Game's rulers resolve to clamp down on corruption

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The Independent Online

Cricket has been hurting over the past few weeks but it appears that the first tentative steps towards the healing process have been taken.

At the behest of Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, all 18 delegates at yesterday's International Cricket Council meeting signed an undertaking that they had no direct or indirect financial interests in the game.

In the wake of allegations against the ICC president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, it was obviously the best way to proceed. For his part, Dalmiya has already denied the claims that he lined his pockets when a TV deal was negotiated for the 1998 mini-World Cup in Bangladesh and is currently suing their source.

With question marks hanging over Dalmiya, currently chairing the emergency meeting, there was a danger that the credibility would be diluted if he or others present were found to be compromised. With the first day's talks concluded, however, a statement read out by David Richards, the chief executive of the ICC, later sought to clarify the issue. He said: "There were four bidders, all of whom made a buy-out tender. The bids were opened by Richards (himself) and Ehsan Mani, the ICC's chairman of finance and marketing, in front of a Notary Public. The top two bidders were then invited to re-bid, on a 'share of revenue' basis, which was again done in writing. The revised bid of Doordarshan (India's national TV station), which was the highest, was accepted. The President, Jagmohan Dalmiya, was not involved in any negotiations. The ICC paid no commission or fees to any party and there is no evidence to suggest that any person in ICC has benefited from this contract."

According to Richards, the delegates present had "made it absolutely clear that we are totally determined to rid our sport of any corruption or malpractice on the part of players, umpires, administrators or team officials". Richards later added that one of the problems encountered during his six years as chief executive was the abundance of hearsay as compared to the scarcity of hard evidence.

"If anyone in our sport has information they feel we should know about they should bring it forward, either to ICC, the media, or their own Cricket Board." If that sounded like a stuck record, Richards stressed that it had been an excellent day and that progress had been made towards a constructive proposal that will be revealed later today.

The meeting appeared to have MacLaurin's fingerprints all over it, especially the way in which he wanted to clear the decks before moving on to the main business. Earlier in the day, the chairman of the ECB had been asked on a radio programme if he thought corruption was rife.

"I have a nasty feeling that it might be," MacLaurin replied. "If it is, and we are ferreting it all out, so be it. The game of cricket is a very great game and it cannot be tainted by people destroying it in the ways that have been alleged in recent times."

MacLaurin has been the prime mover in bringing the ICC's Executive Board together so quickly. Ideally he would have liked all the chief executives present as well but, even without them, he appears determined to drive some hard policy through.

He would probably have liked Justice Malik Quayyum's report into allegations over match-fixing by Pakistan players as well, but the latest news is that a sealed copy will be delivered to the Pakistan Cricket Board on Friday. According to sources in Pakistan, it should be made public in time for ICC's annual meeting on 20th and 21st June.

If the will of ICC is there, and there are signs at Lord's that it is, tough new measures should be in place before that.