Players may be asked to take lie-detector tests to help stop cricket match-fixing. The idea has been proposed by Steve Waugh, one of the toughest of all cricketers, who is to lead a new anti-corruption team to clean up the game.
As the Ashes enters its crucial phase with both teams desperate to win the third Test, the world of illegal bookies, betting scams and rigged fixtures seemed thousands of miles away – as indeed most things are from Perth. But the MCC world cricket committee, consisting of 19 former players and umpires – many of them true greats – has been at the Waca urgently discussing what can be done to ensure the game regains its purity.
"Match-fixing is the greatest issue concerning the game right now," said Waugh, who has been on the committee since it was set up four years ago to deal with significant cricketing issues as an independent but influential voice. "Personally, I get a bit sick and tired of answering questions about match-fixing: 'What do you know about it? Why is it in the game? What's happening?' For all players it's something we don't want and something we've got to work towards getting a better situation.
"The lie-detector test idea came from me. I was thinking about how we can make players more accountable for their actions. If you have done nothing wrong, why wouldn't you have a lie-detector test to say you have done nothing wrong? Of course, you can't make it compulsory, but I'm saying that if players want to take a lie-detector test to show they have done nothing wrong then I don't see anything wrong with that. It's just one step, it doesn't mean everyone has to take it."
Of course, once a player declined the offer to be wired up to a polygraph the cloud of suspicion would immediately descend. "Why wouldn't you take it if you have nothing to hide? I guess that's the way we're thinking, let's see if we can help this situation," said Waugh.
The next logical step might be to have lie-detector tests available during matches to help umpires: "Did you nick that ball behind?" "No," you say, but the polygraph says you're lying so you're out, chum.
The proposal gained an immediate welcome from the ICC, which issued a statement saying: "We have a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and we would consider anything, including lie-detector tests, which would help us stamp it out."
Although the MCC World Cricket Committee has no official status its membership is so gilded that it has had a profound influence on ICC policy. It wants to amend the Laws of the game, of which it remains the guardian and arbiter, through the Spirit of Cricket Preamble, to forbidding specifically corrupt practices to determine any aspect of a match.
Of more wide-ranging effect might be the committee's proposal to try to legalise and regulate betting markets in India. It is widely held that illegal bookies on the subcontinent are at the hub of match-fixing. Waugh, who has been appointed to lead a WCC working party to make firm recommendations, has not ruled out the idea of going to India to try to track down the illegal markets.
"We've got to do our research but quite a few members of this committee think this is something we should seriously look at," he said. "I think there would be less room for players to be corrupted if it's legitimate."
But having led Australia in 57 Test matches, Waugh pinpointed where corruption was likely to start in teams. "One of the main points is the captains," he said. "They have got to be mentors and role models to the young guys in their sides.
"Look back at most of the issues confronting match-fixing, they have only been instigated because the captains have been involved and once the captains have been involved younger players see that and think, 'Well, if it's OK for him, it's OK for me', and once you have taken that first step you're committed. That's the big issue, let's get our captains setting an example and if they do the right thing it's going to be hard for the other players to step out of line."
Waugh no doubt had in mind the examples of Mohammad Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje, both of whom were banned for life after they were found to be match-fixers. More recently, Salman Butt of Pakistan has been suspended from international cricket pending inquiries into alleged misdemeanours during the fourth Test at Lord's between England and Pakistan last August which led to the present round of soul-searching.
Tony Lewis, the chairman of the World Cricket Committee, said: "Cricket has moved on a bit and we've had serious discussions this week. We're knee- deep in corruption and all the things we don't want to see in the game."
Waugh also offered his observations on the Ashes series. "Anything can happen in sport," he said. "The uncertainty is what keeps us coming back. It's only 1-0 in a five-Test series. It's unlikely if you look at form that we can turn it round but anything can happen in sport. But right now you'd have to say England are favourites." Nobody asked him to take a lie-detector test.