| Fallen AngeLs:Azharuddin, Salim Malik and Hansie Cronje
Calcutta: As part of “educating” the cricketers — and the public — on the pitfalls of being tempted by unscrupulous characters, the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has been circulating a comprehensive four-page brochure.
This process started during the first Test, in Mumbai, and will continue during the one-day series as well. The brochure — a copy of which is with The Telegraph — includes the following:
Cricket is one of the world’s highest profile sports, enjoyed every day by millions of fans and players. Cricketers are in a coveted position — one that most can only dream of — to be playing for their country.
International cricket is a massive enterprise. One-day Internationals have drawn enormous audiences and broadened the appeal of the sport. There’s more money at stake, both in terms of prizes and the sponsorship pumped in by commercial organisations, plus unrelenting media attention. These are positive developments, but they have brought pitfalls too.
With so much money (around $ 150 million is bet on the unlawful market) at stake, it’s not surprising that shady operators have tried to shift the odds in their favour. So just how do players become involved in this murky underworld'
In the words of ACU chief Lord Paul Condon: “You can bet on every single ball somewhere in the world. You can bet on which end the umpires are going to stand; you can bet on how many players are going to wear sunglasses; you can bet on how many times the bails are going to be knocked off the wicket.
“The bets are infinite but what the corrupters really want to get is a bowler who will say, ‘O.K, I’ll bowl two wides in the third over of my first spell’, or a batsman who will say, ‘Alright, if I get my eye in, if I get 40, I’ll guarantee I’ll be out at 41 or 42’. That’s really what the modern challenge is about — all they need is one player in a match.”
There’s a common misconception that corrupters are easy to spot, looking like the stereotypical Hollywood underworld villain. They’re not and they don’t. Corrupters come in many forms, but will usually spend time getting to know a player under a seemingly innocent pretext, before approaching them to become involved in corruption.
Again, in the words of Lord Condon: “They will be seductive — they may pose as a friend or as a sponsor, they may say they are part of some commercial enterprise linked to cricket. They’ll want to get friendly first, taking weeks or even months to try and cultivate the friendship. Then, they’ll try for a fix. So this isn’t someone suddenly coming into a room, walking up to a player, saying ‘I want you to do this for money’. It’s more subtle than that, it’ll be more seductive than that, and they will try and string the player along until they can actually persuade them to do something wrong.”
So beware new friends, groupies and commercial offers that seem too good to be true. They probably are.
THE NOOSE TIGHTENS
The snaring of players usually begins in a subtle way. Your new ‘friend’ may begin to ask for ‘innocent’ information on the weather or pitches for forthcoming matches. This soon develops into more detailed information on the team, events within matches and maybe match-fixing itself.
And once you’re involved, you’re involved forever.
As Lord Condon believes: “We know there have been cases in the past where players have been involved in corruption and they can’t get out. This isn’t about doing it once and then stopping. You get hooked by these guys: you’re in it for life, they will want a return.”
If you do try to get out, the corrupters can use very unsavoury means to stop you. Threats to reveal your previous misdeeds, even violence against you or your family are the sort of tactics they might use.
So what does it feel like to be a corrupt cricketer' Can you live with yourself' Can you look your teammates in the eye' How do you feel about under-performing or asking others to do so' Hansie Cronje’s tears and his fall from national hero to national zero seem to indicate that the feeling is incredibly painful.
Even if a player’s conscience doesn’t get the better of him, he’ll be under enormous pressure from the corrupters to continue coming up with the goods. Can he take this enormous pressure… and what happens if he’s found out'
The careers of Cronje, Salim Malik, Mohammed Azharuddin and others were brought to a premature end because of corruption. Anyone found guilty in future risks a life ban from the game or even imprisonment. The sport has committed itself to tough sanctions on the cheats to preserve the integrity of the game for everyone else.
WHAT IS BEING DONE
l Appointment of dedicated security managers
l Strict access controls to players and officials
l Restricted use of mobile phones during matches
l Security guards covering dressing rooms and players’ viewing areas
l Exclusive use by teams of hotel floors or wings, where possible
l Security guards assigned to cover those areas
l Logging of visitors to team areas of hotels
l CCTV coverage of hotel lobbies and access points to team areas, including entrances to dressing rooms
Some people have questioned the need to introduce all of these measures, and it is true that some of them place additional responsibilities on international players. However, this is a small price to pay for the integrity of the game.