The Guardian January 31, 2001


TAKING ISSUE with Nathan Barnes
Caught on a stinky wicket

Bribery, prostitution, gambling  the trifecta automatically identified 
with organised crime, itself a manifestation of "respectable" big business 
and vice versa, has now emerged like a dirty stain on the image and 
tradition of the game of cricket. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have 
been paid to players by big time gamblers to fix matches. Prostitutes have 
been supplied as bribes or rewards for throwing games. Who now can watch a 
game of international cricket and not wonder if it's fixed?

Just last week, in a one day match against Zimbabwe, a suspiciously large 
amount was wagered on new opening Australian batsman Darren Lehmann to top 
score.

The bets began flooding in to Centrebet in Alice Springs three hours before 
the match began, before the team line-up and batting order were made 
public. Lehmann top scored.

"There was no doubt that someone knew that he was going to open the batting 
a couple of hours before the team was announced", said Centrebet bookmaker, 
Terry Fish.

"I don't like to be making accusations, I'm not in the business of doing 
that; it just seemed odd."

And talking about odd, isn't it strange that the focus of the international 
investigation into cricket's corruption is on the individual players who 
have been accused or implicated rather than on those who own the game and 
those who run it? I mean, aren't things being done the wrong way around?

Take for example one of the major owners, Kerry Packer, Australia's richest 
man, media magnate and big time million-dollar gambler. This is the man who 
conducted a hostile corporate takeover of cricket in the 1970s claiming to 
be on a crusade to save the game.

He has added immensely to his wealth from his free-to-air television 
rights, (as has his media tycoon cohort on pay TV, Rupert Murdoch).

Why are no questions being asked of this man Packer, who has mainly 
determined the fate of cricket for the past 25 years?

Because, as a corporate "citizen" with governments in his pocket he is not 
only above suspicion, he is above rebuke, accusation, investigation and 
accountability through any process of local or international law.

And what of the Australian Cricket Board, who are making so many outraged 
demands of accused players  while standing on their principles, of 
course, with the bursting forth of each new revelation?

When it's boiled down, who does the Board finally answer to? For the 
solution to that question discard the following possibilities: the local 
junior structure; the district clubs; the state bodies; the public.

Remember how the media mouthpieces were fond of reciting that comforting 
profit-bottom-line truism when Murdoch and Packer were dismembering rugby 
league, that "It's not a game, it's a business", attempting thus to explain 
away the grotesque and corrupt corporate monster which had begun to feed on 
that game.

Well, it's been feeding time on the game of cricket since around 1975. We 
don't have to look too far to discover who has fouled the strip.

Back to index page