Gentleman’s Game or a Middleman’s Playground?

“XXX”; “Murky”; “Sleazy”; “Sexual Favours”……No this is not a concise review of an online pornographic release. Yet these are not words that one usually attaches to a game of cricket either – normally. But we are not living in placid or normal times. The former New Zealand international Lou Vincent’s damning confessions before the Anti Corruption and Security Unit (“ACSU) bear ample testimony to the fact that the gentleman’s game is now a middleman’s playground. A boiling cauldron where webs of deceit are woven, dainty damsels rule the roost and dollar bills decide overstepping the popping crease and the outcome of a game. Cricket, once pure and unadulterated is now firmly trapped in a miasma of rot and ruffians.

The innocuous colours of bat handles and ingenious rotation of strikes are now perverse symbols of rancid undercover dealings. A mow towards cow corner or a misdirected delivery represents not indiscriminate or indignant follies, but discreet and unrepentant acts of greed. The vice like grip of vulturine bookmakers on the game is now complete. It is time to act before such a deadly clutch totally asphyxiates and annihilates this beautiful gift to the world of sport. The time for instituting token probes and timid investigations are long past. An iron hand has to be wielded and wielded without care or concern. The prostitution of cricket at the altar of rapacious middlemen ought to be nipped in the bud.

We are at a crucial cross road that would determine the future of cricket. The untrammeled commercialization and unashamed bastardisation threaten to unhinge the game of its very sanctity. “Fixers” and betting syndicates have permeated every level of the game and patiently abide their time in the form of unsuspecting Trojan horses. The ICC needs to step in and step in urgently. However the indications provided by world cricket’s governing body are far from comforting. A proposal has been instituted to review the functioning of the ACSU by cricket’s three ‘big daddies’ with the watchdog being possibly asked to report directly to the chairman of the board rather than the chief executive of the ICC. This astonishingly means that the ACSU might find itself reporting to a powerful individual who has been severely chastised by the Supreme Court of his own nation in addition to being ordered to relinquish his position as the President of the Controlling Body for Cricket!  A laughable and damning proposition if ever there was one!

The ICC instead would do well to identify an internationally acclaimed independent body capable of possessing the requisite resources and boasting a proven record of handling cases of financial racketeering and corruption. By a charter, this body may be bestowed with independent powers to handle all investigations and issue a final report. It may even be constituted as a Company for the limited purposes of conducting a probe, and to be dissolved after its purpose has been fulfilled. The ICC’s tentacles ought not to be an interfering irritant in the functioning of this entity. The officers constituting this body need to be provided with all relevant assistance including immunity from prosecution. Based on the findings of this independent body, the action to prosecute the guilty may be taken and given effect to by the appropriate Courts under the relevant statutes and legislations.

The Vincents’ and the XXX’s of the cricketing world are undeserving of either sympathy or forgiveness. Their dangerous dalliances with the worshipper’s of Mammon have brought cricket down on to its haunches. Revelations and confessions do not detract from the damage and disrepute that have wreaked havoc. Only firm measures of deterrent would restore confidence and resurrect belief. Until such time a seemingly bland signal by a batsman towards his dressing room could mean just that – a signal of moral decay, ignoble decadence and dissipation of faith.

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