Hail the media. How many times have sporting bodies come up with that line? Sadly, never. Yet, these words must go through the roof of cricket boards, considering it is a newspaper -- the News of the World -- that can claim credit for the fact that Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif have been held guilty, and young fast bowler Mohammad Aamer has pleaded guilty in the spot-fixing saga.
"The investigation which exposed match fixing by Pakistani cricketers astonished the world and is to the credit of (reporter) Mazher Mahmood who led the investigation for the News of the World. The convictions secured today are a clear example of where his professional investigative journalism has served the public interest," a spokesperson of the defunct newspaper said on Monday.
I a fix: Former cricket captain Salman Butt has been found guilty of match fixing
The news organisation can be forgiven for blowing the proverbial trumpet, considering what they did to expose cricket's biggest ill. It would be blasphemy for cricket boards to frame a print of the News of the World's page 1 from August 29, 2010 which shook the cricketing world, in all its plush offices. But if cricket custodians really want to stamp out corruption in cricket, they must, simply because every cricketer who turns up at the office, is well aware of dangerous liaisons he is getting into.
Former Australia cricket captain, Richie Benaud, in many ways, the voice of cricket today, wrote for the paper over several years. "In 52 years of being involved in cricket, nothing has distressed me more than the revelations in today's News of the World," he wrote in that edition.
Not long ago, before the controversial 2010 Lord's Test in which the Pakistani players were accused of spot fixing, Lord Paul Condon, the former chief of International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit said that cricket was easiest sport to fix. Benaud hoped Condon was wrong and in his own words, "hoped against hope."
When Benaud heard about the spot fixing story, he did not hold back to say that Aamer and Asif had made fools of all us. Wonder whether he plucked some solace with the thought that the paper he wrote for fixed the fixers in a way.
The News of the World expose is not the only example of the media showing the sleuths that they can do their job. In 1998, an Australian journalist -- Malcolm Conn -- through his extraordinary work, got the Australian Cricket Board to admit that they had fined Mark Waugh and Shane Warne for revealing information to 'John the Bookmaker' during Australia's tour to Sri Lanka in 1994.
Mark Ray was another journalist, who along with Conn kept asking then ACB chief executive Malcolm Speed about the fines, but Speed only admitted it to Conn (and departed cricketer turned commentator David Hookes) later on when he was convinced that the allegations were true.
After the 2010 Lord's Test, The Sun newspaper's claims that there was something fishy about Pakistan's scoring patterns in a one-day match against England at the Oval, were probed by the ICC. A cricket commentator friend of mine recently recalled the morning after that story came out during the Champions League in South Africa. He was having breakfast with a fellow commentator and was introduced to a person involved in policing illegal betting and match fixing.
This person was astounded when he was told by my friend's commentary box colleague of The Sun's claims. "How could this happen just after these spot fixing claims," he exclaimed. My friend was astounded too. Not because of the one-day international coming into focus after the spot-fixed Test, but because the sleuth was so surprised. He couldn't hold back, and uttered:
"Why are you so surprised? After the bookies have got the players by your (pointing to his shoulders), it is they who call the shots and not the players." My friend continues to be astounded at the guy's naivete. Undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood, who exposed spot fixing last year and was very much part of the recent court hearings in London, is probably the biggest hero in the game today. Mahmood will probably never be seen, but that does not mean he should be unsung. So cricket administrators, spare the media of ridicule and dish out a lashing of whipped cream instead.