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May 9, 2000


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'It don't matter if you're black or white'

Prem Panicker

Skin colour may not matter particularly to Michael Jackson, but increasingly, you get the suspicion that it certainly does make a difference within the international cricket establishment.

I mean, this whole thing started because Hansie Cronje was found out, and subsequently confessed. But to judge by the noises the ICC is making, the beginning, and end, of it all is the Justice Qayyum commission's report on match-fixing in Pakistan.

Thus, all and sundry have been making strident cries for the tabling of that report before the ICC and for its being made public. Which is fair enough -- until and unless facts and figures are made public, until cricketers found guilty of betting on or attempting to influence the course of matches are named with proof, the deterrent factor won't kick in.

But granting that, why is the Pakistan report alone being talked of? Why is the ICC completely ignoring that other report it has been sitting on -- the one written by Queen's Counsel Rob O'Regan, investigating the possibility of match-fixing in Australia after Mark Waugh and Shane Warne finally confessed to taking money from a bookmaker?

If the publicising of reports is deemed ideal -- and there seems to be no argument on that score -- then why not publicise all reports? India instituted a commission of inquiry. That report has been made public. And the public have had an opportunity to see what a sham it all was, an opportunity to repudiate that report and to demand a more thorough, more professional inquiry.

Pakistan had a probe, and last heard from, that report is due to be tabled, and made public, before the ICC meeting next month.

Australia had a probe, that report was submitted in February of 1999, a copy is readily available with the ICC, why is that not being made public? Why is it not even being spoken of?

There is another side to this story. The ICC has been attempting to persuade us all that it is determined to weed out corruption, that its code of conduct and its standing commission of inquiry are instruments towards that end. We had in a separate story examined the validity of this code (see link). But even taking the code at face value, why then was it not applied in the case of Warne and Waugh?

The O'Regan commission very clearly said that the ACB board had at that time acted inadvisedly when it choose to hide the offence of the two players. The ACB's reasoning was that the players had been investigated and fined for breaches of their contracts, not for offences under the code of conduct.

What this means is that Warne and Waugh have never been hauled up for breach of the much-vaunted ICC code of conduct, despite their own confession that they have violated its provisions. Which begs the question -- why did the ICC, which has for some time now been yelling its head off about the Pakistan probe report, not done anything about the Australian report? Why did the ICC take no action against those two players for violating its own code? What signal does this send us, about how serious the ICC is when it says it is against corruption in every form?

By the same token, if the Pakistan cricket board slaps small fines on various players, and assures the ICC that action has been taken on the Qayyum report, will the ICC sit on it as it has on the Rob O'Regan report?

Look at the ICC's actions, and lack thereof, from another angle. Subsequent to the news break that Jagmohan Dalmiya, the ICC chairman now into his last weeks of office, was involved at some level in the negotiations of a shady television deal, he has been removed from membership of the ICC's Finance and Marketing Committee, easily the most powerful of the various ICC committees.

Whether he was dumped, as newspaper reports claim, or whether it was a consensus decision in order to ensure that the ICC chairman, now and henceforth, is like Caesar's wife seen to be above suspicion, is merely a question of semantics. The fact remains that Dalmiya no longer has any active role to play in the committee now negotiating his own brainchild -- to wit, a mega deal that seeks to sell television rights to the next two World Cups, plus assorted other tournaments, for a whopping sum.

Fine. Again, that is as it should be. There is reason to believe that Dalmiya was at some level involved in something improper, that incident is now being investigated (Federal sports minister SS Dhindsa has clearly mentioned that the sale of TV rights for the 1998 mini-World Cup in Dhaka is part of the CBI's investigating brief), and in the meantime, Dalmiya has been taken out of the committee negotiating further deals, and will attend merely as consultant, and observer.

But what then of David Richards? What of the man who has, for years now, played the role of marionette-master, and yet got away scot-free with nary a question asked about his own credentials?

Way back in 1996, when Dalmiya first mounted a bid to become ICC chairman, )there was an attempt (referred to in the minutes of a BCCI meeting at the time) to stymie it by persuading I S Bindra to contest for the same post (this, in fact, was the genesis of the antagonism between the two powerhouses of Indian cricket, which has now surfaced in a whirl of accusation and counter-accusation). And Richards was actively involved in this bid.

Former Pakistan Test player Rashid Latif is on record as saying that he had, three years ago, faxed Richards, in his capacity of ICC chief executive, various details relating to betting and match-fixing. Never mind taking action, Richards -- says Latif -- has not in all these years even found time to respond to that fax.

When the Arun Agarwal report surfaced, implicating Jagmohan Dalmiya in an improper television deal, it was Richards who was the first to respond. With a statement, made as part of a press briefing, that Dalmiya was never involved in those negotiations.

That statement is, not to mince words, a bare-faced lie.

And the ICC's chief executive is demonstrably guilty of deliberately misleading the press, and the public.

Amazingly, while Richards was full of it earlier, he has been completely silent once the media exposed his lie.

It immediately raises the question -- why was Richards in such a hurry to cover up? What did he know, and what was he trying to hide?

You don't need a commission to probe this -- the facts are simple and self-evident. And yet, no action has been taken against Richards. Why? Why, when there is such hoopla about the removal of Dalmiya from a vital post, is there no word spoken about Richards' role in the selfsame affair, and his performance in what is the highest executive post within the ICC?

Justice, they say, has to be done -- and seen to be done. But for the word 'justice' to apply, it has to be even-handed.

And 'even-handed' is not an adjective you can apply to a situation where Pakistan is under the spotlight but Australia is ignored; where Dalmiya is penalised but Richards is not even questioned.

Related stories:

The chairmanship battle -- minutes of the BCCI meeting

The Australian Cricket Board probe -- news report

Why is the ICC lying?

Which code? What conduct?

Dalmiya denies 'ouster'

Prem Panicker

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