Careless talk now costs you a career

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Alec Stewart portrays himself, prides himself even, on being the cleanest man in English cricket. His kit is always pristine, but it merely embodies the style of the man. From the top of his head to the tip of his toes and in his soul. Cricket is his life, it oozes out of him.

Alec Stewart portrays himself, prides himself even, on being the cleanest man in English cricket. His kit is always pristine, but it merely embodies the style of the man. From the top of his head to the tip of his toes and in his soul. Cricket is his life, it oozes out of him.

It was, then, a bit of a shock when he was named in the Indian report on match-rigging in cricket. There was no suggestion that he had fixed matches, quite the opposite in fact. But he was alleged to have taken money for match information.

Yet on reflection maybe it wasn't so surprising, maybe we could have expected it. This report picked out, singled out if you like, one of the biggest names in English cricket. Eight others from outside India, all of them stars, most of them ex-captains, were also named as being involved in some way or another. This strikes me as being no coincidence.

I don't want you to think that the Indian report is a whitewash. It isn't. After all, it has researched in a detailed way the alleged wrongdoings of the country's own players. On Friday several of them were suspended. They clearly want to get to the bottom of this, as everybody associated with the game must surely wish to do.

But I still feel that in its way the document released by the Central Bureau of Investigation served to deflect attention from Indian cricketers exposed to the illegal betting scams that have clearly been rife there for a decade. Since Hansie Cronje told the world in April that he had indeed taken money, this has been a big feature of the whole affair.

Cronje was thrown to the wolves and it was to his credit, in a perverse way, that he eventually conceded his role. He held his hand up, and as soon as that happened the pressure was off the subcontinent and moved to South Africa. The goalposts were shifted.

My sympathies go out to Stewart. I think I know what he is going through from an experience I had at Somerset a few years ago. It related to something entirely different, but it was an event that caused people who you thought were friends suddenly to start questioning your loyalties, questioning the person you are.

It was deeply unpleasant, and I am sure Alec Stewart is going through this to a much bigger extent. It is the worst scenario, you can tell that people's views change. They are sceptical and narrow-minded. It is an unwelcome, but all too human, reaction.

This will not affect this squad, but I fear that it will affect peoples' attitudes to this squad. Alec is innocent, of that I am sure, and I hope that the upcoming investigations will clear his name.

But in a way the damage was already done to him as soon as his name was chosen. Picked as certainly as he if had been selected to play for England. Your name has only to crop up with one thing and the questions are asked. And in some minds they never go away.

It may change the approach to us here over the next five weeks. It puts us in a different light. Those people who wish to criticise us now have more ammunition to carry on.

Stewart has responded well to this, determined as you might expect. He has trained as normal. You cannot tell what is going on inside but I think he will be unaffected, this won't get him down. As a team-mate I am saddened that he has been put in this awful position.

The whole scandal has dominated the week. The press have talked of little else. There is no doubt that match-fixing has been allowed to prosper in India. But my overriding impression is that it all appears to be based on the say-so of one man, an illegal bookmaker talking about things that happened years ago. Where is the proof?

There is another point to be made here. If an ex-England captain appeared on television and gave team information and was then paid for his services nobody would say anything. There is a difference: one is in public, one is under the counter; but essentially the passing of information is the same.

The trouble is that giving match information has now taken on a new and insidious dimension. It cannot be done because it exposes players to greater and unthinkable evils. It is soft drugs to hard drugs.

Where to go from here is impossible to call. The game has been tarnished. It is truly dismal to look back and think of games you have played in or watched, and wonder to what extent they may have been fixed. You start to question even the greatest players for no reason.

It seems that every six months a different report is being brought out, the world of cricket is turned upside down. And nothing comes of it. And good men like Alec Stewart have to suffer as yet unknown consequences.

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