It took the entire spot-fixing scandal concerning the Pakistan team for Lord Paul Condon, the International Cricket Council's former anti-corruption chief, to tell the world that every international cricket team was involved in match fixing... okay, in his words, "doing some funny stuff."
Sure, the ICC has certain limitations when it comes to ensuring offending players get prosecuted. But can this body, called toothless, by some of the game's sharpest critics, claim to have done their best to eradicate cricket's biggest ill? Apart from the men who run international cricket, not many from the cricketing fraternity will believe that they are actually playing the role of good, ruthless policemen.
In the spotlight: Salman Butt was one of the three Pakistani cricketers found guilty of spot fixing charges
With due credit to the credentials of their sleuths, they've not come up with something outstanding to catch the culprits, never mind nailing them. West Indies' Jamaican batsman Marlon Samuels is still parading his skills on the international scene, despite being involved in cricketing hanky panky.
Former South Africa board chief, Ali Bacher has gone on record to say that his thoughts on fixing were not recorded in ICC meetings in the 1990s. Plus, he got rebuked for his utterances. Condon suggests that wholesale fixing of matches ended and spot fixing took over in the 2003 World Cup, and sting operations could not be made a policy because the police would be unwilling to prosecute.
Fair enough, and laws must get tougher, but isn't this an opportunity for the ICC to do whatever it takes to nab errant players and ban them for life straightaway? The player will not end up in jail, but at least he'll be out of work. Are you surprised that, at the end of the day, the ICC cannot claim much credit players being caught and thoroughly penalised? You shouldn't be. When they cannot fix (no pun intended) problems related to the running of the game, it shouldn't be a surprise that they are playing almost meek spectator to the ugly things afflicting the game. The manner in which they appear powerless in the consistent implementation of the Decision Review System is probably a good pointer to their 'influence' as rulers of the game.
The ICC insist that players must report to them when approached by bookies. There sure have been cases of the players doing what they are told. We have yet to hear what action has been taken. Surely, players like Australians Shane Watson and Brad Haddin would like to know what the cricket bosses have done about the approach made by bookies in 2009. Probably, the ICC got back to them, but the media is yet to be informed. One gets the feeling certain norms are followed to show the world that something is being done. Sure, rules are meant for everyone and one wholly endorses the ICC anti-corruption cell's restrictions to people around the dressing room area. But again, precautionary measures outweigh action by a long, distressing margin.
Talking about Mohammad Amir, the youngest of the three Pakistanis nabbed, Condon says: "If you're put in an environment where you think your future career is threatened if you don't do what your captain's asking you to do, and there's no one in the team management you feel you can go to, in that sense you feel sorry for that young man. But that's not to say he doesn't deserve a symbolic punishment. He's the only one I have even a moderate amount of sympathy for. To keep cricket clean, sentences have to be exemplary."
The worrying aspect in the above quote is, "symbolic punishment." For cricket to be clean, there has to be full-scale punishment and age shouldn't get into it. Else, the ICC is just wasting its time and money in ensuring their anti-corruption unit is represented at international cricket matches.