CHENNAI: Forty-six days into 2017, cricket has already seen six suspensions. Concerning players of Pakistan and South Africa, the common thread is T20 glamour leagues and spot-fixing. All being international players makes the list of culprits high-profile.
Alviro Petersen, South African opener with moderate success, including Test century on debut, is most prominent. A discarded Nasir Jamshed and the upcoming Sharjeel Khan, along with others, make it a mixed bag in terms of experience at the top level. Experience is relevant in this context because players of almost all Test-playing nations undergo anti-corruption educative programmes these days.
This means those caught guilty knew what they were doing. That they still risked reputation suggests temptations were big, and that T20 galas are naturally defenceless against such activities. Pakistan Super League is latest on a list including the Indian Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and South African Ram Slam T20. Around 25 players have been handed life to one-year bans in these competitions in the last five years. It’s an alarming figure, considering that there can be more cases without evidence.
“Volume of betting is much more in T20 leagues than ODIs or Test cricket. Add carnival-like ambiance, absence of national pride and it almost creates an atmosphere of license to indulge,” said former Delhi commissioner of police Neeraj Kumar, who heads the BCCI Anti-corruption and Security Unit. “The situation in India has improved, but in several places, ACUs are lax,” said Kumar, who led the IPL spot-fixing investigation in 2013.
Former BCCI ACSU head Ravi Sawani agrees. “A mix of many things makes T20 leagues more vulnerable to activities like fixing. More money means more opportunities and you’ve players from different countries with no national commitment. They’re followed by agents and bad elements. Many leagues are insufficiently protected, which makes monitoring difficult.”
After the ICC set up its ACSU in 2000, several boards followed suit. In India, one has been in place before IPL started, though success of these units across countries isn’t notable. Most fixing or betting cases are cracked by police. There are also instances of sting operations. Those in the know reckon ACSUs are handicapped because they don’t have powers the police does.
“In most cases, ACSU officials have to rely on personal contacts in the police to tap calls or access personal data, as they don’t have snooping powers. This restricts ACSUs to performing a preventive role. There have also been times when police officials said law and order is priority, rather than keeping an eye on corruption in cricket,” said Sawani.
The growing number of proven cases, despite these being difficult to prove, and the helplessness of officials handling matters indicates there is a need to revise laws and functional responsibilities. In England, for example, fixing amounts to cheating because betting is legal and offenders are slapped with such charges by the police. “In some countries ACSUs work with law-enforcing agencies. This has been spoken about in India, but nothing has materialised. No specific law is also a hurdle. In 2013, 39 were arrested in this connection. A lower court deemed there is no law and proceedings had to be stopped,” said Kumar.