It’s never-ending, this alleged fixing stuff in cricket. A TV station in India is claiming that umpires are involved in providing information and making decisions in favour of certain players. It could drag on for some time yet, and many will be left wondering – again – just how deep the rabbit hole is. By ANT SIMS.
If India TV is to be believed, six cricket umpires have agreed to take money for making decisions that favour certain players. The International Cricket Council (ICC), as well as the boards of those umpires involved, have taken swift action – and the six umpires allegedly involved have been suspended.
"The ICC and its relevant full member boards have agreed not to appoint any of the umpires named in a sting operation recently conducted by India TV to any domestic or international cricket matches, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigations into the allegations made," the ICC said.
"The officials named are not contracted by the ICC, and those boards who employ and nominate the umpires directly will conduct the investigations as a matter of urgency."
The TV channel screened footage on Monday which showed what officials from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka apparently negotiating deals with under-over reporters to affect the outcome of matches.
Pakistan's Nadeem Ghauri and Anees Siddiqui, Nadir Shah of Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka's Gamini Dissanayake, Maurice Winston and Sagara Gallage were all seen agreeing to give favourable decisions in exchange for umpiring contracts and money.
Ghauri, however, has painted a very different picture to that which is alleged by the TV channel.
"I was approached by some TV channel from India who asked me to do an interview through Skype," Ghauri told reporters in Lahore.
"They did ask me about the fixing stuff, but I had nothing to say on the topic. They asked me to come to India and be part of their TV shows.
"I have submitted all details to the PCB about my communication with the caller in India. In fact, the company had been offering me not only TV shows appearances, but also league contracts as umpire. I asked them, on the direction of the PCB, to write [to] me officially about the offer and details of the contract – then we will be able to make a decision. They didn't agree; they asked me to come to India to negotiate contract, which wasn't possible due to the visa process. Hence we communicated through Skype. But then my Indian friend, umpire Anil Chaudary, told me that this is a fake company and have no office based in India. So I disengaged myself from communicating with them."
All of the umpires have, in different interviews with the media, denied the charges against them. The ICC has, meanwhile, urged the TV station to hand over any sort of footage which could assist them in their investigation.
"The ICC and its relevant members have been made aware of the allegations made by India TV this evening, and calls on the station to turn over any information which can assist the ICC's urgent investigations into this matter," the sport’s governing body said in a statement when the story first broke.
"The ICC reiterates its zero-tolerance [approach] towards corruption, whether alleged against players or officials. The ICC confirms that none of the umpires named were involved in any of the official games of the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka."
The sting was set up in July and August, with reporters pretending they belonged to a sports management company and promising umpires assignments at various events, mostly at domestic Twenty20 leagues but also in other parts of the world.
The same TV channel set up a sting operation in May, which led to the Indian cricket board (BCCI) banning one uncapped player for life and handing out punishments to four others for their involvement in corruption in domestic cricket.
The current sting alleges that one of the umpires involved provided pre-match information relating to a domestic T20 match which included the state of the pitch, the playing XIs and the result of the toss – and had allegedly been paid Rs15,000 (US$285) for it. On the footage, he can be heard promising the same kinds of information for a world Twenty20 practice match 90 minutes before the start.
While the boards and ICC were quite right to hand out suspensions while they were in the middle of their investigations, and while most of the umpires allegedly involved might be completely innocent, the current situation does, once again, raise the question of just how deep the rabbit hole goes. That the game is sick, there’s no denying. It’s good to know, though, that those in charge are ready to meet any sort of illness with immediate and hostile action. DM
Photo: Pakistan's Shahid Afridi (C) celebrates with teammates the wicket of South Africa's Hashim Amla as umpire Nadeem Ghauri (L) walks past, during their fifth one-day international cricket match in Dubai November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Nikhil Monteiro