Match-fixing: passing the buck

NEARLY four months ago, the cricket world woke up to the fact that there was something called dirty linen inside its cupboard. And though there has been much jaw since then by administrators, players and the media, we are still stuck in that age-old sport of trying to pass the blame, of trying to make out that we are lily-white while the other guy is the one to blame.

Nothing else can account for the two programs shown recently on Australian TV channels, one on a commercial station and the other on the tax payer-funded ABC. Both programs deserve some examination.

The commercial station, Channel Nine, cut a deal with Hansie Cronje (he is no stranger to these things) and broadcast what it called a world exclusive interview. Nothing very exclusive about it in the end; Cronje was still out there trying to convince people that even though he took money and hid it here and there, he never actually threw a match. As far as I am concerned, you can tell that tale to my five-year-old son when he asks for a fairy tale at bedtime.

The program earned a good bit of flak for the simple reason that the matter of payment to Cronje was not disclosed. But these things generally surface the way oil floats when in water, and sums in the region of $A200,000 are now being mentioned as having been paid to Cronje's lawyer. In this age of semantics and double-speak, it is difficult to figure out who is speaking anything close to the truth; the fact remains that the program turned out to be a damp squib.

ABC TV promised much but in the end all that it delivered was one of those stereotyped 45-minute shows, one that attempted to show that fixing only lives in the subcontinent. Despite the fact that at least four residents of this country -- gentlemen bearing the names of Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, Dean Jones and Ricky Ponting -- have had contact with bookmakers, and two of them have admitted to taking money from one bookie, not one of them figured on the program.

No South African cricketer or administrator figured in the program either. That is not surprising, considering that Australia and South Africa have much in common. But then there was no man from the West Indies or England in the picture either. There was a focus on Pakistan and India. All that emerged was old hat; the print media have already shouted themselves hoarse about these things. In fact, the Indian media have not spared their own in any way.

Malcolm Gray, the new ICC president was grilled a bit on the ABC program, but was allowed to hem and haw his way out of things. The same went for the wily David Richards. Jagmohan Dalmiya was not interviewed. Basically, one came away wondering when a mature attitude will be adopted, one that sees fixing for what it is -- a universal cancer which has to be weeded out by joint efforts.

For instance, one inconvenient question which could well be asked in Australia itself is why did the Indian bookie John single out Warne and Mark Waugh? Did he know them earlier? Were there earlier contacts of which the public still knows nothing? Why is there a studied silence about these aspects of the case?

Why has the South African inquiry halted? And why for so long? Allowing people time to regroup in a case like this is a sign that politics is coming into play. Is this inquiry going to end up like the farce which was gone through in India? There is big money and a lot of powerful people involved, bear that in mind.

When are people going to realise that while there may be bookies operating from India and Pakistan, there must be at least double their number among the players and administrators in order to make the system work? Simply put, there has to be both a bribe-giver and a bribe-taker. Else, the euqation does not balance out.

Much is being made of the fact that the ICC has appointed a former British police commissioner as its anti-corruption ombudsman. The illuminating fact that this man was head of a police force that was found to have institutionalised racism in its ranks has not been made available for mass consumption.

Six months from now, don't be too surprised if there is a schism in world cricket. One that makes Kerry Packer's pyjama parties look like a weekend on a river boat. With the kind of name calling that is going on, it is only to be expected.