After Sanath Jayasuriya being charged for being uncooperative in helping a “fixing” investigation, comes another explosive episode from Al Jazeera, which reveals wide-spread “spot fixing” in cricket. Called the Munawar files, this sting operation on a bookie, reveals about two dozen spot fixing incidents involving players from England, Australia and Pakistan. Among the matches are the 2011 World Cup and the India-England Lord’s Test of 2011.
Though the rot runs deep and wide, predictably England and Australia have reacted with strong denials that their players can’t be involved in such activities. This is like a re-play of the nineties when fixing was thought to be a subcontinental phenomena with White nations considered immune to this ‘disease’.
However, when the lid of fixing was blown open, it revealed that greed and corruption in sports are a universal phenomenon and its virus is spread across all class, colour, religion and national boundaries. It does not discriminate between the Black or White, Hindu, Muslim or Christian. When in the nineties the allegations of match-fixing were rife, it was taken for granted that it was a malaise afflicting players from India and Pakistan only.
The White cricket playing nations were smug in the belief that their “upbringing” instills in them the virtues of honesty, integrity and fair-play and would snigger at the sub-continent’s culture of corruption. What perhaps was even more revealing of the inferiority complex “we” suffered from, was the fact that this belief was generally shared by most Indians and Pakistanis as well.
When the truth emerged and the names surfaced, it shocked the world. The first man to be caught in this web of deceit and cheating was not from the subcontinent. It was a twice born White Christian, who was seen as the poster boy of world cricket – Hansie Cronje. When the Delhi police named him and a few other South African cricketers for having fixed a few one-day matches in India, there was a howl of outrage that these players were being fixed. Since the evidence was solid, Cronje’s own taped voice in which he was fixing deals with a bookie, there was no escape from the harsh truth.
As the net widened, more and more names surfaced with Indians, led by Mohammad Azharuddin, being found guilty of selling the game to fatten their bank balances. The spread and reach of the book-makers was wide. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report on match-fixing in 2000 is a very revealing document, which needs to be reread by all those who still scoff at the allegations which are made against players from the White countries. It had in its final report mentioned that the captains from almost all Test playing nations had been on the take of an Indian bookie called MK. The CBI in its damning report had said that the respective boards of these countries should initiate appropriate action against these players.
To be in denial mode is not going to serve any purpose. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the cricketing boards of all the nations need to be on the same page on this. A broad-based police investigation by all the Test playing nations needs to be launched to unravel the international links of the syndicate which lures players into their net. The anti-corruption unit of the ICC, howsoever well-meaning and sincere it may be, does not have the power or the strength to deal with underworld criminals.
Al Jazeera has given the tapes of their disturbing sting to the Interpol as they believe ICC is not the right agency to take this investigation to its logical end. They may well be on the right path. This lengthening shadow of “fixing” on cricket has to been removed to rescue the sport from the criminal mafia, the obliging players and the clueless administrators.