Call for World Cup every two years

The Cronje affair: Pakistan say one-day quality not quantity will help to crack down on match-rigging
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The Independent Online

Pakistan want fewer limited-overs internationals to be sanctioned in the endeavour to prevent match-rigging.

The country who have played more one-day matches than any other - No 467 was racked up in Trinidad yesterday - will suggest the curbs at the special meeting of the International Cricket Council in London next month. The motion will probably be accompanied by a rider which urges the staging of the World Cup every two years, instead of every four.

"Too many of these matches mean nothing," said Lt Gen Tauqir Zia, chairman of the Pakistan board. "I still find it difficult to believe without firm evidence that many matches are fixed outright, but the fact remains that the number of games can make it more likely.

"It can put a strain on players. Unsupported allegations are coming from every quarter about money changing hands to affect the outcome of matches, but I wouldn't know if they have anything in them. But it is probable at the least that players being asked to play so much may think, 'Well, I feel lazy today,' and not try so hard to cut off a boundary.

"We will certainly be making representations at the meeting about trying to reduce the number of matches they play. The World Cup is obviously the most important tournament of all, and to have it every two years would be helpful. It would also allow more countries to have the chance of holding it."

Pakistan have already played 24 one-dayers this year (again more than any other side) and while Lt Gen Zia, who was installed in his post last December, appears to have his heart firmly in the right place, he would be well advised to avoid entering a fool's paradise with it. He said the special meeting should establish a worldwide committee to look into all aspects of match-fixing and corruption.

The meeting, scheduled to take place at Lord's on 2-3 May, was arranged in the wake of the Hansie Cronje affair. Cronje was sacked as South Africa's captain 12 days ago after acknowledging that he received $8,200 (£5,900 or 50,000 rand) from a bookmaker. He denies match-rigging, but the Indian authorities, who provoked his belated admission by charging him in his absence over certain alleged irregularities in the conduct of the one-day series between South Africa and India in March, are continuing their investigations.

An inquiry announced by the United Cricket Board of South Africa amid much soul-searching has still not appointed a chairman.

Cronje's admissions, for what they are so far, have set off a tidal wave of conflicting accusations and counter-accusations in various cricketing countries in the past week. Most of them have served only to cloud the issue.

It is difficult, almost impossible, to sympathise with the ICC, who have been reluctant to concede the existence of the vicious circle formed by illegal betting and one-day internationals, let alone break it. Yet the random onslaught of claims has demonstrated the dilemma: where to start, where to go.

The ICC are only as strong as their member boards, and these have not been as helpful and as forthcoming as they might have been. There are several individual points the ICC's executive board must consider next week, and with nine days still to go the number is probably not yet exhausted.


* In England the action has surrounded Chris Lewis. He reiterated to a Sunday newspaper, for a fee, that he had been approached by a promoter to try to fix England games against New Zealand last summer in return for £300,000. In an apparent revelation, Lewis also said the promoter had named three England players who had previously taken his cash for services.

The England and Wales Cricket Board moved quickly. They summoned Lewis to Lord's forthwith. It was announced later that he coughed the names. However, Lewis then said he had given them the three names concerned last August. He now claims the ECB dismissed them as hearsay.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing here. But we must be on our guard not to assume that all England players are by their very nature above corruption and inspired purely by the honour of representing their country. If that was so they would have looked somewhat more businesslike than they often have.

The ECB have a simple question to answer. Did their international teams director, Simon Pack, ignore Lewis's list of names last August, or did he not? They refused point blank to confirm, deny or say anything last week. But if Lewis was indeed ignored they might like to answer questions about Pack's future. They promise a full statement at a later date. There has already been too much obfuscation.


* In India, claims were made about their former captain Mohammad Azharuddin. These, naturally, were robustly denied. Evidence as usual is scant, though since Azha has been the subject of many casual accusations for years the Indian Board, prompted by the ICC, might have kept tabs (not taps) on him.

Azharuddin also pleaded innocence over the acceptance of a Mercedes car, pointing out Indian importation regulations. When it was later reported in the Gulf News that he had indeed received such a car, Azharuddin refused to comment. The Indian government, which ordered the long-awaited publication of the Chandrachud Report into fixing, in which nobody was found guilty, has convened a special meeting next Thursday.

Their board chairman, A C Muthiah, however, is much more sceptical about rigged matches than might be expected in the present climate. "There is nothing, nothing whatever to prove them," he said. "It is doing nobody any good to have all these wild accusations." But India, with the best batsman in the world in Sachin Tendulkar, have won just 47 per cent of their one-day matches, ranking them above only New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.


* In South Africa, the UCB's managing director, Ali Bacher, made comments, which he later denied, about matches being rigged in the World Cup and in the final game of the 1998 Test series between England and South Africa. He mentioned the involvement of umpires but supplied no evidence. Cyril Mitchley, the former Test umpire, said he had once been approached.


* In Pakistan, Javed Akhtar, the umpire obviously in Bacher's mind, said the allegations were baseless. He is, one fervently prays, telling the truth, which merely makes his umpiring (he gave a string of dodgy lbws in England's favour in the 1998 Test at Headingley, one pretty awful one against them in the World Cup against India last summer) gruesomely incompetent.

Zia said he found it difficult to comment in retrospect on individual matches. But he also promised that when he finally sees the Pakistani report into bribes and rigging this week he will publish it. That promise has been made before by others. "We must be seen to be upholding the game as a noble game for gentlemen," he said. Presumably he was talking about cricket and not bookmaking.