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Australia’s corruption denial syndrome

November 19, 2011

Cricket is on the verge of a corruption induced implosion, yet you wouldn’t know in Australia.  As far as Australian cricket administrators it is the end of the world as they know it and they feel fine.

Despite  more and more revelations coming out about corruption in Cricket, it was still shocking for many to hear former Indian batsmen Vinod Kambli claim that was something “amiss” in the semi final of the 1996 World Cup.  He stated on television that “I was stunned by India’s decision to field….I was standing on one side and on the other end my fellow batsman was telling me that we would chase the target. However, soon after they quickly got out one by one. I don’t know what transpired.” and that “”something was definitely amiss. However, I was not given a chance to speak and was dropped soon after.”

Less shocking was the reaction of Mohammed Azharuddin, the Indian captain of the match in question, who amongst others responded that the claims were “”Absolutely rubbish, whatever he (Kambli) is talking. He doesn’t know what he is talking (about), when you have people who have no character and no background come on TV and talk absolute rubbish in front of the nation and demeaning all the players who played in the team, it is totally disrespectful and its very sad,”

The revelations  seem to confirm a fairly popular narrative on the corruption scandal. That is, it is a terrible blight on the game but it is mostly confined to the more shadier parts of the world, namely the sub-continent.

While the refusal of the Pakistani cricket board to pays its players a comparatively reasonable wage ensures that bribery will flourish in that country, the narrative is too easy and recent revelations means the narrative effectively means that proper questions about the role of corruption in cricket in first world countries have not been properly asked.

Consider the statement made by former chief anti-corruption investigator, Lord Condon who said “”In the late 1990s, Test and World Cup matches were being routinely fixed….There were a number of teams involved in fixing, and certainly more than the Indian sub-continent teams were involved. Every international team, at some stage, had someone doing some funny stuff.”

Or consider the evidence given by former Pakistani player Qasim Umar, as relayed by Brian Radford in his book “Caught Out”. According to Umar, a director of a Western Australian company ran a hookers reward program, where women were paid to have sex with cricket players, who did as the company director wanted them to do. He also stated that a leading Australian batsman “had worked as a match fixer for the company director, who had paid him big money for letting him know the team, which bowler would open the attack, and from which end of the ground”

According to Umar, he was told that two Australian players had “taken lots of money from the director to throw their wickets away”. All of this occurred throughout the 1980’s.

Added to this, was the following as reported by the AFP

“In recordings played to Southwark Crown Court, an agent, Mazhar Majeed, alleged that Australians, as well as some of the biggest names in Pakistani cricket, were prepared to fix parts of matches.”

The response of Cricket Australia (CA) has been lacklustre to say the least. With regards to Majeed’s allegations,  CA chief executive James Sutherland, rightly pointed out that the claims made by a person of “dubious repute”.  He didn’t, though, at all seek to explain why Majeed’s would make such allegations in a conversation he didn’t know was being recorded.

However, that the accusations keep coming has forced CA to take some formal action, with it announcing on the 16th of November that it would be creating an anti-corruption unit that “oversee the Sheffield Shield, Ryobi Cup and the newly-formed Big Bash League with the International Cricket Council continuing to monitor international competitions.” with Sutherland saying “Betting-related corruption is a significant issue to sport in general and Cricket Australia is determined to institute measures that safeguard the integrity of our sport,”

However, there is reason to be skeptical about this unit being set up, namely because of CA’s past behaviour  in dealing with gambling and corruption issue.

In 1994,  Shane Warne  and Mark Waugh  accepted 5,000 and 4,000 dollars respectively to give weather and pitch information  to an Indian bookmaker named Mukesh Gupta. Waugh provided information on 10 matches and Warne provided information on 5 matches.

The Australian Cricket Board (Now CA) after being told about this information engaged in what can only be called a cover up, it privately fined the players, with Waugh being fined 10,000 dollars and Warne fined 8,000 but the ACB were determined to keep it secret and they did so for about three years, till it was revealed in the media.

Public outrage at the ACB’s handling of it forced them into calling an inquiry into corruption in Australian cricket but there were severe limitations of this enquiry. It was totally private, no witnesses could be compelled to give evidence and the head of the inquiry was not complete defence against any defamation accusations.

Even so, according to Radford’s book ” O’Reagan recommended that the ACB should review the way in which it dealt with serious disciplinary proceedings, publicity of such proceedings, penalties to be imposed and counselling for players with gambling interests” and described the fine each player was given as “inadequate, as their size does not reflect the seriousness of what they had done”

It took 17 years for the administrators of Australian cricket to set up an anti-corruption unit after the Warne and Waugh incident, evidence enough they are content to take an ostrich in the sand approach.

The double standards for Australian players as compared to others is quite evident in their subsequent treatment. Both were given small fines, went on and had successful careers and both now are commentators of the game. Compare this to the sentences handed out to Mohammad Amir,  Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif, whose crimes is only one degree of separation from Warne and Waugh’s have been given jail sentences of 6 months, 30 months and 12 months respectively.

The accusations against Australian players are there floating around and should be treated promptly and seriously. CA, who has an interest in not rocking the boat because of potential damage it could cause, are not up to the task by themselves. Seemingly, then, it  is left to fans and players to demand that a serious look into corruption in Australian cricket is undertaken. If it is not, then Cricket may well go down the same path as boxing, now almost permanently discredited due to corruption.

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