Whom is the ICC trying to con this time?

MALCOLM Gray's appearance on the ICC circuit has given many commentators cause for hope. Exactly why this is so is difficult to comprehend. If the wool has not been pulled from their eyes by the ICC's latest exercise in cynicism, then nothing will ever disabuse them of this fanciful notion.

In case you don't know what I am referring to, the subject under discussion is the ICC executive committee meeting and the decisions which were taken by the honourable members. I refer in particular to the moves on the report tendered by his lordship, Sir Paul Condon.

The report about corruption in the game which Condon cobbled together was a masterpiece of hypocrisy. The ICC has accepted it in toto - never mind that this gentleman (and I use the word advisedly) spent a year travelling the globe to put together this tome, one that I could have written sitting in the comfort of my home. For that matter, any cricket writer could have done as well, if not better.

But here comes the best part of the con. Condon has spent a tidy sum of ICC money, taken a year to put together this shambles of a report, and now cannot depend on his own judgement to name names! And this man, we are told, earned his present commission because he was a former head of Scotland Yard. If this is so, then standards have fallen at the Yard.

So what does he do? He catches hold of the feeblest of straws - Mukesh Gupta - and says that if Gupta does not testify before July 1, then all the allegations that he (Gupta) has raised will be more or less considered so much balderdash. The tragedy is, the media and the public are dumb enough to swallow this and keep quiet.

Condon's move is worth examining in detail. Let's remember that Gupta did not go to anybody with a list of allegations. He was doing his thing - bookmaking, fixing matches, selling jewellery, whatever. He was ordered to provide evidence by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation. Any person residing within the borders of India has to abide by the somewhat chaotic law of the land and under these laws Gupta was asked to testify. He did so only to avoid being forced to come before the CBI. That is why he testified - he was not dying to make any allegations.

And so, Gupta really doesn't give a fig-leaf whether his allegations are proven true or not. If he spoke to the ICC anti-corruption officials when they were in India, it is only because he did not want to get on the wrong side of the Indian CBI. He has to live in the country after all. He is not out to cleanse cricket of anything - if anything, he would prefer that more people volunteer to fix matches. So why should he come forward and substantiate his allegations? (The scary thing is that every word he spoke about the ones who have been exposed so far has been the gospel truth.)

The ICC anti-corruption unit was set up with a great deal of fanfare. What is its job? If I understand it right (and I may well be wrong) the unit has to investigate the sources of corruption in the game and try to eradicate the scourge. Gupta gave this so-called crack unit plenty to go on. It is the work of the unit to investigate. It is NOT the work of the unit to ask Gupta to prove that the allegations are right. He does not work for them.

This whole exercise is thus slowly being turned around. The ICC says Gupta has a deadline of July 1 to come forward and prove his allegations. This is laughable. It is something akin to me telling my five-year-old son to prove that he spilt his glass of milk - else his word will never be trusted. In making this fiat, I conveniently pass over my duty as his father, to ascertain whether he has done the deed or not.

Malcolm Gray is an active participant in this sham. When Malcolm Speed arrives, he will definitely be able to garnish the dish. All these folk are of the same ilk as Lord MacLaurin, the man who "ascertained" that Alec Stewart was innocent merely by making a phone call to the stand-in England captain (a local call, I am told, not even an STD call) and asking him whether he was guilty or not! Speed did as much recently when there were allegations of racism against Glenn McGrath.

Jagmohan Dalmiya is no angel in my book; I have been a harsh critic of the man both before he darkened the portals of the ICC and while he was the chairman. But in what way are Gray and the rest of this gang different? They are also fiddling while things happen. They are probably using better PR advisers, they will go down better with the media because they are white. When it comes to deception and sleight of hand, they are probably more glib. To use a cliche, old wine in sparkling new bottles.

More than anything, the ICC is desperate to push this whole match-fixing millstone over a convenient cliff and get on with the business of making money, something which it does under the name of running the game of cricket. The deadline has been set with this in mind. I just have one word of advice for you, dear reader: if anyone gives you any kind of odds on Gupta turning up, bet your life savings against him doing so. You cannot lose on this one.

Next story