Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Cast aside and untouchable

After a life ban from cricket for cheating, Lou Vincent says it’s a lonely road towards redemption, writes Andrew Alderson.

Lou Vincent says he is an honest  person who got caught up in the wrong world. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Lou Vincent says he is an honest person who got caught up in the wrong world. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Lou Vincent has been largely deserted by former New Zealand team-mates since his confession to cheating which resulted in a life ban by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Vincent's wrong-doing has been well-documented after a mea culpa which detailed his greed and malleability when tempted by money to underperform.

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Be it genuine anger, convenient apathy or old-fashioned buttock-covering, few former team-mates have offered forgiveness. Vincent has become, to use Indian caste system parlance, an untouchable.

On the one hand, this is understandable, especially for the Auckland players who were defrauded by Vincent at the 2012 Champions League. Here was a player who betrayed the principles of the game. As a result, the closest he'll now get to hearing willow on leather will be through the speakers of his TV or radio. For anyone who loves cricket, that's devastating.

Yet Vincent also deserves acknowledgement, especially in New Zealand, where match fixing was once considered the domain of 'other' cricketing cultures. He had the courage to testify about a practice which has largely been subjected to omerta. The 35-year-old said he cleared his conscience without coercion or plea-bargaining.

"We get educated [about match fixing] but, as a Kiwi, it's like, 'oh it'll never happen to us'," Vincent says. "[Stephen] Fleming reported it down the right channels when he was approached. Before that, I had never heard of other New Zealand players who had been there."

Vincent was assisted by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association who, under the leadership of Heath Mills, showed neither fear nor favour when he confessed.

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"I'm so grateful for their role," Vincent says. "They help cricketers and don't judge you, even though their mission is about doing good for the game and I'd set about destroying what they build.

"They set me up with a lawyer, then got me to speak to the ICC's anti-corruption unit. There were already rumours about me and statements had been made to other boards which implicated me in fixing. I could have spent the rest of my life avoiding it with the right to silence by not co-operating.

"But deep down, I'm an honest, caring person who got caught up in the wrong world and allowed myself to be controlled. I knew the difference between right and wrong enough to have avoided those horrendous things.

"I was always different, a bit of a loner. I liked to be independent with a sense of adventure. I have lost all contact with team-mates over the years apart from Andre Adams and a few other [provincial] players like [Northern Districts veteran] Joey Yovich who respected my honesty and have been supportive."

Former test players Rob and Matt Hart have also lent a willing ear.

"One thing I realised in this process is that, yes, people will be disappointed," Vincent says. "But those who know me know I've made a hell of a lot of mistakes. They've said, 'man up and get on with it'. You know who your friends are."

Vincent says he owes an apology to former test bowler Iain O'Brien who, in his UK Telegraph column in May, alluded to a confrontation the pair had at a restaurant in 2012.

"He put me in an awkward position, wanting to meet up once he'd become a journalist. I'd like to think I always tried to make new players feel welcome in the New Zealand team, like when Iain joined. So it was tough having him lean over the table, look me in the eye and say, 'I'm telling the truth, you're a match-fixer, you're dirty'. Having to lie to someone's face is the most horrible thing you can do."

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Vincent, who was travelling around the UK in a bus fundraising for the mental health charity mind.org.uk at the time, said he was shocked.

"I was disappointed with him because he's had his own issues [with mental illness]. I felt he used his position as a journalist to confront me and try to make his [new] career. I'm sorry I had to lie."

Vincent's demise through match fixing had an unforeseen benefit.

"It's brought my [New Zealand] family really close. My parents separated when I was 10. I moved to Australia and, by 16, I'd lived in numerous houses and been to plenty of schools. I 'lived' at the Adelaide Oval because my dad did shift work in radio. He was in bed by 7pm and up at 3am to support me. I rode everywhere and enrolled at schools and clubs by myself. The reason I latched on to people straight away was because I wanted to have instant friends."

There's less of the attention-seeking clown about Vincent now. A prime example of such behaviour came during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean when he ran behind then-coach John Bracewell during a television interview wearing a Borat-inspired, lime green mankini.

"No wonder he sacked me so many times," Vincent laughs. "He had every right to after wearing that. I used to deal with stress through laughter and stupidity. I've got to hone in on a more sensible, appropriate way now."

Part of Vincent's new approach to life involves finding a permanent job. He's recently done some part-time building work.

"It's a shame I can't help out with cricket. I understand how it works. I've cheated and disrespected the game and the game has to be protected from people like the person I was. But my story could help future cricketers.

"The [2012] bus tour is the most enlightening thing I've done, helping people with mental health. I'd love to assist in that respect or do a bus tour of New Zealand schools helping kids avoid horrendous things like becoming a cheat."

- Herald on Sunday

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