'We should not have tojustify our existence'

The player's story: Scandal is a blow for the ordinary cricketer

Dougie Brown's England career lasted only four months of one winter, but it was long enough to bring him into contact with the murkier side of international cricket. Called up for the Champ-ions' Trophy in Sharjah in the December of 1997, he spent some days first in Pakistan, where the squad was dispatched to prepare.

One morning in Lahore it became clear why the players had been advised to be wary of inquisitive strangers. Brown, Adam Hollioake and Alec Stewart were approached while they took breakfast. "This guy came up to us and quickly started asking questions about who was going to be in the team in Sharjah," Brown recalled. "We had been warned about the activities of bookmakers and he was told basically where he could get off."

The 30-year-old Warwickshire all-rounder, one of those whole-hearted professionals with which county cricket abounds, found the incident back in his mind when Hansie Cronje made his confession.

But the sense of outrage he experienced had less to do with unscrupulous gamblers trying to drag cricket into the gutter than with how the fall-out from this affair will pollute the game at levels far removed from the international arena. "Hansie's team-mates will feel terribly let down when they've busted a gut for him only to find out something like this was going on," Brown said. "But, beyond that, the majority of cricketers generally will feel let down because of the damage done to the game's credibility.

"You start to question everything now, things that happened in the World Cup and other matches, wondering about a catch dropped or a wicket thrown away.

"But what is so upsetting is that you know other people will be thinking the same things. We hear people say that they'll never be able to watch a dramatic match unfold without wondering whether it is straight or not, and that's so frustrating for us and very hurtful.

"I'd say 99.9 per cent of cricketers are squeaky clean, the kind who only want to get stuck in and play the game hard and fair, and that's where it causes frustration. Inevitably, people will be looking at us and asking questions and we feel we have to justify our existence, to prove our game is straight. We should not be having to do that."

Brown's sentiments are echoed by Jason Gallian, the Nottinghamshire captain and another player proud to have had brief acquaintance with international cricket. "It has shaken everyone up," he said. "Every player across the world will be worried about the situation because every performance will now be scrutinised.

"You worry about the game losing its support. You want spectators to come and watch with the thought that they are seeing a good game of cricket, not to have it in the back of their mind that the game might not be honest."

Clive Rice, working with Gallian as cricket manager at Trent Bridge but still influential in South Africa as a selector, believes the onus is on the International Cricket Council to move swiftly. "Anyone found to be involved should be banned for life," Rice said. "And if the ICC think they do not have the power to take the issue away from individual countries then they should develop it fast. We cannot have a toothless body running the game."

Brown is equally adamant that the cricket authorities must now adopt the strongest possible stance. "Personally, I didn't see a problem with betting as long as you were backing your own team to win and not the opposition. But with spread betting coming in, the whole business has become a grey area, and I feel the ICC have to lay it on the line about what is and what is not permissible.

"There has to be a very clear code of conduct so that you know exactly where you stand. And when someone is found to have stepped over the line an example should be made of them. There should be fines that outweigh any financial gain that may have been made, perhaps even bans. Certainly, there needs to be a clear deterrent."

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