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Last Updated: Monday, 4 June 2007, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
The shadow over cricket
Hansie Cronje
Cronje's admissions shocked fans across the world
The death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer has again cast the spotlight on corruption in cricket, with rumours abounding of a link to the world of illegal betting.

Tours to apartheid-era South Africa, perennial ball-tampering rows, the fallout from England's boycott of Zimbabwe and the extraordinary Bodyline series of the early 1930s all generated acres of press coverage.

But all pale in comparison with cricket's darkest corner, the ongoing scandal of match fixing.

Commentators have been quick to link Woolmer's death with the underworld. Conspiracy theories that he was silenced as he about to lift the lid on the world of match rigging have spread like wildfire.

In some countries, it is now more lucrative to engage in sports corruption than drug dealing or robbery
Lord Condon

Year zero for cricket was 2000. Before then, Pakistan batsman Salim Malik's reputation was as an elegant stroke-player with such guts that on one occasion he played with a broken arm.

After 2000, Malik was a cricketing pariah, banned for life for his part in alleged match fixing.

At the heart of cricketing's worst problem is the status of gambling in the subcontinent. Without the option of legitimate betting, gamblers in cricket-mad South Asia call on the services of illicit bookmakers. Those bookmakers are often in the pockets of gangsters.

And the sums of money involved are monstrous.

Lord Condon, former head of the Metropolitan Police and now the head of the International Cricket Council's corruption unit, says up to $1bn can be gambled globally on a single one-day international such as a key World Cup game.

Much of that money will pass through the illicit bookmakers in places like Mumbai and Karachi, and the temptation to steer the odds in their favour is huge.

Hansie is a God-fearing, intense cricketer - he would never succumb to such a thing
Bob Woolmer
Before Cronje admissions

Malik's downfall came because Australian stars Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh accused him of offering them money to play badly during a tour of Pakistan in 1994.

Warne and Waugh eventually had their own run-ins with the authorities after it emerged they had accepted money from an Indian bookmaker in exchange for information during the tour to Sri Lanka in the same year.

But it was the investigation, led by Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum, into the numerous allegations against Malik that was to provide a real body blow to cricket.

After Justice Qayyum's report Malik and fast bowler Ata-ur Rehman were banned for life. He recommended six other players should be fined, including Inzamam-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

In December 2000, the Board of Control for Cricket in India completed its investigation of allegations of match fixing by handing life bans to former team captain and flamboyant batsman Mohammad Azharuddin and fellow test star Ajay Sharma.

DAWOOD IBRAHIM
Dawood Ibrahim
Accused of 1993 Mumbai bombs
Linked to illegal bookmakers
Allegedly controls drugs and prostitution
Thought to be in hiding in Pakistan

All-rounder Manoj Prabhakar and batsman Ajay Jadeja were suspended for five years.

But perhaps the greatest cataclysm in the history of the sport came on 7 April 2000 when Delhi police released transcripts of phone conversations between South African captain Hansie Cronje and businessman Sanjay Chawla.

The resolute Cronje, like Azharuddin and Malik, was idolised by fans and fellow players alike.

Woolmer, who had coached South Africa, was one of many to initially defend the born-again Christian against the charges.

"Hansie is a God-fearing, intense cricketer. He would never succumb to such a thing. It beggars belief," he said.

But within four days, Cronje had made a 3am call to Ali Bacher, the head of South African cricket, to admit to receiving money from a bookmaker for forecasting. He was sacked as captain.

The Guardian summed up the mood of the time when it used the headline "We can no longer say it's not cricket". The Times simply said "Cronje and cricket stare into abyss".

In June, Judge Erwin King started South Africa's investigation into Cronje's corruption and the all-rounder soon admitted taking money to ask team-mates to play badly. He denied ever fixing or throwing a match.

Mohammad Azharuddin
Azharuddin wants to overturn his ban

In his evidence both Azharuddin and Malik were accused of involvement with bookies.

Herschelle Gibbs admitted taking $15,000 from Cronje to score under 20 runs in a match in India and accused his captain of offering bribes to get a match thrown.

Gibbs and bowler Henry Williams were given short bans from international cricket, while Cronje received a lifetime ban. In June 2002 he died in an air crash.

In the autumn of 2000, bookmaker Mukesh "MK" Gupta accused England wicketkeeper and former captain Alec Stewart of accepting money for information, something he vehemently denied. He was later cleared by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe and Sri Lankans Aravinda da Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga were also later cleared.

The same year also saw the appointment of Condon as chief corruption investigator and he has become one of the key figures in the fight against match-fixing.

In May 2001, his first report included allegations of murder, kidnap and drug use and condemned a climate of "silence, apathy, ignorance and fear" in the game. He traced match fixing back to the 1970s.

Speaking to the House of Lords recently he said the rise of more varied methods of gambling, such as spread betting had made the opportunities for corruption more varied.

There was no need now for a risky proposition, like attempting to corrupt a whole team. Instead, the Byzantine array of options in spread betting means bookmakers only need to get at one player.

Salim Malik
Malik went rapidly from hero to zero

"The betting analogy that I often draw is that the corrupt sportsman creates the equivalent of knowing in advance when the roulette wheel is going to land on red or black," said Condon.

"Imagine the betting potential if you knew that. Even better, by fixing a part of a sporting event - say, fixing to bowl two wides in a particular over of a cricket match - he creates the equivalent in betting terms of knowing in advance when the roulette wheel is going to land on an individual number, thus enabling a massive betting coup because of the long odds that you can obtain on such an event."

The end result was that rather than satisfying themselves that they have stamped out corruption, the cricket authorities must be aware that they may never beat it.

"In some countries, it is now more lucrative to engage in sports corruption than drug dealing or robbery," he noted.

West Indies all-rounder Marlon Samuels is currently under investigation over allegations he supplied team information to Indian bookmaker Mukesh Kochchar. Police in India believe Kochchar may have links to India's most notorious gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

The diminutive Ibrahim, who is accused of masterminding the 1993 Mumbai sectarian bombings that claimed the lives of 257 people, is thought to be a major figure in the world of illegal gambling.

Rooting out both players, bookies, middlemen and gangsters has proved difficult over the years.

The bookmakers reportedly use networks of safe houses and constantly changing untraceable mobile phones to deal with customers.

And the gangsters pulling the strings are not above murder to ensure their profits. A number of bookmakers are believed to have met violent ends, including South Africa-based Muhammad Hanif "Cadbury" Kodvavi, killed and cut up in May 1999.

Corruption investigations have even affected cricket's international minnows, with former Kenyan captain Maurice Odumbe banned for five years in August 2004 for accepting a string of blandishments from bookmakers.

And sometimes, the authorities have seemed rather ambivalent in their attitude towards the very people they label cheats.

In November, Ata-ur-Rehman had his ban lifted by the ICC, while Azharuddin was feted as a hero of Indian cricket by officials. He has sat in the VIP section of matches and also played in a veterans game. Azharuddin and Malik both hope to have their bans lifted.

But whatever is proved in the Woolmer case, the spectre of corruption will continue to dog the gentleman's game for some time to come.




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