Belfast Telegraph

Cricket’s on a sticky wicket when it lectures Pakistan

By Mark Steel

Now there must be loads of people who wish they'd be accused of making mistakes on purpose to satisfy a betting scam.

Gordon Brown would love it if he could claim he wasn't really bafflingly useless, he'd thrown the election on the instructions of a crook with a drawer full of fifties.

And the England football team would be delighted to reveal that of course they could have beaten Algeria if they'd tried, but you could get 50-1 against a draw in which England were rubbish beyond the power of rational thought so they couldn't resist.

But even so, everyone in charge of cricket seems to be shocked at claims of Pakistani fiddling, in which the honour of the game was allegedly sacrificed for vulgar cash.

The English Cricket Board must be especially horrified, because when Allen Stanford — on trial for fraud involving $8bn (£5.2bn) — offered them several million if they took part in his Stanford tournament, they waited an honourable three seconds before replying “Ooooooh, yes, please!”

So their complaint about the Pakistanis must be “damned fools to bowl deliberate no-balls for £10,000. They should have held out for fifty”.

The current chairman of the ECB is Giles Clarke, who became a millionaire through investment banking, so you can imagine he must be appalled at how anyone could ignore the long term social implications of their actions and only consider short-term selfish gain.

Because cricket is about fair play and not trying to obsessively enrich yourself, which is why another recent chairman was Lord MacLaurin, former CEO of Tesco.

To be fair, this attitude isn't confined to England.

The president of the International Cricket Council is Sharad Pawar, the richest politician in India, who's warned the Pakistanis should drop the suspected cheats because “if you have tainted players taking part it might lead to people not watching the matches”.

The cricket authorities' current mania for 20- overs cricket is similarly driven by short-term gain, and it seems they'd promote whichever form of the game the sponsors and marketers demanded.

The decision to sell the TV rights to Sky was based on short-term profit, although it removed the game from anyone who doesn't pay for Sky Sports.

If the Playboy Channel offered a couple of million more, the ECB would take it, and the opening bowlers for the Ashes would be Candy (25) and Ginger (19).”

The philosophy that controls world cricket is the one that controls the world; to make as much profit as quickly as possible and never mind about what happens later. Perhaps the accused thought they were only following the rules of the game.

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