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May 29, 2001

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Proof of the pudding

Daniel Laidlaw

Sir Paul Condon's eagerly anticipated report on cricket corruption can be interpreted in different ways, depending on what you wanted to see from it. It can be interpreted as disturbing and revelatory, in that it contains references to kidnapping, murder and a series of recommendations, or it can be viewed as another verbose disappointment because it fails to name anyone or reveal any important new information.

Whichever way you choose to view it, the fundamental problem in uncovering corruption remains: Proof. Throughout the history of match-fixing investigations, proof has remained the chief stumbling block. Unless Mukesh Gupta comes forward again, or a player is so blatantly exposed that he has no choice but to confess, denials will continue to be issued and there will be precious little frustrated authorities and followers can do about it.

It must be remembered the evidence of corruption that shocked the cricket world into action was discovered by accident by the Delhi police. Unless more telephone transcripts or similar hard evidence is unearthed, it's unlikely we’ll positively identify any of the current or recent corrupt. There is always the tantalising possibility of it, hinted at in Condon’s report, but compared to the publicity and the number who have likely been involved, those proven guilty are relatively few.

The most heartening aspect to emerge from the report is its overall feeling of being a public update, rather than a final statement. It is very much an interim report, which is only healthy as there is obviously much still to be done. It reads like a neat summary and some important points are made.

Among those, it was made clear greed and opportunity do not have cultural bounds, making redundant the possible claim of rich countries that the sub-continent is mainly involved because players from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are paid less. As the report says: "Variations in pay and conditions may have played a part in tempting players and others into corruption. But relatively well paid players have been drawn into corruption and relatively poor ones have resisted. Greed and opportunity are the main factors which are common in all the cases of corruption."

Sir Paul Condon (L) and Malcom Gray Also of relevance in terms of blame being laid on the sub-continent: "In many ways the Indian betting industry has been the engine room which has powered and driven cricket corruption. The work of my unit has shown that it would be wrong to leave the analysis at this statement for we are or will be carrying out investigations which embrace most of the full member countries of the International Cricket Council. The blame for the spread of cricket corruption is a shared responsibility and must not be unfairly laid upon the Indian sub-continent."

One point that was not examined in anywhere near enough depth as it should have been is the involvement of administrators in match-fixing. The perception is that players are solely responsible and consequently they have shouldered all the blame. But if match-fixing is as organised as it is supposed to be, then it's hard to believe the bookmakers have dealt exclusively with players, umpires and groundsmen -- the lowest, operational level of the game -- and no-one else. If they are approaching senior players and requesting them to influence others in their team with large sums of money, is it not logical that they would approach influential officials and ask them to do the same?

In some cases a selected team has to be approved by members of the cricket board. What if a bookie paid a vast sum to a powerful official to ensure a loss in a particular match? That official, with power over the selectors, could then instruct senior members of the team to lose under threat of never being picked again, while escaping blame himself if the players are caught. Some players have alleged conspiracies against them by the cricket boards of the time. It's easy to imagine administrative involvement in corruption at some level.

Unfortunately, Condon barely touches upon the issue in his report. "Whilst corruption at the playing level is now well documented, equally serious allegations are emerging about individuals involved past and present in the administration of cricket. It is too early to form judgments about these allegations and the picture is confused by internecine struggles within individual countries for control of cricket. Also personal rivalries have undoubtedly led to smear campaigns. Nevertheless, the sums of money now coming into cricket centrally through the International Cricket Council and those generated by individual boards are large by any standards. The current corporate governance arrangements within cricket are inadequate for the task. Investigations will continue into alleged corruption in television rights contracts and related issues."

That is basically all he has to say on the matter.

Not enough serious questions are being asked of administrators. Aside from the issue of corruption in television rights, direct involvement by officials in match-fixing must be examined. Condon claims that some players were afraid to comment for fear of jeopardising their careers, and this is probably why. Indeed, one of the answers to why corruption has developed in cricket was: "Some administrators either turn a blind eye or are themselves involved in malpractice."

Players under-performing are just the public manifestation of corruption. Corrupt administrators involved with the underworld instructing players on how they are to underperform under threat of non-selection is a direction that needs to be pursued.

It has been stated that many people close to fixed matches were ignorant of what was occurring, which is partly understandable. The New Zealanders refuse to believe their most recent one-day series with Pakistan was fixed simply because they weren't aware of it. In reality, they wouldn't know. But not everyone can be ignorant and corruption cannot have been initiated at the playing level alone. Somewhere along the line, there must have been a higher knowledge or influence over match-fixing. As usual, those caught in the act may eventually be punished while some who are truly responsible escape blame.

Also Read:
The Paul Condon Report
Highlights of ICC corruption report
Quo vadis? - The Prem Panicker Column
An incomplete journey -Sujata Prakash

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