Lord Condon stokes the fire of the fixing debate

Lord Condon, once the head of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, has upset plenty in England over his comments that match fixing was rife in English county cricket in the 1980’s.

He also claimed that tests and world cup matches were being fixed routinely in the late 1990’s and that every international team, at some stage, had someone doing some funny stuff.

I don’t dispute for a minute that there is more than a strong possibility that domestic matches were decided with nods, winks, and “we’ll go easy today in the county championship and you go easy in the Sunday league game” (usually in the middle of the county championship game) scenarios, back in the 1980’s, and they are still going on today to some extent with the manufactured run chases.

Back in the 1980’s, county cricket was more of an old boys club, no relegation worries, not so many financial worries (if memory serves me right), there was also fewer restrictions on gambling back then. There also wasn’t the explosion in gambling that we see today.

In short, it wouldn’t have been called match fixing back in those days.

It is a general allegation and it is easy for Condon to say that about the county championship back in those days, the problem is, that it is a damaging accusation to all those players of that era.

I’m sure that it could also be said that some players of that era were also racists, as the sort of language that is regarded as a racist slur these days, was (wrongly) seen as acceptable back then.

Does this mean that some/all players of this era were racists as well? This is the damage that sweeping allegations can do.

Times are different now, it doesn’t make it right, but all these things were accepted as the norm back in those days, so to retrospectively call it match fixing seems a bit harsh to me. It was probably a form of match fixing, but it can’t be compared to the multi-billion pound gambling industry that is attempting to organise spot-fixing these days.

Onto the international scene of tests and world cup matches in the 1990’s, and that’s a totally different scenario. No one could have been doing a county championship style ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ in test and world cup fixtures, the prospect of that is just totally incomprehensible.

In general, I don’t agree with Condon making sweeping statements (about county cricket), but in the instance of his international accusation, I don’t believe this to be a sweeping one. Condon said that every international team, at some stage, had someone doing some funny stuff. That’s a more specific accusation, it says to me that the ICC (may) know of, or suspect, certain individuals.

Lord Condon is a man of integrity and highly intelligent, I don’t believe him to be making outlandish statements just to gain publicity here.

Why he has said this without naming names? I don’t know, maybe there is not enough evidence, or maybe the evidence is word of mouth? These is probably never going to be a paper trail either.

It’s all well and good people like David Lloyd getting their knickers in a twist over this insinuation, but what’s the alternative, say nothing and continue to bury all the collective heads?

I wish that if Condon has strong evidence he would say who he alleges is guilty and get this all out in the open, also to give the accused the opportunity to clear their names, I know that he probably won’t though due to legal reasons.

One possible scenario that would shed some light on all this would be a Parliamentary Select Committee investigation. Lord Condon would have to be called in light of what he has said and the work he did in the anti corruption unit, I do believe that he would also have Parliamentary immunity from prosecution and so would be free to name names.

The English FA in football have recently had to give evidence to a Select Committee about how it is run, so why not cricket?

After all cricket is a national sport, it’s reputation is currently getting dragged through the gutter, so why shouldn’t Parliament get involved?

Will Ijaz Butt go this time?

I see that former ICC member Ehsan Mani of Pakistan is demanding the resignation of Ijaz Butt, blaming Butt and the PCB for their part in (as he calls it) the end of the careers of the three players suspended today.

Ultimately the three players took the bait themselves, there can be no doubt about that and they have to take a good look at themselves and accept responsibility for their own actions. But I do believe that the PCB must also accept their fair share of the blame.

Afterall it happened under their supervision. It also happen under Ijaz Butt’s watch. Can Butt and the PCB really claim to have done as much as possible to prevent this?

The answer is clearly no. Otherwise why did ICC feel the need to issue them with a stern warning last October and tell them to toughen up their attitude towards corruption?

If this happened in England, I’m sure that the top brass at the ECB would be expected to fall on their swords – although looking at the current incumbents and their track records, I’m not 100% sure they would.

Imran Khan has repeatedly called for change at the top of Pakistan cricket, maybe this is the incident to finally make people there wake up and rid the PCB of all the dead wood and to start running it like a professional organisation.

They have a chance now to wipe the slate clean and show that they are serious about stamping corruption out. Lets hope they take it.

World cricket needs Pakistan, but not as much as Pakistan needs world cricket.
A decent Pakistan team that people believed in, with the raw talent they have at their disposal would make world cricket a far better and stronger place.

But people would have to be able to believe in them, believe what they are watching to be true, as without that trust we have no game.

This has been a shameful event for cricket, I will never forget the sight of Michael Holding all but breaking down in tears live on Sky Sports while discussing this scandal the day it broke.

Here was a cricketing legend, a big strong minded guy, reduced to tears about what was happening to the game he loves. It was an awful sight.

The most worrying aspect of all this, is that some people still don’t seem to get it. I have already read a report where people in Pakistan are claiming that the three are totally innocent. In fact reading the remarks made by a couple of the lawyers, I’m not sure that the tribunal totally get it either.

