Fragile NZ cricketer a dream for match-fixer

By Dylan Cleaver

Former NZ international batsman a recidivist fixer but poor recruiter.

Lou Vincent coming clean does not make him a hero-he is now a confirmed cheat. Photo /Brett Phibbs
Lou Vincent coming clean does not make him a hero-he is now a confirmed cheat. Photo /Brett Phibbs

Fragile, erratic and most of all achingly lonely, Lou Vincent was the match-fixer's dream.

Shocking details have emerged of Vincent's complicity in the nefarious world of spot and match-fixing, the nadir in a career defined by exhilarating highs and ludicrous lows.

As Vincent's role in this shadowy world takes more definition, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: the former international batsman was not only a recidivist fixer, he was also a poor one. His recruitment record is awful.

Nearly every player Vincent, now 35, tried to co-opt, said "no" and subsequently reported the approach. These include Mal Loye, a former England player who played with Vincent at Lancashire.

The Herald can today reveal that Vincent also approached an unnamed Auckland teammate at the Champions League in 2012 in South Africa. It was this act, and the subsequent reporting of it to anti-corruption officials, that saw investigators close in on Vincent.

The International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit (ASCU) questioned Vincent for the first time in South Africa.

The wheels were then set in motion for what is shaping as the biggest sports scandal in New Zealand history and the biggest crisis cricket has faced since the Hansie Cronje affair in 2000.

And in the middle of it all stands Vincent, the ultra-talented, yet flighty, right-handed batsman who scored a century against Australia at the WACA Ground in Perth in the first innings of his six-year, 23-test, 102 ODI international career.

Admitting all this, coming clean, does not make him a hero. He is now a confirmed cheat. What he did in South Africa with Auckland, if it turns out to be true, was despicable. He would have had teammates on those trips whose annual retainers would have been less than the price of a pre-arranged no-ball.

The Champions League represented not only a shop window for those players to more lucrative leagues, but the chance of significant prizemoney should Auckland have progressed. Vincent, it seems, was sabotaging those chances.

Yet there is something inherently sympathetic about the guy. He has always been generous with his time, up for a chat and, beneath it all, vulnerable.

In a feature interview with the Herald last year, Vincent opened up about his battles with alcohol and mental health issues. In the piece he talked about the feeling of loneliness when on tour, particularly when teammates weren't banging down his door.

"I just had the anxiety of feeling worthless, that I wasn't being asked out with the rest," Vincent said. "You're in your room, you're by yourself and nobody ever calls you to say, 'C'mon, let's go out to dinner.' You feel like an individual, not a teammate. That was my biggest issue - that feeling of worthlessness."

So it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to imagine that the comforting embrace of a colleague, no matter how malevolent, would be appealing.

Vincent is now purging. He has refused to comment other than to say he is co-operating with the investigation - on the other hand he could be trying to avoid a jail sentence by revealing all. In England, match-fixing is a crime and players such as former Pakistan captain Salman Butt have spent time in prison for it.

That is speculation; what is real is that Vincent's testimony has exposed the black heart of the game.

In a piece penned for the Daily Mail, Ed Hawkins has detailed Vincent's evidence to the ASCU. Vincent lists games, including matches in England, India and South Africa that were affected.

He describes how bookies would know the fix was on, making mention of the colour of the bat handle he used and whether he stepped away as the bowler was in the middle of his run-up.

He told how he met a bookmaker known as VG in India, at the start of the short-lived Indian Cricket League, who offered him $15,000 in cash and a woman as a "present".

Most tellingly, he has told investigators of how a former international star coerced him into rigging games, convinced him to underperform, and generally led him into a world from which there was no safe retreat. "You are now working for me," Vincent recalls this player saying to him.

There's no such thing as dipping your toe into the world of match-fixing. You do it once and you have signed a Faustian pact - you're in hock to the Devil for the rest of your playing days and beyond.

At the very least, Vincent faces a long ban from the game that made him, briefly, a star. Whether he brings down anybody else remains to be seen. In future, he might be known not just as a match-fixer, but as a salutary lesson.

Vincent's evidence
• Coerced by famous international into fixing games.
• Offered cash and a woman to fix matches.
• Fixed games in three countries-India, South Africa and England.
• Approached teammates to fix.
• Would signal the fix was on by using a particular coloured grip on his bat handle.

- NZ Herald

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