What has become of the game that was for so long synonymous with being a gentleman? It has lurched from one scandal to another over the past twenty years with each new one being more damaging than the previous.
At the turn of the last century cricket was indeed a game for gentlemen, and the laws were adhered to and respected. The Packer era saw the players finally receive the financial rewards their skills warranted, but the code of behaviour started to become eroded. It was at this time that the trust that existed between the press and the players was destroyed by the new kids on the block working for the new tabloid newspapers in Britain. Suddenly what happened on tour went on the cover of a tabloid! It has sadly slipped further and further since then, with umpires now receiving the minimal amount of respect, and the arbitrators actually encouraging the players to challenge their decisions!
Match fixing has been borne out of greed, and like sportsmen from other codes, those with talent not necessarily having the education to know what is wrong and what is right. Those running the game in the last ten to fifteen years have a lot to answer for.
The Australian authorities handling of the “Weather reports” supplied by Messer’s Warne and Mark Waugh, showed that suspending your best players could affect your revenue at the gate and so that could not possibly happen. The ICC has also taken a head in the sand approach and let the problems escalate to almost irretrievable levels.
Now they are suggesting having ‘undercover bookies’ to try and see which players actually report the approaches made to them. What an absolutely ridiculous proposal, and one that could in fact assist the problem rather than ease it.
There is the famous story told by Bruce Yardley about his time as coach of Sri Lanka, when Aravinda Da Silva, a fine player of spin bowling, came forward at a team meeting and told the team he had been approached to lose his wicket the next day. He was applauded for coming forward and being honest with the team. The next day he was bowled for nought, by a spinner!
Now this may have been unfortunate for Da Silva, but it illustrates the point that a player can report an illegal approach, but still be in a position to influence a game or the state of play.
Cricket’s administrators have taken too long to react, but now they should not tell the world what they are going to do, giving those who wish to tarnish the game the heads up; they should instigate a plan to weed out the undesirables, but make us aware of the fact after they have uncovered them, not before.
The one thing that you could always rely a gentleman to be was discreet, the ICC should remember that.