The cricketing world was taken by surprise when the great Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne predicted a few hours before the crucial World Cup Group ‘A’ fixture between India and England that the match would result in a tie. Warne wrote on his Twitter page:“Looking forward to the game between India and England –should be a cracker,my prediction –a tie!”. To everyone’s surprise the match actually did turn out to be a nail biting tie when England equaled the Indian teams mammoth total of 338 runs,which at one point during the match seemed like an unachievable feat. During the press conference after the match Andrew Strauss,the England Captain jokingly shrugged off Warne’s prediction as a stroke of genius,but former Pakistan fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz said “Something is definitely up when you start predicting a tie instead of talking about who you think is going to win or lose a match. And especially when such a statement comes from someone as controversial as Shane Warne who,apart from his doping scandals and irresponsible statements in the media,has also been in trouble over being accused of taking money from an Indian bookmaker in return for pitch and weather information.”
In February 2011,the International Cricket Council tribunal had found the Pakistani trio –Salman Butt,Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir guilty of corruption. Former captain Butt was handed down a 10-year ban,with five out of the ten years suspended,Asif seven years –two suspended –and the 18 year old prodigy Amir five years. In the past few years,Pakistan has been at the center of attention for anything related to doping scandals,ball-tampering and match-fixing. In recent years Pakistani players have faced stern action on accounts of ball tampering and allegations related to match fixing.
India has been home to the major match-fixing scandals in cricket apart from this latest one involving the Pakistani trio. In 2000,the Delhi police intercepted a conversation between a blacklisted bookie and the South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje in which they learnt that Cronje accepted money to throw matches. The South African government refused to allow any of its players to face the Indian investigation unit. A court of inquiry was set up and Cronje admitted to throwing matches. He was immediately banned from all forms of cricket. During the inquiry Cronje also named Saleem Malik (Pakistan), Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja (India) to be part of the match-fixing scam. Malik and Azharuddin were handed down life bans whereas Jadeja was banned for 4 years.
Furthermore,Shane Warne has also been involved in a number of incidents on and off the field in his cricketing career. Out of all the incidents the most famous was his alleged interaction with an Indian Bookmaker. The Indian bookmaker known as “John”in 1994–95 gave money to Australian cricketers Mark Waugh and Shane Warne,in return for pitch and weather information. However,according to the players,they refused to divulge more strategic material,such as team tactics and player selection policies. The matter was initially covered up by the Australian Cricket Board (ACB),which decided that it was sufficient to privately fine the players. The ACB concluded that,since Waugh and Warne had previously accused Pakistani cricket captain Saleem Malik of attempting to bribe them to lose matches,their credibility as witnesses would be damaged if their own involvement with John was publicized. The ACB reported the matter to the International Cricket Council,and there the matter ended.
Adding fuel to the fire,a number of incidents during the England vs. India fixture were of suspicious nature. Both the teams are considered to be very good fielding sides but during the match the fielding was absolutely abysmal. Virendar Sehwag was dropped twice in the first over of the Indian innings and the fielding show put on by the Englishmen later on in the innings was exceptionally bad. Furthermore the crucial stumping chance missed by the England Wicketkeeper Matt Prior was a shocker. Furthermore,Andrew Straus’s during his infamous knock of 158 runs nicked the ball twice which landed in Mahendar Singh Dhoni’s hands but not even a single player from the Indian Outfit appealed. It seemed as if the Indians did not want Strauss to get out. The most surprising incident of the match was when on the last ball of the match England took a single even though they could have tried for a double to win the match. These incidents were either carefully orchestrated or were pure coincidence but despite all these facts the ICC’s Anti Corruption and Security Unit should launch a proper investigation. If Pakistani bowlers bowling no-balls can cause such a big stir in the cricketing world then this was a World-Cup match,where the stakes are at their highest.
Given the colorful past of the cricketer turned commentator Shane Warne it is baffling why a proper inquiry by the ICC has not been initiated up till now. This further augments the suspicion that ICC is biased towards some nations. What if Pakistani commentators Wasim Akram or Rameez Raja had made such a prediction? Would the ICC remain quiet if Pakisani Cricket pundits had made such a prediction? Would Andrew Strauss still shrug it off like a joke?
In a recent interview,another Pakistani Cricketer turned commentator accused the ICC of double standards and said “When our (Pakistan) players are implicated in match-fixing on the smallest of pretext by the authorities of the game,then why has Warne’s prediction about the ‘tie’ not raised any eyebrows in the ICC? To me,these are clear double standards from (ICC chief Haroon) Lorgat and Co. everyone knows that India is the hub of bookies and match-fixers,so we can’t just rule Warne’s comments out as ‘casual remarks’. But since this prediction comes from an Australian player it is declared a stroke of genius.”
Cricket has been scandalized by several gambling and match fixing allegations in recent years and most of these incidents have either happened in India or there have been definite links to Indian bookies. According to the head of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit Paul Condon,cricket is the most bet on sport in the world and fixing is found at every level of the sport and is a significant problem. In light of the current situation,where the integrity of cricket as a sport is at stake,it’s about time that the ICC should let go off its double standards and work on a solution to make cricket a clean and fair sport devoid of any scandals or fixed matches.
By Omar Farooque
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