Pakistan could be suspended from Test cricket if the report into match-fixing by Justice Malik Qayyum is not made available to the International Cricket Council within five weeks. England are set to play a Test series in Pakistan this October for the first time since 1987, a visit that could be in doubt if the ICC does not get its way.
The potential to bar member countries from international competition is just one of the new powers given to the Council following yesterday's conclusion of their two-day crisis meeting at Lord's. Others include an independent Anti-Corruption Investigation body, funded by the ICC but headed by a legal expert, as well as a new registration system for all current international players, umpires and administrators.
Lord MacLaurin, who was instrumental in calling the emergency meeting, said: "We're all singing from the same hymn sheet and there is a real will to clean up the game, though it may take a life ban to restore cricket's credibility. I think we've sent out a strong message and anyone found guilty of corruption will be made a big example of and kicked out of cricket. The same applies to any Test playing nation which doesn't comply to ICC's requests over such matters."
The Qayyum report, vital because it is the most comprehensive investigation of its kind into alleged corruption by players - others in India and South Africa are underway or about to get underway - has been ready since last autumn, when it was presented to the Ministry of Sports. Since then it has been gathering dust, though the latest news is that the Pakistan Cricket Board is due to get a sealed copy tomorrow. It must produce it by the ICC annual general meeting, on 20-21 June.
Rumours are, and they were printed in an Urdu paper in India yesterday, that Qayyum names six players in the report, recommending life bans for at least two of them. As the concept of amnesty was unanimously dismissed by the 18 delegates at yesterday's meeting, the punishments will presumably be upheld by the ICC, providing the burden of proof has been satisfied.
According to David Richards, the ICC's chief executive, it has been the sheer weight of gossip and unsubstantiated rumour that has most damaged cricket over the past few years. With that in mind, all international players will be expected to sign a declaration stating whether they have been approached to become involved in cricket corruption in any form.
For optimists like MacLaurin, who feels that "99 per cent of cricketers are honest", it is an idea that probably works for the future, rather than in retrospect. For cynics, the idea that any guilty players will admit their sins in writing is a bit like expecting arriving villains to answer "yes" to US immigration officials when asked if they have any convictions. With bans ranging from 2-5 years for betting on matches and forecasting weather and pitches, to life bans for contriving the result of a match, it just will not happen.
As things stand at present Hansie Cronje would be barred for two years though, if the evidence Indian police claim to have is presented at the judicial inquiry set up in South Africa, the tariff could be increased to a life ban.
The ICC code of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour has been in place since 1 July 1993 - 20 months before the Australian Cricket Board discovered (and then sat on) information that Shane Warne and Mark Waugh had accepted money from a bookmaker for weather forecasts and team news. The new element is the penalties which, if in place back then, would have seen both barred for two years.
The naÃ¯vety of expecting guilty parties to confess, along with a reluctance to deal with the burgeoning amount of one-day cricket around the world, are perhaps the most disappointing aspects of the new measures. When malaria breaks out, the breeding grounds for mosquitoes are targeted as much as the insect itself, something the ICC - in the face of the money such games make - obviously feels reluctant to do. "It was decided that neither the venue or number of games are as important as the total commitment and honesty of players," said the ICC president, Jagmohan Dalmiya.
MacLaurin felt that the number was "probably right in England", a comment that inferred there was too much elsewhere. In theory, the number of games should not be a problem providing the independent Anti-Corruption unit, due to be set up in the next two months, is both efficient and effective.
Given the perceived size of the problem, the ICC probably needed a cross between Jaws and Arnold Schwarzenegger to sort it out. What they appear to have settled for instead is a legal eagle with an investigative background and widespread powers who will report to the ICC's Code of Conduct Commission chairman, Lord Griffiths. In the convoluted and largely criminal world of betting sharks, it may not be enough.
HOW THE ICC PLANS TO TACKLE CORRUPTION
* The final report by Justice Malik Qayyum into match-fixing in Pakistan, which was completed last October, is to be made available to the ICC within five weeks. * Every Board has been asked by the ICC to be ready to deal with any evidence which comes out of any inquiry affecting players and others within their jurisdiction. * A set of stringent penalties ranging from fines to five-year and life bans have been introduced forthwith for anyone found guilty of corrupt behaviour. * ICC rules to be amended to allow suspension of any member country who does not co-operate with the Code of Conduct Commission. * Every international player, umpire, referee, team official, administrator and employee will be asked to sign a declaration stating whether he has or has not been approached to be involved in cricket corruption of any form. * An independent Anti-Corruption Investigation to be established and the ICC to appoint a senior independent experienced person with either a legal or investigative background to lead it. That appointment will take place in the next two months. * A standard registration system will be introduced throughout the world to make it clear to all involved the types of behaviour which are unacceptable.