It is a flimsy ground

Herschelle Gibbs.-N. SRIDHARAN

Since Gibbs and Boje have refused to accompany their team-mates to India they ought not to be invited to go anywhere else, writes PETER ROEBUCK.

BY refusing to tour India, Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje have put themselves in an unsustainable position. At face value they are refugees from justice. Nor is it a minor matter, a parking ticket or an unpaid bill. Their names cropped up during the investigation into the match-fixing saga that devastated the game and ended the careers of several national captains. A retired Scotland Yard detective of vast experience was appointed to review the case. By his own admission he was thunderstruck by the extent of the criminality involved. Millions upon millions of dollars were at stake and the corruption reached to the highest levels of the game and the underworld. And South African cricket does not feel obliged to assist the investigation?

Hansie Cronje and his colleagues were caught with their hands in the till by detectives tracking a notorious "businessman". Unaware that his cellphone had been tapped, the businessman lent it to Cronje, and invited the South African captain to make as many calls as he liked. By all accounts the entire team accepted the invitation with some interesting results.

Instead of the anticipated wheelings and dealings, the senior detective found himself listening to strange conversations about cricket. He had played the game a little and accordingly was able to follow the discussions. When the story broke, the detective was patronised as a bumbling fool. A friend in Chennai said that, to the contrary, he was ruthless and efficient, and added that "whatever he is saying, he has twice as much in his files." Since he was the top detective in the capital city of a country of a billion people, his capability ought to have been anticipated.

Cronje was forced to resign and a life ban was imposed. Since he did not go back to India before his untimely death, the detectives responsible for an investigation that rescued the game from the claws of corruption did not get the chance to speak to him. Doubtless they wanted to ask questions about his contacts. After all it takes two to tango. Doubtless they'd also like to seek information from those remaining.

Nicky Boje.-N. SRIDHARAN

Clearly Gibbs and Boje were reluctant to co-operate. Safety may have been a concern. Gibbs has admitted accepting a bribe and might still be able to provide information. Why Boje might be in more danger than anyone else is puzzling. Assurances were sought that in the event of their arriving in India as members of their country's cricket team, no criminal charges would be brought against them. When no such assurances were received the players withdrew their services.

It is hard to avoid thinking that the very act of seeking such a commitment was patronising to the host country. India is not some tuppeny-hapenny nation whose justice system is run along the lines of a Kangaroo Court. It is a large, advanced democracy, with a proper judicial structure and a free press. Senior positions are held by a sikh, a muslim and an Italian woman. It is a nuclear power, a member of the Commonwealth and a major and respected cricketing force. And its detectives played crucial parts in exposing a racket that was ruining cricket.

Far from excusing these players, South African cricket should have insisted that they assist the Indian police on peril of their careers. Professional cricketers are not supposed to reject the opportunity to represent their country on such flimsy grounds.

Since Gibbs and Boje have refused to accompany their team-mates to India they ought not to be invited to go anywhere else.