Will jail terms for match-fixing deter cheats?

Cricket’s spot-fixing scandal and its unprecedented jail terms have battered the sport’s credibility, but experts say the case will eventually benefit what was once known as a gentlemen’s game.

The sentences handed out to three Pakistani players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif — and their agent Mazhar Majeed for spot-fixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test against England have stunned the cricket world.

But India’s World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said he had no sympathy for fixers.

“It’s the worst thing you can do while representing your country,” he said.

It is not the first time that the cricket world has been rocked by scandal. In 2000, match-fixing led to life bans for Test captains Hansie Cronje (South Africa), Mohammad Azharuddin (India) and Salim Malik (Pakistan).


But cricketers had never previously been sent to jail for corrupt practices — something that could make players think twice before they do deals with shady bookmakers.

Wake-up call
Popular cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle said the scandal would serve as a wake-up call for players, administrators and fans.

“I fear this might lead to more cynicism, a greater feeling that games, or moments, are fixed,” he said.

“It may be a bad day for Butt and company, but it may not be such a bad day for cricket. Cricketers can now see what may happen.”

Respected cricket writer Peter Roebuck agreed the jail sentences of between six and 32 months, handed out in London on Thursday, would help the game.

“Detection is difficult, but deterrence has more chance of success,” Roebuck wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Events in Southwark Crown Court and subsequent sentences will help cricket to clean up its act. Those contemplating corruption might not be worried about suspensions but might baulk at a long stint behind bars.”

In danger of being destroyed
The International Cricket Council (ICC) had previously banned all three players for five years, which they are appealing against.

That the scandal was unearthed by a sting operation by the now-defunct News of the World highlights the apparent failure of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

The ACSU was set up in 2000 when, in the ICC’s own words, “cricket’s reputation and integrity were tarnished and in danger of being destroyed”.

The unit was headed by former London Metropolitan police chief Paul Condon until June last year, when he retired and was replaced by another senior former British policeman, Ronnie Flanagan.

The ICC has defended the anti-corruption unit, which posts officers at every international match played around the world, saying the ACSU did not have powers to arrest culprits or send them to jail.

Bhogle said he hoped the sport’s administrators would take strict measures to enforce their stated policy of zero-tolerance on corruption, but refused to blame the ICC alone for the current situation.

“The easy way out is to attack the ICC,” he said. “But it does not have the power to send people to jail or to launch a sting of the kind the News of the World did.

“However tame it might seem, education, and stringent punishment in the face of evidence, is about as far as they can go.”

The lure of easy money
Cricket’s dark underbelly, plagued by underworld match-fixing gangs who reportedly bet millions of dollars at virtually every match, remains a constant threat to the sport.

Indian police regularly bust betting rings across the country when cricket internationals are played, but offenders often get off lightly.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation gave a prescient warning about the underworld’s links with cricket when it probed the match-fixing scandal in 2000.

“During the inquiry,” its report said, “it was learnt that the lure of easy money has gradually attracted the underworld into this racket … It seems that it is only a matter of time before major organised gangs take direct control of this racket, a phenomenon that will have implications not only for cricket but for national security as a whole.” — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Kuldip Lal
Once a journalist. Now finally doing something worthwhile. Here I speak only for myself. Kuldip Lal has over 1032 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

It’s just not cricket

Near Makhanda in the Eastern Cape in the village of Salem is a cricket pitch that is said to be the oldest in the country. Watered by blood and trauma, rolled with frontier nostalgia and contemporary paranoia, how does it play?

The last hours of Solomon Mujuru

Zimbabwean General Solomon Mujuru died in suspicious circumstances in August 2011. This is an edited extract from his recently published biography by Blessing-Miles Tendi

From De Kock the dasher to Quinny the dutiful

Quinton de Kock’s cricketing brain has made him South Africa’s new ODI skipper. But if his batting genius is to win games on its own, first he must give up the keeper’s gloves.

The Proteas need new heroes

South Africa need to tap into that day-five magic at the next cricket Test in Port Elizabeth, much like English allrounder Ben Stokes did at Newlands

Trip of a lifetime for Kirsten’s 13

Teenagers from sandy Khayelitsha shine on the green fields of Weybridge Cricket Club, England

Protea implosion – What do SA’s cricketing men live by?

The past year has been CSA’s annus horribilis
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Inside the illicit trade in West Africa’s oldest artworks

Nok terracottas are proof that an ancient civilisation once existed in Nigeria. Now they are at the centre of a multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning underground industry — and once again, Nigeria is losing out

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday