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Life bans would clean up cricket

There has been a fair bit said about the MCC's lie-detector proposal, but life bans would clean up cricket.

There has been a fair bit said about the Marylebone Cricket Club's World Cricket Committee proposing that lie-detector tests be used to get to the bottom of match-fixing issues that have plagued the game for more than a decade.

Some have ridiculed the idea, pointing out how it would infringe on players' rights, but it must be understand that it is the desperation at the lack of progress made that makes men of the calibre of Steve Waugh and Mike Brearley suggest such measures.

It bothers players, current and past, that their achievements might be tarnished because of a few rotten apples.

Waugh felt that keenly himself during his playing career.

Australia came back from losing their first two games to win the World Cup in 1999, and were left fuming afterwards when people without a shred of proof would suggest Pakistan had under performed in the final.

In his deposition before the King Commission, Ali Bacher, then the man in charge of South Africa's cricket board, admitted that Majid Khan, his counterpart with the Pakistan Cricket Board, had told him that two of the matches Pakistan played at the World Cup had been fixed.

"The lie-detector idea came from me as I was wondering how we can make more players accountable for their actions," said Waugh.

"If you have done nothing wrong why would you not take a lie-detector test to say you have done nothing wrong? We can't make it compulsory but if players want to take one to show they have done nothing wrong then why not?"

Not everyone approves of News of the World-style journalism, but the fact remains that their sting operation has forced the International Cricket Council (ICC) to take some steps to try to curb the menace. Its own Anti-Corruption Unit has not managed to find proof against a single player in a decade of existence.

"If we have to take extreme measures in order to be 100 per cent confident that the game's being played in the right spirit, then I'd be happy to do it," said Andrew Strauss, the England captain, when asked about it, but it is unlikely that too many cricket boards will share Waugh's enthusiasm for the project.

For one, most scientists regard lie-detector tests as a sham. There have been several examples of innocents failing them, and the guilty not being found out, and few courts would consider them admissible evidence.

Cricket's problem is that evidence is next to impossible to unearth. Hansie Cronje was not the victim of an elaborately laid trap. He was found out because the Delhi police were tapping someone else's number and somehow happened to intercept his call to Sanjeev Chawla.

A senior Mumbai police official who has investigated fixing rackets for close to 15 years scoffs at the suggestion that it can be stopped.

"Indian law doesn't allow you to record telephone conversations unless it's a matter of national security," he said. "That's why I can't record conversations between bookies and players."

As of now, someone convicted of fixing a game in India faces a 200-rupee (Dh16) fine or three months' imprisonment, hardly the strongest deterrent. A law-enforcement official who listened in on a bookie or a guilty player would face a far harsher sentence.

The only solution for now, which Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, has hinted at, is ruthlessness with those found guilty of suspicious behaviour.

A two-year or five-year ban is no way out. Ban them for life, and erase their records from the books. Make each player aware that if they choose the wrong company, they cease to exist as far as cricket is concerned. That's the only way to nail the lies.

Published: December 17, 2010 04:00 AM

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