Opinion: Our faith in the game is being eroded

Blog Opinion

It is important to remember that Vincent is not some kind-hearted cricketer who was appalled by what he had seen. He is a cheat who got caught and is selling out his fellow swindlers to save himself from a prison sentence.

Brands cry out for a quick association with their product. Battery manufacturers are delighted that a rabbit that doesn't stop is synonymous with stamina. Fast food restaurants are pleased that their slogans enter into every day parlance.

Cricket would like to think that it evokes connotations of fair play and gentlemanly conduct. The sport should probably have never had those associations, but with each passing year it loses whatever it had left of this ideal of sportsmanship. Now it is becoming a byword for fixing.

For a game that prides its self of being played in the right 'spirit', it is all the more galling that the fixing scandals just keep flooding in. While the fall out of the spot fixing allegations at last year's IPL are investigated by the Indian Supreme Court, despite the best efforts of the BCCI to stop them, Lou Vincent has started singing like an X-Factor hopeful who has spotted a TV camera.

It is important to remember that Vincent is not some kindhearted cricketer who was appalled by what he had seen. He is a cheat who got caught and is selling out his fellow swindlers to save himself from a prison sentence. Any praise that you see for him telling all needs to be tempered by the fact that he is only doing so to save his backside.

Vincent has said that he fixed three matches in England and 12 in total. The much discussed Kent vs Sussex game in 2011 is one of those that he says were dirty. He says he was offered £40,000 to under perform.

At the time Vincent was earning around £20,000 from Sussex. The average county player earns between £30,000-£50,000 for playing for a county. It is not in any way excuse, but from a human level you can understand why heads would be turned for that kind of cash.

There are some that have claimed that fixing isn't really that big a deal, especially in the T20 leagues that have popped up around the world since the format spread globally following India's win of the inaugural World T20. They will tell you it is just entertainment, it is a cricket version of American wrestling with kayfabe story lines. Perhaps this is how those who decide to fix justify their actions.

That would work as an argument if that was how the sport was advertised. We are told that nothing is certain when we sit down to watch a game of cricket. The audience at the wrestling are knowing participants in the deception. It is theatre, not sport, and that is fine because people know what they are watching. At the cricket there is no such understanding that what you are watching may in some way be predetermined.

While there is much talk of the death of Test cricket, the governance of the game and big bats and small boundaries ruining everything this is 'the real quiz'. If we cannot trust the veracity of results then the whole thing is lost. We may as well pack up and buy a replica Manchester United kit.

Last year I chatted with Gideon Haigh about fixing and he spoke of 'glorious uncertainty become inglorious certainty'. As ever with the Gid-father he summed it up pretty well. Some may be happy with the nefarious being involved behind the scenes as long as they are entertained. I would rather be bored and know what I am watching is honest.

Lou Vincent says that his fixing activities started at the now-defunct Indian Cricket League. Former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi claimed there was rampant fixing at this event, naming names.

He was sued for libel and lost, ostensibly because he could provide no proof of his allegations. Vincent's testimony to the Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) of the ICC suggests that the proof was there, even if Modi did not have access to it. But this is conjecture.

The biggest problem with fixing is that you start to doubt everything. One of the great things about cricket is that anything can happen. A side can need to chase down 190 in 14 overs to make it through to the next stage of a tournament and pull it off. The last pair can need to see out a whole session and manage it. A bowler can defend four runs off the last over of a T20. When this does happen the joy it brings you brings you back to the game.

Nowadays one of these miracles happens and every wag on Twitter is claiming it was a fix. This is the definition of counterproductive. If everyone throws allegations of corruption around the actual cases get lost in the crowd.

Most cricket matches aren't fixed, but some are. A significant enough proportion that we should be very concerned about it. It is in one country, one league or one team. It is everywhere, but allegations without proof are completely pointless.

What cricket needs is a properly constituted and well-funded police force. They need to be able to travel wherever they are required to investigate. They need to have the powers to suspend players pending investigation and ban them for life if found guilty.

This is how you stop it. £40,000 is enough money to tempt people if they are confident that they won't get caught. It might not be if they are worried about ruining their careers and ending up in gaol.

There is talk of the ACSU reporting to the soon-to-be appointed chairman of the ICC. This is none other than N Srinivasan who is being investigated by the Indian apex court for failing to properly deal with a fixing scandal. It doesn't fill you with confidence that things will change.

Cricket needs to lance this boil, not make token gestures. If the biggest names are involved then we need to expose them and get them out of the sport forever. There is no room for them.

<b>Peter Miller</b>