ONE of the safest bets to have taken in recent times would have been that the ICC would set up a committee/commission to investigate match-fixing. You could have dished out your life savings safely and got it all back with a little besides. The august body that runs cricket worldwide met with unseeemly alacrity and duly agreed to form a committee. So what else is new?
There has also been agreement on life bans on those found guilty of match-fixing. Here's another safe bet -- I'll give you odds of a thousand to one that nobody will ever get this punishment. Certainly not in my lifetime. But it sounds impressive doesn't it? That, in the main, is the point. Stern punishment -- remember the countless times when Bill Clinton has said that the US "is not ruling out any options" and then looked the other way when some butcher or the other slaughtered his own countrymen? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to international cricket diplomacy. This is the United Nations all over again.
It all sounds so very similar to the way a national government reaction to a crisis. The only difference is that a government would probably have gone one step further and made some poor sod the scapegoat. The ICC cannot do that because cricketers are among the elite in every country. And each board will be more than willing to bat for its own players.
Pakistan has been given five weeks to submit the report of its inquiry into match-fixing. Five weeks to submit a report which has already been submitted to the country's government!!! Why do they need five weeks? So that the Pakistani authorities can ensure that no feathers are ruffled when the report finally comes out? Or to give them time to water it down? Who will know whether what finally emerges (if, indeed, anything does) is the real thing?
And what of the two weather reporters, Shane Warne and Mark Waugh? Oh, they get off scot-free. What of Cronje? His bolt has already been shot. No more cricket for him. Like many wealthy South Africans he may migrate somewhere and begin life anew. Remember that skilful PR made Richard Milhous Nixon something of a saint by the time he died. Cronje's sins are much less in comparison.
If the ICC was serious about cutting out this cancer that has made cricket a farce, then it should have cut down on offshore one-day cricket tournaments. That is the cause, match-fixing is just an effect. If you have a boil on your foot and get fever as a result, there is no point treating the fever. You have to lance the boil. This the ICC does not have the guts to do. The kind of verbal fan dance which went on in London will do nothing to stop match-fixing. Indeed, it will only encourage those involved because they would have realised that even when the ICC was faced with the most serious crisis in its existence, it chose to appear to do something, not really get to the root of the problem.
If the former Indian board chief, I.S. Bindra, had nothing of substance in his files, why did the ICC not invite him to present his evidence and then hold him up to ridicule? Bindra, it must be recalled, was an ardent backer of Dalmiya when the latter made his first bid for the ICC post in 1996 and later fell out with him. Whatever the background, here was a former cricket administrator who had travelled to London on his own and made tall claims that he had material to prove that some people were guilty. Why not call his bluff? The point is was it a bluff?
Notice that even after Bindra went public with claims that Kapil Dev offered Manoj Prabhakar a bribe, the former Indian captain did not threaten legal action. The other three Indian cricketers named by an Indian magazine -- Nayan Mongia, Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja -- have not made any legal moves either.
South Africa has already announced its inquiry will begin sitting next week and probably finish its job by June 10 and publish an interim report by June 30. But I wouldn't advise anybody to hold their breath in anticipation. Australia has made a big noise about domestic cricketers also being subject to scrutiny. Of course, the bigger the stink in your house, the more perfume you have to spray in the air. Australia is fairly desperate to ensure that the dreaded words "Mark Waugh and Shane Warne" do not figure too prominently in the media right now.
What was the whole point of the ICC meeting in such haste? Oh, when a bushfire is burning, the firemen have to rush to the scene. They can douse the flames or put sand on it and leave it smouldering. The public must not feel that the firemen are not doing their job -- which is not to prevent fires but to put them out when they break out. This the ICC has done. It has doused the fires in the media and a few months down the line the noise which has been heard for some time will die down. And then we can all start looking at the odd happenings on the field and wondering. Somebody out there in Sharjah must be having a damn good laugh.