Cricket: Bribery report rebukes ACB

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A TWO-MONTH independent inquiry has cleared Australian cricket of any involvement in match-fixing or bribery. But the man in charge of the investigation, Rob O'Regan, a lawyer, criticised the Australian Cricket Board's (ACB) handling of the Shane Warne-Mark Waugh scandal.

O'Regan said the two Australian Test players should have been suspended after they sold information to an Indian bookmaker during Australia's tour of Pakistan in 1994. He also said the ACB should have provided details of the case to the Pakistan Cricket Board after the pair accused the Pakistan captain Salim Malik of offering them bribes to play badly on the same tour.

"I'm pleased to report never did I hear any suggestion of match-fixing or a player failing to play on his merits," O'Regan said. "[But] I disagree that the Waugh and Warne inquiry was kept private and a more appropriate punishment would have been a suspension for a period of time. I came to the conclusion that there was a distinct possibility of a connection between the two matters. I don't know how the ACB concluded they were separate."

The pair were fined although this was kept secret by the ACB, a move criticised by its own bribery inquiry.

O'Regan said the board should have made the fines public at the time as well as suspending the pair, who are now on a tour of the West Indies. In handing down his finding, he said Warne and Waugh had failed to set the sort of example expected of senior players. "I do not think it is possible to explain their conduct away as the result of merely naivety or stupidity," he added.

The ACB's chief executive, Mal Speed, admitted his organisation had been too lenient. "With hindsight I think we can look back on these penalties and say, yes, perhaps they should have been harsher penalties," he said.

A Pakistani judge is conducting an inquiry into allegations of corruption and bribery in cricket in the country. His report is expected soon.