Cricket corruption has no territorial or ethnic quarantines

Oct 16, 2011, 06:18 IST | Michael Jeh

Former South African skipper Hansie Cronje's unmasking should surely serve as a reminder to us all that corruption has no territorial, religious or ethnic quarantines...

Former South African skipper Hansie Cronje's unmasking should surely serve as a reminder to us all that corruption has no territorial, religious or ethnic quarantines...

Mazhar Majeed's explosive allegations of match-fixing was met with a combination of righteous indignation and disdain in Australia this week. Former Australian captains, current CEO's and expert commentators have all been quick to discredit Majeed's testimony as desperate mud-slinging.

Former South African skipper Hansie Cronje was banned for life
from cricket in 2001 after he admitted to being involved in
match-fixing. Cronje lost his life in a plane crash on June 1, 2002.
Pics/AFP, Getty Images

Logical conclusions or xenophobic prejudice?  The problem with deciphering Majeed's testimony is to try and figure out a basis for believing anything he says. Clearly, he is not the most reliable or ethical person on the face of the earth. His self-confessed actions relating to match-fixing immediately seals his own personal brand. So which bits of his story are we meant to believe and which bits are clearly fanciful? 

I'm loath to swallow the xenophobic theory which suggests that the only bits that are true are the bits relating to Pakistani cricketers but any accusations about other cricketers (in this case Australian) are clearly untrue. In my eyes, that is a disingenuous logical position, based purely on the jingoistic notion that the 'bad guys' are never our own.

That's a poor basis for any legal argument and it leads to corrupt decision-making and cover-ups. That sort of protectionism only leads to monumental cover-ups. The ACB's handling of the Shane Warne-Mark Waugh scandal is proof of that. It's not so much the scale of the offence committed but the mere fact that a national cricket administration would cover something up whilst being holier-than-thou about crucifying somebody else (Salim Malik).  Breathtaking hypocrisy.

Back to Mr Majeed then... so what are we to believe? Is his evidence of corrupt Pakistani cricketers credible? Is he a reliable source when it comes to them but totally unreliable about the Australian match-fixers? In fact, given this chap's history, I'm not sure if I want to believe anything he says.

Commonsense and justice suggest that if his character is this unreliable, how do we separate fact from fiction? Yes, I will concede that the News of the World video evidence, married to the Lords Test of 2010 provides a bit more clarity on that incident but the rest of his evidence is just too unreliable to be taken seriously (yet).

Former Australian cricketers Shane Warne (left) and Mark Waugh
were fined for passing on match information to a bookie on the
1994 tour of Sri Lanka

Allan Border was quoted earlier this week, rubbishing Majeed's claims. I've known AB for 25 years and I would find it incredibly difficult to believe that he would ever have been involved in match-fixing. Not because he is Australian but because he's just not that kind of person.

It's based purely on his personal character rather than any enduring national propensity for integrity. Similarly, having never met Nathan Bracken, I'm utterly unmoved by Majeed's accusations against him -- if I was forced to choose between the two, I'd lean heavily towards Bracken only because Majeed is hardly Mr Reliable.

Accusations against Wasim, Waqar
Likewise his accusations against Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. In the absence of any inside knowledge, my human instincts tell me that I have no reason to believe those allegations either. I'm not going to pick and choose which parts of his unsubstantiated testimony are more reliable than others.

That's just political or racial expediency. Hansie Cronje's unmasking should surely serve as a reminder to us all that corruption has no territorial, religious or ethnic quarantines. The Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Paul Marsh, was equally adamant that Australian cricketers could not possibly be implicated. He spoke of the education process that young Australian cricketers routinely undergo.

I can personally vouch for the veracity of that statement. It's 100% true. I know that for a fact because I actually run many of these workshops around the country for these young cricketers. In fact, I am writing this article from a hotel in Adelaide where I am here to do exactly that with the young Redbacks junior squads.

That's  not to say that education alone provides blanket immunity for any future accusation levelled at an Australian cricketer. Just because they are educated on such matters does not in itself prove that they are forever indemnified of wrongdoing. Individuals will make poor choices, sometimes through naivety, sometimes through desperation and sometimes through just plain greed.

Such human qualities have no geographic boundaries although the circumstances that lead to temptation may have some regional bias. Poorly paid cricketers are clearly more prone to being tempted but it doesn't necessarily follow that they are automatically more corrupt. Certainly not just because Mazhar Majeed says so. And certainly not because us Australians deny it!

To imply that Australians would never do such things simply because we're Australian is just daft. Such attitudes have a nasty way of coming back to bite you. We're often too quick to vilify others but we've always got an excuse for ourselves. When it comes to drugs in sport, sledging or issues like match-fixing, Australia has previously had an unenviable reputation for hypocrisy.

It is a dangerous game to play, especially now when we are no longer the powerbrokers of the game and can discreetly bury inconvenient corpses. Imagine this scenario: Headingley 1981 and England are following on 100 runs behind with just three wickets left.

Two opposition players ask their bus driver to place a 50/1 bet on England winning the match. Who were these unscrupulous Pakistani cricketers?  Actually, they were two Australian legends, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh. I mean, who would have thought Ian Botham would have scored 149 not out? Fancy Bob Willis taking 8/43! 

Australia bowled out for 111? Never! Neither Lillee or Marsh taking a wicket or a catch after the Botham-Dilley partnership began? Of course that was before the match-fixing era. After all, Australian cricketers are just larrrikins. Everybody knows that! Except poor old Mazhar Majeed.

Sri Lanka-born Michael Jeh is a former MCC and Oxford player, who has also played senior club cricket in Australia.

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