deal with one chap, give him amnesty and then let him go for the price of many. In-camera sessions with the police or judge probably, not revealing the player’s identity by presenting affidavits from trusted police commissioners validating the evidence.

Except a mole inside the ICC either returned a favour or cashed in on his retirement plans. Lou Vincent’s name was revealed and worse, that he had entered into a plea bargain in return for naming names.

Apparently some had already been named when his cover blew. From what I understand ICC can offer no such deal. And if there had been some understanding with a police chief or special prosecutor, no one could be identified for fear of blowing their role. Worse, keeping their identity on the table would expose their sources. Someone would pay heavily for putting the cops behind Lou Vincent.

The ICC also rushed to deny that any deal had been offered because that would have compromised the safety of Lou Vincent. He was therefore shown accused without any bargaining and those who had already been named were also brought in quickly before they could disappear or prepare their defense.

Problem for the ICC is that Vincent may not sing anymore now that any plea bargain has gone down with the sunset. Further those who have been reeled in by Vincent in the past may burn whatever hard trail Vincent may have known about.

New Zealand’s cricket board is understandably furious as are their players who have been named, whether as corrupt or those who squealed to ICC without themselves having been involved, like Brendon McCullum. Has he been approached by other cricketers as well who will be looking over their shoulder now? The New Zealand captain will also be nervous about reprisals from the bad guys.

Chris Cairns, who actually won a case against Lalit Modi, the former IPL chief who had accused him of taking money when playing for the now defunct ICL, is once again under scrutiny as the player ‘X’ that McCullum has named, something which Cairns denies and will be making his case in London in front of Scotland Yard.

Just as in the 70s almost every casting for a villain’s role ended up with the late Aslam Pervez there can be no match-fixing story without a Pakistani connection. This time it was the height of desperation as the player identified was someone who played a couple of seasons for Sussex, the same team for which Vincent played for a few seasons. So far the much touted former Pakistan international has not been named, perhaps because the evidence to convict is not yet ready; or perhaps because he exists only in the imagination of the story tellers who wanted credibility to the leak. Nothing sells like a Pakistani player involved, real or imagined. It strengthens their weak case against Danish Kaneria.

It may also have been done to play down the names of the ‘cleaner’ countries, where, ironically, betting in sport has been legal for decades. Eventually those names will appear as footnotes after the temptation toward the crime has been laid on the Asian, especially Pakistani elements. I think the ICC should now realize that they’ve played that one as much as re-runs of The Simpsons’ first season.

It all looks laughable considering the suspended Chairman of BCCI, and still nominated ICC chairman has been named as one of 13 suspects in a match-fixing inquiry that has shamed both the institutions. It’s a lot like pointing to the thief shoplifting a silver ring while you run away with from the museum with a Rembrandt rolled up under your armpit. Naved Arif is in the news while Srinivasan is old story.

David Richardson, CEO of ICC, has said that the ICC inquiry will take a few weeks; enough time perhaps for the incriminating evidence to disappear except of those from the ’tainted’ countries. This leak may also have put further investigation on hold due to the connected players being tipped off.

But in all this the ICC has suffered the most. After lecturing for years that the boards must plug the leaks whereby ICC meeting minutes are leaked to the media, they themselves now have some explaining to do to the member boards, especially New Zealand’s, whose cricketers, till now, seem to be leading the corrupt pack.

Sohaib Alvi

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