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The big cover-up

CLICHES are something to be avoided like poison but in this case one does indeed fit the bill: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

More than anything, the revelation that both Mark Waugh and Shane Warne took money from an Indian bookmaker (it doesn't make a difference whether he was a licensed or unlicensed bloke) tends to cast a cloud over their own testimony to the bribery inquiry in Lahore.

What credibility do such witnesses have? And if the Australian board concealed such information, which is definitely relevant to the question of a bribery inquiry, how much more is hidden in its vaults? It may have happened during the time of Graham Halbish but the present ACB head cannot disclaim responsibility.

It would be interesting to find out who leaked the information to David Hookes who broke the story on a radio program. No matter who it was, the timing was very good; a Test match starts on December 11.

It would also be interesting to see the reaction of the sponsors and media outlets which have these two players on their rolls. Will their commercial potential suffer or will it just be shrugged off?

One wonders at the stupidity of the cricketers involved. It should be evident to all and sundry that a bookmaker does not inquire about weather conditions at a city hosting international cricket because he wants to catch a tan. And no bookie asks about pitch conditions because he is thinking of taking up farming and values a report on soil conditions.

In all fairness, the two should be suspended while an independent inquiry is carried out to ascertain whether any further similar skeletons exist in the ACB cupboard. This was the punishment meted out to Salim Malik when he was accused of match fixing; the Australian pair may not be accused of match fixing but then does anybody know now for certain that they were not involved at that level as well?

This whole business of secrecy has opened a big can of worms. At the time it happened, the ACB should have come clean; it would only have earned plaudits for its action. Four years on, after it has acted the lily-white angel and attempted to portray the players in its employ as similar heavenly beings, it will only earn sound condemnation. Indeed, from now on each and every act of this board will be dissected raw and every possible motive will be attributed to its actions.

The ACB's bid to assert that the matter is closed is of little use. Things like this do not go away in a hurry. Warne and Waugh will have to carry this albatross round their necks for a long, long time. No less an Australian cricket personage than Richie Benaud has gone on record as saying he was "appalled" to learn that the two players had sold details of team selections and playing conditions to bookmakers and that the ACB had covered it up. His reaction will definitely have a lot to do with what happens hereafter.