…apologies to Mr Shakespeare for that one.
So, there I was on Saturday evening enjoying a comprehensive win for the RH Corstorphine first team, hearing of how the thirds had only just scraped the points required to avoid relegation and wishing our OA and his lovely girlfriend a safe journey home to Durban. Not to mention catching up on what had been an quite incredible day at Lords in the fourth Test, when the rumblings started to emerge on Twitter.
That august organ, the News of The World, had evidence, names and details of a spot betting scam on operation during that very fourth test match. Whilst there have been mutterings in the past, and fairly recently too of things untoward, indeed the Sydney test between Australia and Pakistan earlier this year had been deemed to whiff a little of Grimsby, never had there been such immediate reportage of an incident of this nature. It took years for the seeds sown by Hansie Cronje to germinate and take flower.
Cricket is a game I love. As a friend of mine once said, “life can only be improved by cricket”. It has a timeless nature, and regardless of how many cold, grey, damp and windswept days I’ve spent playing the game, it always evokes memories of warm sunshine, lush green grass and time passing slowly. There is no better way to pass a day than sitting watching a match live, be it international, county or East of Scotland league. Hence my current pastime of sitting in a scorebox, I may have stopped playing, but I still feel the need to be involved.
What angered me most about this ‘event’, is that once again a sport I love is sullied. I’m a bit of an omnivore when it comes to sport, I don’t believe a person can only be a fan of one sport, and certainly don’t subscribe to the Murdochian view that football is the beginning, middle and end of sport. I’ve lived and cringed through Ben Johnson, through the Festina affair, Lance Armstrong, “Fraud” Landis and Operation Puerta right up to “bloodgate” and the various troubles that have beset the sport of kings of late. Each one a knife to the guts of a sports fan cursed with an interest in “minority sports”, that catch all term used to deride anything that isn’t football and only crosses the radar of non fans when something bad happens.
I’m not naive, I know betting takes place, hell I place a few cricket bets myself via http://www.cricketbetlive.com and, I’m not ashamed to admit, one of my first thoughts was as to whether or not my potential winning bet would be paid out in the light of the events unfolding, it wasn’t on no-balls and it was paid out! Betting will always happen, it seems to be part of the human psyche that whenever two raindrops run down a pane of glass, someone will bet on which one will reach the bottom first.
All that can be done, is to punish any players involved in draconian fashion, life bans being one option. In this I mean a life ban, not the Pakistan Cricket Board version of a life ban, which usually extends only as long as the PCB feel the team can go on losing without the banned player….generally a couple of matches. Heavy fines, and start by confiscating any money paid to them in order to carry out whatever action is being bet on.
At Lords it was only a couple of no-balls, but so amateurishly done that antennae started twitching automatically. But, this would be only the thin end of the wedge. Once a player is in someones control, the deeds can be upped, and if the suspicions of throwing the aforementioned Sydney test are correct, that just serves to show how far this can go. Sadly, the players of the Asian teams appear to be most at risk from these nefarious types, in part because of the financial situation (players in England, India and Australia tend to be well paid at the higher levels and thus somewhat immunised), and in part because Pakistan in particular is an unstable and volatile country where sourcing weapons and men versed in using them is a little easier than elsewhere, thus giving the fraudsters a stick with which to back up the carrot when approaching a player.
I also wonder about the News of The World. Whenever something like this breaks, it’s always the News of The World doing it. Sven Goran Ericksson, the Fake Sheikh, Laurence Dallaglio…there’s a long list of exposes they have broken, usually involving large sums of money. In their zeal to get a story, are they inadvertantly, or even advertantly, creating one? Sometimes, much as when the boy cried “wolf!”, I’m never sure.