Lewis names England 'match-fixing' trio

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The Independent Online

Chris Lewis has named the three players claimed to have accepted money to fix matches by a sports promoter, Ashim Kheterpal, to the England and Wales Cricket Board. The former England all-rounder, also repeated information concerning attempts to get him to help fix matches in the Test series against New Zealand, first aired last September.

The meeting at a secret location in London between Lewis and the ECB's representatives - Gerard Elias QC, chairman of the Board's discipline committee and Simon Pack, the international teams director - lasted two and a half hours. Afterwards, a close associate of the all-rounder's, yesterday claimed that police, though not the ECB, had been in possession of these names when the incident was first investigated by them last September.

Beyond seedy speculation, of which the last fortnight has been spectacularly awash, that is as far events go for the moment following a statement from the ECB. If indeed there is a case to be answered for the trio named, the next few days will be mightily uncomfortable.

According to the statement issued by the Board: "Mr Lewis indicated his desire to co-operate fully and has put all the information in his possession into the hands of the Board." Which prompts the question why he did not do so, when allegedly informing the police of the players named by Kheterpal last year.

The Board added that it would "continue its investigations with a view to determining whether evidence exists in relation to betting and match-fixing which might justify disciplinary action under the Board's regulations."

With cricket in crisis at present, the inconsistencies present over such a contentious issue are particularly worrying, a fact obviously shared by the ECB, and one shown by the caution of their statement. For one thing, the police must presumably have interviewed the players suspected last year and found no evidence of wrongdoing. If not, why not?

Whatever the findings this time, and there is the distinct impression that the ECB are not taking things too seriously, Lewis has a get-out clause in that the names are only second-hand anyway. Mud sticks these days and if there is not a case to answer and names get out into the public domain, Lewis may become the most unpopular player since William Lambert was drummed out of the game for throwing matches in 1817.

Whistle-blowing is all very well, but there is a need for hard evidence to back it up. Unless police inquiries are still ongoing from last September, or unless Lewis has come up with something more concrete now, the situation has not moved on since it first came to light last year.