Cricket: ICC reveal plan to hunt match-fixers

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The Independent Online
THE International Cricket Council has announced its determination to tackle some of the problems besetting international cricket by appointing a team of "sleaze-busters".

And, in another example of the ICC's new get-tough stance, world cricket's governing body has charged the Australian umpire Darrell Hair with bringing the game into disrepute following comments in his autobiography about the Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

The ICC, which has abandoned plans for a Test world championship, set up a three-man panel to hunt match-fixers after admitting it has a "serious problem" on its hands during their meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Australians Shane Warne and Mark Waugh will be spared investigation, though, because their case has already been settled. "There is a basic principle in life that you can't be tried twice for the same crime," David Richards, the ICC chief executive, said.

Warne and Waugh were fined by the Australian Cricket Board in 1995 after they admitted taking money from an illegal Indian bookmaker in return for information on weather and pitch conditions. Their punishment was only revealed recently.

The so-called Code of Conduct Commission, to be set up by 28 February, will order national cricket boards to dig out the truth. The ICC expects to receive full reports into betting inquiries in Pakistan, Australia and India by the end of May.

David Richards said: "If the ICC is not satisfied with the outcome of any review, the Commission would have the authority to carry out its own review and apply sentences. Any person found guilty of match-fixing can expect to be put out of the game for a very long period, if not altogether."

The nine Test-playing countries represented at an ICC executive board meeting unanimously approved the move, but Richards denied the Commission had won a power struggle with national boards. "We have been unfairly criticised in the past for being a toothless tiger," he said.

Meanwhile, Richards announced that Hair would have the chance to defend himself at an independent hearing to be convened by the Australian Cricket Board. Sri Lanka asked for Hair, who described Muralitharan's action as "diabolical" in his book, to be disciplined for reopening the controversy surrounding their talented spinner.

Umpires are barred from making comments detrimental to the game and Hair could face the same penalty as players, who can be suspended for three Tests or six one-day matches if found guilty. Hair no-balled Muralitharan seven times in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne in 1995 and said in his book he could have called him another 27 times. The Sri Lankan was later found not to have violated the throwing law.

Richards also revealed that complaints by some Test playing nations have scuppered a proposed world championship. "New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka felt they didn't get enough Test cricket," he said.

The ICC will instead study proposals to establish a new cycle of fixtures to ensure the small Test nations get a chance to face countries like Australia, England and West Indies.