Andrew Alderson 's Opinion

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Andrew Alderson: No quick fix for corruption fears

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It's unusual for a news bulletin to elicit guffaws from a carful of blokes. But, while driving to an Old Thumpers pre-season footy practice with a couple of mates in April 2000, a voice on the radio claimed that Delhi police had a recording of an alleged conversation between South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje and a representative of an Indian betting syndicate during the March one-day series.

How we laughed ... Imagine Cronje, arguably cricket's most upstanding character, involved in a rort like that. Those Indian cops are hard case. Sure, there had been a few players pinged before Cronje - and that Sharjah tournament had always been a bit dodgy - but really, spot-fixing in cricket?

More than 13 years later, that blissful ignorance (perhaps it was supercilious arrogance) regarding illegal betting on matches is completely shattered. No-one, including the International Cricket Council, knows where to turn with the Champions Trophy under way and an overflow of spot-fixing controversy washing down from the Indian Premier League.

Cricket is so rife with permutations and packed with fixtures that scenarios like getting a wicketkeeper to take the bails off a certain number of times in an innings, a bowler overstepping a couple of extra times or a batsman playing out a maiden pass without query.

One-day internationals and T20 matches are easy pickings. It is almost impossible to police them unless Big Brother zaps all forms of player freedom.

The ICC use education programmes to inform players of illegal gambling's perils but sometimes these merely unearth a world of possibility to those of dubious moral persuasion. Bulky brown paper bags are universal currency.

The ICC has briefed players on the dangers of fixing and banned player use of mobile phones at the ground during the tournament. ICC chief executive Dave Richardson says anyone who commits spot-fixing should receive a jail sentence much like Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif for getting paid to no-ball against England in August 2010. The trouble was, that scam required an undercover journalist from the now defunct News of the World to reveal what happened, not the ICC anti-corruption unit.

Richardson's on the right path. Fixing is defrauding people across the cricketing landscape. The sport needs to find better solutions.

Until the ICC consists of an independent board, as recommended in last year's Woolf Report, cricket will be subject to partisan interests. That, plus legalising betting in India so a living can be made from it without having to stitch up odds, could make a difference.

Former Australian cricketer Tim May, in his outgoing statement as CEO of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, summed it up: "More and more we see allegations of corruption and malpractice on and off the field dominating headlines. As stakeholders in the game, we look to leadership from the ICC to address these issues. A vital ingredient of any organisation is the ability of its leaders to set the principled example to others and to police its organisation to ensure adherence to those principles.

"Yet cricket increasingly seems to be pushing aside the principles of transparency, accountability, independence and upholding the best interests of the global game in favour of a system that appears to operate through threats, intimidation and backroom deals."

In the meantime fans could be left with that hollow feeling when something unusual happens during the Champions Trophy. I call it a Cronjeism.

Potential Cronjeisms - what to watch for:

• Bowling a specified number of wides/no-balls in a spell.

• Scoring a certain number of runs in an over or batting out a maiden over.

• Keeping on an expensive bowler for an extended spell.

• An opening batsman who gets out cheaply when he's paired with his partner as a bet option.

• Adjusting fields to change scoring patterns (for example, bringing up long on/off or removing sweepers on the off/legside).

• Ensuring a certain number of players wear caps on to the field.

• A wicketkeeper taking the bails off at least a certain number of times in an innings.

• Opening the bowling with a spinner.

- Herald on Sunday

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Andrew Alderson

Covers sport across NZME's print, digital and radio brands.

Andrew writes and broadcasts on cricket and the Olympic disciplines for NZME's print, digital, video and radio platforms. His most recent project followed New Zealand sportspeople competing in Europe during the 2015 northern summer. He has attended four cricket World Cups, three Olympics and regularly works as a correspondent overseas.

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