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May 23, 2001

Quo vadis?

Prem Panicker

The Sir Paul Condon report is out. Finally. And like the curate's egg, it is good in parts.

It is good, in that it overturns the political line that has prevailed till date: namely, that match-fixing is one of those dirty tricks the sub-continent gets up to, and which has left the rest of the world untouched.

ICC investigator Sir Paul Condon As long as that line of thinking prevailed, fixing was never going to be solved. Simply because the first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge, openly, that it exists -- and if most of the cricket-playing world refuses to acknowledge that the problem is not restricted only to cricketers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, we are never going to get anywhere.

Thus, it is significant that the report traces the origins of fixing back to English county cricket in the seventies.

Significant, too, that it reopens the question of the two Australian players, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne. In this connection, perhaps the biggest shocker is not in the Condon report, but in the one submitted earlier by Queen's Counsel Rob O'Regan, to the ACB, after investigating the Waugh-Warne affair.

All along, we had been led to believe the entire transaction was innocent. That the two cricketers didn't really know who they were talking to, and what he wanted. O'Regan in his report says that Mark Waugh introduced 'John' to Shane Warne with the words: "This is my friend John, he bets on cricket."

The point of 'raking the Waugh-Warne issue up' (as the above para might be interpreted) is to make a larger point. Condon in his report says that thanks to the Anti Corruption Unit now operating in full public glare, opportunities for match-fixing have been drastically reduced.

However, it is equally important to remember that until and unless history -- at least recent history -- has been thoroughly examined and all culprits named and punished, the shadow of the past will remain over the future.

The Condon report, again, is significant in laying the blame squarely on the ICC for its apathy, and the various member boards for ignoring the issue and allowing it to fester.

Equally, Sir Paul Condon sets an agenda for the future when he says, unequivocally, that dead matches in Tests and ODIs are fertile breeding grounds for corruption. Ironically, the ICC's just-launched World Test Championship creates just such a situation, by laying the emphasis on series wins and not on each individual Test. (Read the Rediff analysis).

If the ICC is to be seen to be serious in weeding out corruption in the game, then getting players to sign forms and promise to be good little boys just won't cut it. It will need -- and urgently, at that -- to recalibrate the cricketing calender. It will need to take an unequivocal stand on non-recognised venues -- in other words, if the ICC takes Condon's report seriously, it will need to ban all such venues and tournaments and impose penalties on teams and individuals taking part.

Similarly, the ICC will need to rethink the standalone triangular tournaments, that invariably create a situation where one side sails into the final early and opens itself up to bribery. Most importantly, the ICC will need to rework the format of the Test World Championship before any real harm is done.

Where the Condon report fails to meet expectations is in the many avenues that remain unexplored, the many leads that remain uninvestigated. Vide, to name some names, Alec Stewart. Brian Lara. Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda D'Silva. Martin Crowe. There is within the report an indication that investigations are ongoing -- hopefully, in the interests of laying the ghosts once for all, these investigations will be swift, and the follow-up report equally prompt.

The onus, though, is not really on Condon at this point. Rather, the spotlight, very clearly, is on the ICC, and on its president Malcolm Gray.

A series of swift, strong measures aimed at redressing the ills Condon warns about will go a long way to assuage the latest shock the game has sustained. And by the same token, any delay -- the kind that is generally prefixed by lines like 'The ICC will meet two months hence to consider appointing a committee to consider possible action...' -- will further fuel the mistrust the fans, today, feel for the game.

Meanwhile, as you are aware, a series of reports have become public knowledge today. A comprehensive collection of links is given below. All yours -- analyse it for us, tell us what you think, suggest remedies for the future. We'll look to hear from you.

Highlights of ICC corruption report


The Paul Condon Report

Code of Conduct Report of Official Inquiry

O'Regan Report

A Test of logic

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