Carry on playing, ICC tell the named nine

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The anti-corruption Unit (ACU) will investigate allegations made against nine players without interviewing them. They insist that more evidence must be gathered - in most cases years after the purported offences - before they speak to those named in the Indian police report on match-rigging.

The anti-corruption Unit (ACU) will investigate allegations made against nine players without interviewing them. They insist that more evidence must be gathered - in most cases years after the purported offences - before they speak to those named in the Indian police report on match-rigging.

"This is normal investigative procedure," said a statement from the International Cricket Council after a team from the ACU returned late last week from trips to India and South Africa. Investigators clearly do not expect that the gathering of new information will be easy, referring to "the extremely detailed and complex investigations needed to test these allegations". All the men named will be allowed to continue playing.

Alec Stewart was among the non-Indian cricketers identified in the stunning 162-page document published in Delhi last week after months of inquiries by the country's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The report, quoting bookmaker M K Gupta, makes it clear that Stewart had refused to fix matches, but claims that in 1993, on England's tour of India, he accepted £5,000 for providing "match information".

Stewart not only denies taking the cash but also ever having "knowingly" met Gupta. The ICC statement means he will be able to complete the trip, which ends in mid-December, without breaking off for a spot of interrogation. This also applies to Mark Waugh and Brian Lara, who were mentioned in the report as well and are alleged to have received, respectively, $20,000 and $40,000 for information. They are about to play in the Test series between Australia and West Indies.

The ACU are taking over the inquiry from the CBI after trying last week to assess the evidence against the nine non- Indian internationals, six of them former captains, as well as five Indian Test players. A picture has been painted of a network of illegal gambling, fixed matches and player corruption.

The CBI reported the allegations made against the overseas players but have not investigated them because they do not have the jurisdiction.

The six other overseas players named in the Indian report are: Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva, Dean Jones, Salim Malik, Hansie Cronje and Martin Crowe. Of those, all but De Silva have now retired. Malik, retrospectively, and Cronje have been banned for life by their home boards.

It may be noted by the England and Wales Cricket Board that Sri Lanka have appointed the human rights lawyer and ICC code of conduct committee member Desmond Fernando to look into the report's allegations against Ranatunga and De Silva, that the New Zealand board have appointed a three-man commission to investigate Crowe, and that Australia already have in place an internal investigative body.

The Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) have also appointed their own man, K Madhavan, who has begun seeing the quintet of Indian players suspected of match-rigging. He spoke yesterday to the poacher turned gamekeeper Manoj Prabhakar, and was intending to interview Mohammad Azharuddin. He will report by the end of this week. The ECB seem alone in being content to leave everything to the ACU.

Sir Paul Condon, the head of the ACU, expects to take weeks to complete his work. He will then report to the ICC code of conduct commissioner, Lord Griffiths.

If it has gone quiet, match-rigging will not disappear, and those close to the game know it. In Australia, the national team coach, John Buchanan, said what has been on many minds, suggesting inquiries so far might have been more discreet. "There needs to be some evidence shown. All the inquiries round the world need to come to some sort of finality. It doesn't mean that they stop investigating, but just that they do it in a less public way."

The trouble is that silence would not have brought us this far. It was only the public exposure of Cronje - by the CBI - which eventually brought his admission and his downfall. Sir Paul may have his ways, but without the CBI report and its interviews with bookmakers, punters and players, he would have had nowhere to go.

Gupta the bookie and the most celebrated of the cricketers he named as having bribed, Azharuddin, went to ground in India last week. Azharuddin, who confessed to the CBI that he fixed matches, is holed up in his mansion on the outskirts of Hyderabad, and did not emerge to speak to Madhavan at the scheduled time. Gupta is believed to be at home in Delhi.

Azharuddin and his purported fellow conspirators may have more problems than a straightforward criminal inquiry to contend with. He, Ajay Jadeja, Ajay Sharma, Nayan Mongia, Prabhakar and the Indian team's former physio, Ali Irani, were named yesterday in a private prosecution in Indore brought by Shalendra Diwedi, a lawyer, who claims they have sullied the name of the country. He is accusing them of treason, and the case will proceed on Friday.

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