The fact that the tribunal wrote in it’s report that it recommended to the ICC certain changes to the Code with a view to providing flexibility in relation to minimum sentences in exceptional circumstances, is worrying. So far this has already given two of the lawyers the belief that their clients would have got leaner sentences had they had the power to do so.

They have all basically got the minimum 5 year tariffs, never mind the headline grabing 10 years ban for Salman Butt, he could be back playing in another four and a half years.

Rather than being thankful that they didn’t get the worst case scenarios of life bans, they would appear to be off the opinion that they have been treated harshly. So far Amir’s lawyer has already come out and said he will appeal, Butt’s has intimated that he will also do so. How long before Asif as well? Unbelievable.

Not so fast Salman

So Salman Butt went round some of the Pakistani TV channels last weekend telling anyone who cared to listen that ICC didn’t have a shred of evidence against him, that they were relying on the NOTW video and that the video dosen’t incriminate him in any way.

Personally, I haven’t bothered to bore myself watching the video. Mainly because I’m not convinced that what I would be watching would be the whole video, rather than just an edited version to make the 3 players look guilty.

What can be taken for certain though, is the fact that the police have now handed a second file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service. So if Butt thinks that all that is going against him is the video, he could be mistaken. His bravado and confidence could be very badly misplaced.

Also, I’m fairly sure that ICC wouldn’t have revealed their own evidence in last weeks hearing, as it had nothing to do with whether Butt was guilty or not. It is naive of Butt to say that.

There is one point on which I will agree with Butt on and that is that he is innocent until proven otherwise, he is maintaining that he is already being presumed guilty, I think that is true of fans and media alike and it is unfair.

"This is Pakistan being cornered.”

Thats the opinion of Salman Butt about ICC after his and Mohammad Amir’s bans were upheld at a hearing in Dubai last weekend.

This wasn’t their actual hearing into match-fixing, it was an attempt by the players to get their suspensions lifted while the investigations into the alledged match-fixing continues.

They have every right to do this, but surely they would have been doing the game of cricket a favour by just letting the investigation take place without any added interference or unwelcome attention.

Butt is also quoted as saying “They listened to us but it felt as if their decision had already been made from before. It was not based on a single piece of evidence. After a 12-hour hearing the only so-called evidence they had was the same News Of The World article and the same video everyone has seen.”

Amir also criticized ICC, saying, “To me it appeared as if this is a conspiracy to defame Pakistan cricket. I am hurt and sad because we want the truth to come out.” That sounds more like the sort of language we would normally get from Ijaz Butt.

Salman Butt’s comments give an indication to the probable make up of the main basis on which his defence will be built. He is basically saying ‘Where is the real evidence?’ It gives the impression that his lawyers have told him that the NOTW video isn’t the strongest or most reliable evidence to build a successful case on.

This is probably why the players are being so brash and confident in their public declarations of innocence. Like in the John Higgins’ match-fixing case in Snooker, it is very hard to prove guilt.

Also, is the NOTW evidence good enough for the Crown Prosecution to get a conviction in the UK? Or have the Police gathered more evidence?

If the answer to these questions in No, then the 3 players must think that they have a great chance of getting off with ICC as well. If the evidence isn’t good enough to find them guilty in a Court of Law, then how can ICC find them guilty?

The answer to that is that ICC’s criteria for a guilty verdict probably isn’t as stringent as a UK Court of Law’s is. Although a ‘Not Guilty’ in UK law, against a ‘Guilty’ verdict from ICC would surely lead to a legal appeal by the 3 players.

Although, again referring back to the John Higgens’ case, there is always the option to fudge the whole thing and hit them with a convenient lesser charge, should the evidence not be strong enough for the match-fixing charge to hold up.

This is where I can see problems ahead for ICC, they really need the British Police to unearth some new damning evidence.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect this sorry episode to be resolved anytime soon!

Are Pakistan now Fixing Victories?

This is starting to get ridiculous now. The news that ICC are investigating scoring paterns in Friday’s ODI at the Oval where Pakistan beat England, looks on the surface a little bit of an over reation.

Apparently the evidence they received did happen, but just how wide ranging was this evidence?

Anyone could guess that two wickets might fall in the first 8 overs, or that between 60 and 70 runs will be scored between the 20th and 30th overs, it’s a calculated guess. It dosen’t mean that it’s credible evidence though.

Obviously I don’t know how credible or accurate the information is, but at the moment there must be chancers out there who are trying their best to create a story out of nothing.

I can understand ICC making sure they are seen to be acting in a responsible manner, as at the moment cricket’s integrity is on the line.

But they can’t get drawn into investigating everything, or where will it end? What next, will there be investigations into people predicting what route the coach takes to the ground? It could be never ending.

One thing that is for certain, is the fact that since the original allegations this is the way it’s going to be with Pakistan for the foreseeable future. Anything they do is going to be treated with an element of suspicion, a stupid run out, a dropped catch, a wide, etc.

I’m afraid it’s the price they are going to have to pay after what has happened recently.