A big day for the H word

HYPOCRISY. That one word sums up the reaction to the anti-corruption inquiry report that has been submitted by Paul Condon to the International Cricket Conference. This is nothing new as cynicism of a very high order is known to prevail where money is present in such quantities as it is in cricket today.

England's reaction is typical. MacLaurin was on the BBC saying that any player found guilty of involvement should get nothing less than a life ban from the game. "No six months business," were his words, an obvious dig at the South Africans who banned Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams for precisely that period of time.(Gibbs is now back in the team and up for further punishment as he was caught smoking marijuana during the tour of the West Indies.)

But what MacLaurin failed to mention was the fact that Alec Stewart who was accused of having taken money for providing information in the report issued a long time back by India's Central Bureau of Investigation - the report that led to this whole perfidious operation being blown wide open - has not even been questioned yet by Condon or officials of the English board.

The Australians are not far behind. The Regan report that has suddenly surfaced mentions that Mark Waugh gave information to an Indian bookie on 10 different occasions; he is quoted as having told Warne "meet John, he bets on cricket" at the time he introduced his partner in crime to the Indian bookmaker. Yet the protestations of innocence, that he and Warne did not know that there was anything other than harmless information being sought, has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Australian officials. Or else, people are deliberately choosing to turn a blind eye.

What of the Pakistanis? They did their bit for the cause as well and set up an inquiry into the World Cup matches which they are supposed to have thrown in 1999 - just a day before Condon was to release his report! Coincidence? Or a cynical ploy? You be the judge, gentle reader.

I am sure that the Indian board is patting itself on the back and saying that it is the only one which can claim to have done something concrete about fixing. I am also certain that the board has no reason to be smug for the simple reason that it did nothing until the CBI got in on the act. And I am pretty sure it would have done nothing except to save its own skin if Hansie Cronje had not been trapped by the police.

Even though the South Africans conducted an inquiry, it has become a farce. Gibbs is back after a shamefully short suspension. The inquiry commission has been hijacked. And all this while there is enough smoke to justify claims that what Cronje disclosed was just the very least of his activities. It is a sad commentary on South Africa that nothing has been done to get him to make a clean breast of everything he knows.

The West Indies have done nothing till now even though there have been numerous claims about Brian Lara being involved in shady activities. He is probably too much of a holy cow to be touched in the Caribbean. New Zealand has done nothing about the allegations against Martin Crowe either, apart from merely accepting what he has said as the truth. The Sri Lankan players accused have thumbed their noses at the ICC and got away with it.

Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are too recent to the scene to be involved in the fixing game but, believe me, they do not have to be around too long to be approached. Fixing is a game played for very high stakes, the players are international operators and the sums they pay out are enough to set a man up for life.

Malcolm Gray can look as solemn as he likes and declare that things are better now than they were a year ago. This is self-delusion. The match-fixers do not give a damn about the ICC, Gray or Condon. They are far too slick and well organised to care about these amateurs who are only good at trumpeting non-achievements to the media. If anyone was naive enough to think that the exposure and banning of three cricketers would act as a deterrent, then it only shows how innocent they are of how the real world of betting operates.

Once the Sharjah inquiry declares that the emirate is squeaky clean, what is the ICC going to do? Will it prosecute individual players? Even if it does, there will come a stage when the fixers feel threatened. It will be interesting to see what happens then. Anybody want to offer me odds on the outcome?

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