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Indian journos under spot-fixing scanner for ICC Cricket World Cup

Jasvinder Sidhu

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Alex Marshall is the General Manager for the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.

New Delhi: With cricket’s biggest extravaganza about to unfold in a weeks’ time, the biggest challenge for the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to keep a check on any suspicious activity leading to spot-fixing with bookmakers more active than ever before. In recent times, bookies’ approaches to international captains and players  have increased with renewed involvement from businessmen, actors, state-level cricketers and even journalists.

Reports said all 10 participating countries will have a dedicated anti-corruption officer during the World Cup.

Sports Lounge has learnt that the ACSU will be keeping a close eye on  businessmen, actors, domestic cricketers and even working journalists to avoid the possibility of the gentleman’s game getting tainted.

Sources said that two journalists from India and three from Bangladesh have been banned from attending all international matches including the ICC Cricket World Cup.

The above mentioned journalists allegedly approached some international players as middlemen  and offered valuables on behalf of a suspected bookie.

The ACSU data says that there are more than 100 active bookies worldwide, with the majority coming from India, including an actor-turned-bookmaker (jailed in IPL spot-fixing case) and MK (M.K. Gupta alias John), a bookie involved in the 2000 match-fixing scandal. MK’s whereabouts are unknown.

The ACSU data describes one Mumbai actor, two women from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka each as suspected ‘honey traps’ used by the bookies. The ICC is leaving no stone unturned to check corruption in the game but bookies are still their biggest challenge.

Last year, according to ICC’s annual report, betting syndicates from Asia got access to four Test captains and explored all possibilities to corrupt them and the game. ICC report for 2017-18 says corruption in cricket is spreading and the unregulated betting markets in the Asian sub-continent are primarily responsible for this malice

According to a 2012 report by KPMG, an international audit company, India  has a Rs. 300,000 crore betting market.

ACSU had conducted a total of 18 investigations last year, which were the highest-ever in the history of the ICC. ACSU concluded that in five instances it found the involvement of officials in attempts to fix matches.

But no player has been found to be involved during that period. The investigation concluded: “Individuals who are not directly involved with cricket have had their corrupt activities disrupted and thirteen cases are still under investigation”.

Some of those investigations have been completed and one of them was against former Sri Lankan star Sanath Jayasuriya.

This February, Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lanka captain and Chairman of Selectors, had been banned from all cricket for two years after admitting breach of two counts of the ICC Anti-Corruption code.

ICC found Jayasuriya guilty for failure or refusal, without compelling justification, to cooperate with any investigation carried out by the ACSU.

According to ACSU verdict, Jayasuriya had “obstructed/delayed any investigation that might be carried out by the ACSU.

That including concealing, tampering with or destroying any documentation or other information that may be relevant to that investigation and/or that may be evidence or may lead to the discovery of evidence of corrupt conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code”.

This month, the ICC has also suspended other former Sri Lankan players—Nuwan Joysa, Avishka Gunawardene and Dilhara Lokuhettige—for breaching the anti-corruption code.

One positive thing is that the ICC’s education program is yielding fruit to counter corruption. This can be gauged by an increase in reporting of suspicious activity by the players.

“It is vital that there is a strong deterrent to both players and administrators to ensure we have high standards of conduct in our game,” said ICC Chairman, Shashank Manohar.

“We have more than a billion fans and we must not give any of them any reason to doubt the high levels of integrity within our sport”.

Following the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, the BCCI had distributed handbooks to all age-group players.

The new handbook, ‘Hundred Things a professional cricketer Must Know,’ authored by the GO foundation and forwarded by Rahul Dravid extensively details alerts about corrupt approaches.

“In the context of approaches, you should also be aware of the practices of ‘grooming’ and ‘honey trapping,’ read the handbook. ‘Grooming includes the giving of gifts and building of an apparent relationship of trust from an early age or for a long period of time.

“This builds obligation and a false trust, which will be exploited later. Honey trapping includes the provision of sexual favours and otherwise putting someone in a compromised or embarrassing position that provides an opportunity for blackmail at a later stage”.

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