London: Iconic John Michael Brearley, former captain of England and former president of the MCC, a revered institution, spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on the challenges facing cricket.
Q You’ve consistently been talking about corruption striking at the very integrity of cricket. Can corruption ever be stamped out?
A No, but you still have to do everything in your power to try and do so.
Why can’t corruption be stamped out?
Because human nature is weak and people are greedy. People get excited by some things, people are naive. Most of the individuals involved aren’t players, but men from the world of betting... Probably with links to the mafia.
It’s about getting tempted...
A Exactly. And, often, the temptations are big.
So, what’s to be done?
Educate players, track the corrupt and prosecute them. People out to make a quick buck have to be found out.
After the scandal involving Hansie Cronje, in the summer of 2000, it was assumed that fixing would come to an end. Does it not shock you that the problem has actually grown?
Well, I’ve told you about human nature. Human nature is such that corruption can’t ever be stamped out... There are corrupt individuals around who, in turn, corrupt anyone who is available. I suppose there’s the issue of how much confidence players have in the system, of being protected if they report anything.
Potential whistle-blowers, then, are wary...
It’s important to protect. The person who reports an approach might be at risk himself... Perhaps, even his family. If things get into the public domain, then he could feel let down by the very people he trusted.
What is your prescription?
There should be trust between the players and the Boards... Trust between the players and the anti-corruption units in each country... There should be trust between the players and the respective players’ associations.
India doesn’t have a players’ body...
Why not? I wonder.
You’ve mentioned about the anti-corruption units... The International Cricket Council (ICC)’s ACSU is handicapped by a lack of powers to investigate. It’s a critical issue, isn’t it?
The problem is that if you aren’t the police, then there are laws prohibiting certain actions... That’s the reality... Also, there’s the issue of personal rights. There are limitations on what can be done, but that doesn’t mean you do nothing. The ACSU gets intelligence leads, they can liaise with the umpires and Match Referees, they can get information from the players... They’ve got what I’d term surprising activities on the field to look at... The ACSU, clearly, needs to do more.
The privacy of a player, I assume, is a huge factor in balancing things...
Indeed, the player is also a human being... The ACSU could have contracts with players both at the international and the domestic level, stating that if there’s reasonable suspicion, then their financial transactions would be investigated. At the same time, an assurance should be given that nobody would be charged for anything peripheral.
Will you elaborate...
Say, a player doesn’t declare something (legitimate) with a view to saving on tax and that comes up during the ACSU’s investigations... He shouldn’t then be prosecuted for tax evasion by the concerned authorities. Point I’m making is that he should be investigated only for corruption and not for tax evasion as well. The ACSU must bear in mind that players are the best resource.
Are you happy that you aren’t playing in an era where you could view every well-wisher with suspicion?
Absolutely. I think it’s very difficult for the present-day players. Fans could ask them simple questions which, in time, could take on a different colour... If somebody gets trapped, then it’s very difficult to get out... The situation would be quite like members of the Communist party being caught in a nightclub! Think of the consequences.
Do you subscribe to the view that the T20 leagues are, sadly, encouraging corruption? There have already been scandals... In India and in Bangladesh...
From what I understand, not all the T20 leagues are directly under the control of the Boards, which is an issue. People who own the franchises are not necessarily people who are interested in the game. It’s not the love of sport which has attracted them. They’re interested either in making money or are drawn by the glamour element. They have to be screened before they come into the picture... One doesn’t know how franchises are managed... There must be a greater degree of vigilance.
Usually, in awarding the franchises, bank guarantees alone are looked at...
A franchise could have one corrupt person, who puts pressure on somebody lower down the pecking order... He, in turn, could put pressure on the players... It’s disturbing.
Do you find it odd that Narayanswamy Srinivasan, who is being investigated in India, still takes over as the ICC chairman?
I do, though I see the argument that Mr Srinivasan hasn’t been found guilty of anything.
But Srinivasan is being investigated...
The ICC, I believe, took legal advice and India’s Supreme Court didn’t bar Mr Srinivasan from taking over as the chairman... It’s a difficult matter... Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion, but then Caesar’s wife should also be allowed to live a life.
Anti-corruption is on the agenda of the MCC’s World Cricket Committee, which you chair... You’ve said that you’re looking forward to inputs from Sourav Ganguly...
Because Sourav is helping the (Justice Mukul) Mudgal panel back in India. I don’t expect him to reveal anything which is of a confidential nature, but to provide general inputs.
[Sourav joins the Committee in October.]
Besides corruption, what are the challenges confronting cricket?
The issue of suspect bowling action is one and the irregular use of the DRS is another.
Finally... What’s the way forward on both counts?
On the DRS issue... Well, the ICC should be strong enough to make it mandatory in every series. It’s not a good thing that India’s opposed to it... DRS isn’t foolproof, but if it helps in getting even an extra five per cent of the decisions correct, then that’s significant... On the bowling action front, the MCC is part-funding wearable technology that would measure the degree of bend on the field of play... It should be ready in a year or two.