Involve former cricketers to curb fixing

The Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the ICC comprises former policemen with a good track record but the point is whether they all know enough about the intricacies of the game to spot something that is amiss. This will make a huge difference in eradicating the malady and hence, the ICC should look at involving former cricketers in their efforts to curb fixing of all kinds in cricket.

The sentencing of Butt, Asif and Amir by Justice Cooke at Southwark Crown Court will hopefully prove as a deterrent for murky-minded sportsmen but unfortunately the same sentiment prevailed in 2000 when a few Indian and South African players were found guilty of match-fixing. In between these two high profile scams, the bookies have innovated enough ways to circumvent the watchdogs and also to minimise suspicion in carrying out their business.

The ICC has a mechanism of sorts to monitor international cricket but the deviousness and ingenuity of the betting syndicate has proved too good for the members that make up the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU). The Pakistani trio was not found out by the ACSU but by a now redundant tabloid that has exposed many high profile offenders during its time. That the tabloid's closure epitomises the adage of one living by the sword dying by the sword is irrelevant but at least it will rest in peace in its grave that its last batch of victims was found guilty and sentenced. The modus operandi of Majeed and Butt brought forth some interesting yet worrisome facets of betting as also the vulnerability of the reputation of the game. Given the ways the bookies set about targeting players who are greedy enough and devise various methods to fix certain parts of the game if not the entire match, it makes one wonder if the game can ever get rid of this malady.

The ACSU of the ICC comprises former policemen with a good track record no doubt but the moot point is whether they all know enough about the intricacies of the game to spot something that is amiss. This will make a huge difference in eradicating the endemic malady and hence, the ICC should look at involving former cricketers in their efforts to curb fixing of all kinds in cricket. The reason I say this is because the former cricketers will be clued in with the happenings in various dressing rooms apart from their knowledge of the game. Moreover, a youngster like say Amir would have felt comfortable in confiding to a former cricketer about his compulsions rather than blow the whistle to the authorities. In as much as the policemen across the World exchange information within the old boys' network, cricketers tend to do the same as well. It is a known fact that the current players seek out the former cricketers to voice their grouse about the administration and it is logical to assume they will pass on the information when they find something suspicious. On the other hand, we have instances wherein administrators have ignored the warnings of some cricketers on the grounds that it was a case of “has beens” venting their frustration!

While the cricketing fraternity has unanimously applauded the ruling of Justice Cooke, they have also felt sorry for the families of the guilty trio. In the case of Amir and Asif, it does seem that their families are not even aware of the crimes they have committed which only suggests that cricketers who make it to the top from humble backgrounds need to be educated on how to handle the pitfalls that popularity brings in to their lives. Amir has been given a wide latitude due to his naivety and his tender age but Asif has shown tendencies of pushing the self-destruct button ever so frequently. Their guilt and absence will hurt the cricketing world no end and now the job of the ICC becomes twice as difficult because the scandal has erupted at a time when the apex body was probably patting itself on the back for controlling the fixing menace. By no means can the ICC be blamed for the Butt-Majeed episode but it has only exposed the limitations of the ambit and expertise of the ACSU of the ICC. It will be interesting to see the route that ICC takes to deal with this ongoing struggle against corruption in cricket. The recent episode calls for a more exhaustive approach from the ICC to barricade the openings that exist for the betting syndicate to exploit due to the unpredictable nature of the game.

The biggest lesson that the PCB can learn from the Butt-Majeed episode is that it needs to ensure that the cricketers are paid handsomely enough to enable them to resist the lure of big bucks. Secondly they must constantly interact with the senior cricketers and make them realise their responsibilities. The BCCI did that with the fab five when the bubble burst a decade ago and they responded well to revive the confidence of the public. In recent years, the IPL and the BCCI's initiative of sharing the profits with the players has ensured that the players don't have to worry about their financial security. It may not be possible for the PCB to match the BCCI as of now, but it is imperative that it does all that is possible to create a better atmosphere. One thing is for sure, the PCB can't stay in the denial mode any longer.