Robin Scott-Elliot: Don't mention the fixing or the absentees

Certain reputations remain in limbo, as must that of the sport itself

Andrew Strauss has entered the lair of the toothless tiger. Next week England will play their first Test since becoming the best in the world according to the official rankings. Their opponents are Pakistan, the venue the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which stands not far from the offices of the International Cricket Council, the organisers of those rankings and the target of the England captain's considered reproach.

The ICC might have been tempted to fiddle its fixture list as a meeting of these two, when the Test game is on an encouraging and enjoyable high, is loaded with more baggage than a Heathrow carousel. England and Pakistan have history – a large part of which actually consists of some breathtaking cricket – but it is the excess, and recent excesses in particular, that weigh down the fixture.

This already has the air of the Basil Fawlty series: don't mention the spot-fixing. Don't mention that three men who would have been key performers will instead be sitting in British prisons, and certainly don't mention that there are two players in the Pakistan squad who were also supposed clients of Mazhar Majeed, the convicted trio's agent, who was also jailed last November, and whose names featured during the trial.

The ICC, it should be said, has seriously sought to combat the scourge of fixing that has been a grim threat to the sport for two decades now. Other sports have looked to cricket's example when considering how to address match-fixing, which is overtaking doping as sport's public enemy No 1. The jailing of the three players was a significant moment, but it is also significant that cricket's governing body played at best a minor role in what happened in Southwark Crown Court. The ICC's attitude, certainly its public stance, since has not confronted a problem that will not go away. The illegal gambling market is estimated by Interpol to be worth an annual £500m in Asia alone and is unlikely to be resting on its ill-gained laurels.

Cricket is not the only sport threatened. Football's authorities are increasingly concerned – Fifa's life ban for six referees involved in helping to fix two friendly internationals stands as a more impressive response than the punishments handed out to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir by the ICC. Butt, as captain, should have been banned for life. The Olympics has recently been highlighted as a target for fixers, while tennis too has been on the receiving end.

For cricket it is a problem centred on Asia, where the bookmakers are based in places like Singapore, Mumbai and Karachi, but it is by no means only an Asian problem. The bookmakers have London links, while during the cricketers' trial there was evidence of a party based in Dubai closely involved in fixing.

That it is not only an Asian issue, or indeed one confined to the Pakistan team, will be alleged in London this week when Mervyn Westfield, the former Essex bowler, goes on trial at the Old Bailey on similar charges to those levelled against Butt, Asif, Amir and Majeed. Westfield is accused of taking money to bowl poorly for Essex during a Pro40 match against Durham in 2009. He denies the charges.

Like the previous trial, this is not a case based on action by the sport's authorities. The England and Wales Cricket Board has set up its own anti-corruption unit and the former policeman who heads it has said that it would be "naïve" not to think there is fixing in the county game. No mere cricket authority can combat illegal gambling run by criminal gangs with international reach – the ICC is shortly to meet with Interpol to discuss closer cooperation – but what can be done is to deal properly and fairly with the cricketers themselves, ensure they are educated, protected and made aware of the punishments that will follow if they betray their team-mates, their supporters and their sport. Clarity is vital, which brings us back to England's looming series with Pakistan and, in particular, the possible presence of Wahab Riaz and Umar Akmal.

The names of both featured in the spot-fixing trial. Majeed, the British agent, said they were among his clients. They have strongly denied wrongdoing. Akmal has denied even knowing Majeed, a close associate of his brother Kamran, Butt's vice-captain. Riaz, a talented fast bowler, has not played a Test since last May. When he was chosen for the squad to face England it was described as a return following "an unexplained six-month absence". The Pakistan Cricket Board, having given no reason for not choosing him, said that it had sought assurances from the ICC over selecting Riaz. It did not take long for the ICC to respond, saying the PCB's choice to pick the 26-year-old was nothing to do with the ICC. Selection is a national issue, was the gist of a statement by Haroon Lorgat, the organisation's chief executive. So nothing has been done to clear the dark cloud that hangs over Riaz.

During the trial the prosecution suggested the roles of "Wahab Riaz and Kamran Akmal raise deep, deep suspicions". After the trial ICC investigators were handed the evidence the Metropolitan Police had gathered. Kamran Akmal has disappeared from the Pakistan squad – again unexplained – but others, like Riaz, remain. They have not been charged, let alone condemned, but then neither have they been publicly cleared; their reputations remain in limbo, as must that of the sport itself.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible