“The ICC Can’t Remain A Mute Spectator Now”

Bigger Than Bodyline
December 21, 1998
“It’s Important We Play Against Pakistan. It’s Our Ashes.”
January 25, 1999

“The ICC Can’t Remain A Mute Spectator Now”

How concerned is the ICC? Match-fixing charges are crawling out of the woodwork, so to speak?

We are obviously very concerned. We realise that it may be a problem for individual boards but as the parent body we have to step in. It’s our duty not to allow the matter to drift. Even if the constitution of a commission is necessary, it will be done. Committees don’t have the power sometimes.

Have you worked out any modalities yet? Like, for instance, the number of people on the commission, the terms of reference, who will head it etc?

In Christchurch, New Zealand, where the ICC executive board is meeting on January 9-10, this whole issue will be discussed under a special agenda. This will be the main business. When a meeting of this kind is round the corner, it’s wise to take a collective decision. Whether we should give the whole thing the colour of a commission. If we do that (set up a commission), what’s the legal implications going to be? Basically, we mean business but the modalities have to be worked out.

And the expected time-frame for any such thing? Six months, eight?

The main purpose is to get to the bottom of it. I can’t comment on a time limit now.

Wouldn’t the ICC be going over the same territory in terms of an inquiry which the Pakistan and Indian boards have already done?

So far whatever they were doing, it was in their own way. The ICC wasn’t interfering. The format has to be looked at now. There is no point in only conducting an inquiry. We have to avoid the creation of a situation where if any player plays a rash shot or tries to increase the run rate because of his team situation and gets out, then he’s in the dock. Nobody should also be allowed to use the inquiry for a publicity stunt or to settle personal scores. At the same time, the ICC can’t remain a passive spectator. In short, the exercise is not to cover up but, as I said, to get to the bottom of the thing. We are not pronouncing a judgement by getting into the matter. We also won’t allow the matter to be swept under the carpet over technicalities.

“Better don’t nab the culprits rather than hurt an innocent even 20 per cent. Not that someone must be sheltered.”

Are you satisfied with the punishment meted out to Shane Warne and Mark Waugh?

That’s like putting the cart before the horse. Let us get into the matter first.

Did you know about the ACB fine on Mark Waugh and Shane Warne? Ar e there any ICC records on the matter?

If confidentiality was maintained, how can there be records?

Australian captain Mark Taylor has gone on record saying that even an ICC probe will not make any difference. The guilty are not going to come forward and admit their guilt. The burden of proof in such a case is going to be difficult.

That’s a point of law. But you see a situation has developed, certain players have come forward and certain people have been identified…. You cannot say at the moment that we are fighting a ghost.

Even where inquiries have taken place, like in India, the reports haven’t been released.

I think the Indian board made their inquiry public. Anybody can go and read the report.

No, that isn’t the case. Only selected excerpts were released. Is there a move afoot to revise the code of conduct for players?

A code is already in place. It might undergo change. But I cannot say that this will be done or that won’t be done…. We are a democratic body. It will be a collective decision. We are not trying to put something on somebody or go after somebody. But it is in our interest to get it done.

The one-day television format offers great room for misuse. The toss takes place 20-30 minutes before the telecast starts. So there are people on the pitch and in the stadium who know who’s batting first and what the line-ups are half-an-hour before the rest of the world. Any move to make all of it happen live?

We have the match referee involved in the toss now, besides the captains. What we don’t want is that cricket should cease to be a gentleman’s game. That’s our concern. Whenever there is a need we come up with something, but we can’t take a decision just on the basis of suspicion.

If an ICC initiative materialises, would it be aggressive enough to, say, write to the Indian government to release the names of cricketers who might have deposited money under the VDIS?

Let’s see. At the moment we are getting into the matter. The ICC has traditionally kept away from such matters. It’s a big change in the ICC’S mental make-up to come forward and involve itself in such matters.

Would you say Outlook’s stand on the entire issue has been vindicated?

Not necessarily. Whatever has come out now was not borne by your story. It is an isolated event which took place much before your story. But if there’s anything, it should be written about. At that time when your story came out, it was immature and without an indepth study. There should be no witch-hunting. Yes, we should book the culprit but not hurt some innocents in the process. It is better that you do not nab the culprits rather than hurt an innocent even 20 per cent. That will make good people stay away from cricket. It will be like, even though I am not a competent authority to speak about it, Indian politics. Since everybody talks bad about it, good people have started thinking why should we get into it. That way a great harm is done.

But that doesn’t mean that somebody has to be sheltered. It’s difficult to draw a line. Basically, what I said as secretary of the BCCI and what I am saying now is the same thing. I haven’t grown any wiser. However, you can’t allow the game to go into disrepute. How can you let spectators believe that everything’s not above board? Keeping this in mind, Outlook’s intention to probe the issue might have been good. They wanted to clean it up. But sufficient precaution wasn’t taken. How can you say something (reference to the infamous Rs 25 lakh offer to Manoj Prabhakar by a teammate to throw a match against Pakistan) four years ago and then go down the line saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about it anymore’. If you (Prabhakar) have given the name, as you say, to the team management then what stops you from taking the name again.

“We have to get to the bottom of it (match-fixing). Cricket should not cease to be a gentleman’s game.”

Do you anticipate any kind of opposition to the ICC initiative from individual boards?

(Smiling) I don’t know. It’s become a world phenomenon now and it’s best that a foreign body steps in to get to the bottom of it.

Is the Asian Test championship under way? The world Test championship seems to have been your dream project?

It’s an Asian Cricket Council matter. The main thing is that it shouldn’t be in competition with the world Test championship but complementary. We have to frame the rules. We have to evaluate the merits and convert the result into a points system. The Asian thing can be a pilot project. It’s only here that there are three Test-playing countries next to each other. It may happen early next year. I hope to implement the world championship before I leave the ICC office. Cricket boards have itineraries drawn up that sometimes run for six-seven years. What’s the point in giving Test status to Bangladesh if no country plays against them? There are only nine Test-playing countries. What is important is that they get to play cricket with each other on a regular basis.

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