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Good Lord, where did they find these men?

THE more I hear about the men at the helm of cricket in England, the more I understand why English cricket is in the dumps. If the various chiefs of the ECB have the type of intelligence which has been on display in recent days, then you don't need much else to ensure that the game remains in a parlous condition. I don't know exactly what cricketing credentials Lord McLaurin or Tim Lamb have. Or whether they have any at all. One has a title and that probably makes him suitable to the establishment.

But when it comes to logic, these gentlemen (and I use the term advisedly) aren't really all there. With each passing day the testimony that bookmaker Mukesh Gupta gave to the Indian federal investigation agency, the CBI, is being corroborated; to the ECB blokes, this is all the more reason to hold an investigation to check the veracity of the testimony in the same CBI report! Strange reasoning? Remember, McLaurin held a brief telephone conversation with Alec Stewart and came away proclaiming the innocence of the former England captain with such vehemence that even Stewart had the grace to speak out and say that the conversation had indeed been brief.

A litle history first. The Indian board was uncomfortable with the criticisms levelled at it by the CBI and so this body which runs Indian cricket decided to hold their own fig-leaf inquiry. They appointed a former CBI chappie, K. Madhavan, to handle things. Essentially, the board wanted to show that it is serious about this business of cleaning up cricket. It also wanted a report which cast no aspersions on its personnel.

The five cricketers who were named in the CBI report have all come to Madhavan and none of them has contradicted the findings of the detective agency. In fact, Mohammed Azharuddin has admitted that he did much more than what the report says, if Indian papers are to be believed. Remember that most of the evidence in the CBI report is from one person - bookie Gupta.

With every passing day, it looks as though Gupta has not spoken a false word. His account of Hansie Cronje's perfidy was true, word for word. And now it appears that what he testified about five Indian cricketers also falls into the same category. On the balance, does it appear more probable - or less likely - that his allegations about other cricketers are true?

Back to the officials who administer the game in Great Britain. All these developments, to them, are proof that the CBI report cannot be taken seriously. Yes, that is their conclusion. Else, how can one account for the fact that Sir Paul Condon (another symbol of the establishment who presided over Scotland Yard at a time when it was deemed to have institutionalised racism in its ranks), head of the ICC's match-fixing investigation unit, now wants to check the veracity of the CBI report? Even the man appointed by the Australian board to investigate match-fixing has followed advice from Condon and not yet questioned Mark Waugh about the recent allegations against him. Greg Melick is involved in a coordinated international investigation into the scandal and will meet other independent investigators in London next month.

Melick is coordinating his inquiries with the work of Condon's Anti-Corruption Unit, which is now said to be re-examining the credibility of the latest allegations from India. Yes, that's right, the word is credibility! And this is confirmed by the fact that McLaurin says Condon has halted questioning of players named in the CBI report while his investigators reassess the credibility of evidence in the report.

The reasoning runs thus: let's assume that I am a bookie and I make 10 allegations about 10 cricketers. Six of these scandalous statements prove to be true. Based on this, you, dear reader, conclude that what I say lacks credibility in toto. Even my five-year-old son can see the flaw in this kind of reasoning. If I try to trick him this way, he will also shout at me: "Dad, you're annoying me, do you think I'm dumb?" But the men who run British cricket - no way can they see a fault in this reasoning. The Biblical King Solomon could have learnt a thing or two from them.

At the same time, the Brits are scared that some of the mud thrown at Stewart may stick. So Lamb comes out with a clarification about McLaurin's declaration about Stewart being as pure as the virgin snow. He tells us: "Stewart has categorically denied allegations and we have no means to judge whether he is telling the truth or not but we believe him."

This is basically a question of covering one's backside. If Stewart is found guilty, here is the fig leaf they need. If he is proved to be innocent, then they have the same fig leaf to show. Is it a wonder that the game has sunk to such depths in England?

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