New Delhi: With the international cricketing world still smarting from recent media exposes that once again highlighted the well-established nexus between match fixers and players, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has claimed that it is leaving no stone unturned to check corruption in the game.
It is believed that betting syndicates from Asia got access to four test captains in the past 12 months and explored the possibility of compromising them and the sanctity of the game.
ICC’s annual report has revealed some details of its own investigations without disclosing their names.
Unregulated betting markets
In addition to this, ICC sources The Wire spoke to have revealed that the bulk of the investigations centred around bookies from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and UAE.
The bookies made a number of attempts to fix games between June 1, 2017, and May 31, 2018.
The ICC’s annual report for 2017-18 says corruption in cricket is spreading and the unregulated betting markets in the Asian sub-continent are primarily responsible for this malice.
According to the the July issue of Gfiles, the illegal betting market has ballooned to a staggering Rs. 900,000 crore as per the latest report of Doha-based International Council for Sports Security (ICSS), a sports integrity watchdog that has worked closely with the Indian Super League (ISL).
The ICC annual report for 2017-18, released earlier this month, points out that there has been a substantial increase in the number of the investigations conducted by its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).
The ACSU conducted a total of 18 investigations, which is the highest ever in the history of the ICC. In five instances, it found the involvement of officials in attempts to fix matches.
The only redeeming conclusion is that no player has been found to have been involved during this period.
The investigation concluded: “Individuals who are not directly involved with cricket have had their corrupt activities disrupted.”
Thirteen cases are still under investigation. These include sting operations conducted by Al Jazeera exposing a Sri Lankan groundsman and a player agreeing to ‘fix’ the pitch for monetary gains. Following the revelations Cricket Sri Lanka has suspended both that accused.
ICC, however, seems to be satisfied with the results of its education programme.
As the annual report suggests, there had been a welcome increase in the reporting of suspicious activity by players during 2017-18.
“It is vital that there is a strong deterrent to both players and administrators to ensure we have high standards of conduct in our game,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar. “We have more than a billion fans and we must not give any of them any reason to doubt the high levels of integrity within our sport.”
Recent investigations show that the mushrooming of T-20 leagues have made young players vulnerable to outside influence that could lead to match fixing. During the preceding one year period, a total of 1,468 players were educated by the ASCU at 12 international events, including the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Bringing an end to honey trapping
ICC sources say that the bookies that try to ‘honey trap’ young players, to alter the course of matches, remain a big challenge.
The ICC’s anti-corruption code places due emphasis on educating young cricketers about various ways to avoid getting into honey traps, which are often later used as a blackmailing tool to exert influence on the players.
Following the 2013 IPL fixing scandal, investigators found that a bookie introduced a young woman to a Rajasthan player, who enjoyed her company during the course of the tournament. The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) too has warned players of all age groups against such misadventures.
To this effect the BCCI released a handbook, ‘Hundred Things a Professional Cricketer Must Know’, in September last year containing such warnings and alerts.
“In the context of approaches, you should also be aware of the practices of ‘grooming’ and ‘honey trapping’. Grooming includes the giving of gifts and building of an apparent relationship of trust from an early age or for a long period of time,” it reads. “This builds obligation and a false trust, which will be exploited later.”
It further warns, “Honey trapping includes the provision of sexual favours and otherwise putting someone in a compromised or embarrassing position that provides an opportunity for blackmail at a later stage. Such a circumstance may seriously compromise your decision making and expose you to integrity breaches.”
While cricket administrators are upping their game to counter the threat of match fixing, it’s clear that they have an uphill battle on their hands.
Jasvinder Sidhu is a freelance investigative journalist.