James Lawton: ICC must admit some blame lies at its door in spot-fixing scandal

A Pakistan selector once pleaded for the picking of a certain player out of fear that his daughter was at risk of kidnap
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The Independent Online

Although the Pakistan betting scam seems to point to an ever-widening net of corruption, and the crude and easy seduction of the guilty foot soldiers, it may yet prove to be a not entirely ill wind.

The beast, at least, is now out in the open and it has certainly blown apart the illusion that the ruling International Cricket Council had set up a defence system that was anything more than the flimsiest window dressing.

Fuelled partly by the off-guard comments of Yasir Hameed, a Pakistani squad member claiming that some of his other team-mates have been guilty of match-fixing on a routine basis, suspicions are now reaching far beyond the indictments of "spot-fixing"made against captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer.

It now emerges that the ICC anti-corruption squad is putting under the microscope four Pakistani defeats which came in the most questionable of circumstances this year.

But if this heaps further potential shame on a Pakistan game long held in suspicion, it is also a terrible statement about the control of the world game.

With rumour long rife that criminal tentacles from the vast illegal Indian betting market were stretching into all corners of cricket, with reports of approaches to senior Australian and Bangladeshi players, suggestions of a campaign to suborn the Pakistanis are raw and shocking and speak pointedly of neglect by the Pakistan Cricket Board and the ICC.

Mazhar Majeed, the London-based businessman at the centre of the spot-fixing who was allegedlytrapped by the News of the World, has had free access to the team for two years, during which time the Pakistanis played 80 games which are apparently now being scrutinised.

The accusations come at the end of a decade which started with the disgrace and banning of not a barely literate youth like Aamer but the captains of South Africa and India, and despite the massive influx of income to the game, and increased betting activity, with the rise of Twenty20 and the Indian Premier League, if true, we are faced with the shocking picture of a fixer becoming as familiar a figure as the team bagman.

The former Australian Test player, and coach of Pakistan, Geoff Lawson, has revealed that a Pakistan selector once pleaded for the picking of a certain player out of fear that his daughter was at risk of kidnap. Equally disturbing are the anonymous comments of one anti-corruption official, who says, "They [the fixers] get to them young, when it takes relatively little to turn a player's head. Often they [the players] don't realise what they are doing wrong.

"Once they are involved, there is no escape. People say they are surprised someone as young and as talented as Aamer is caught up in this, but the sad truth is that this is exactly what we would expect."

Meanwhile, the ICC, in crusading spirit, says the 18-year-old Aamer will be banned for life if he is found guilty. It is a position worthy of both anger and ridicule. Having failed to protect potentially the greatest cricket talent since the arrival of the infant prodigy batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, the ICC, with no shade of judgement, now proposes to banish it.

Aamer cannot expect to escape some punishment for his sins if he is proved guilty. Nor can the ICC and the Pakistan Cricket Board. In their cases the verdict is surely already in. It is on the charge of criminal neglect.

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