ICC calls for evidence on fixing claims
Australia, England captains dismiss 'unsubstantiated' allegations as ICC expresses frustration with Al Jazeera's lack of cooperation
28 May 2018, 08:15 PM AEST
The ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit has called on broadcaster Al Jazeera to release evidence that was withheld from yesterday’s broadcast investigation into manipulation of recent Test matches after the allegations raised were rejected by authorities and players in Australia and England.
Australia captain Tim Paine today became the latest to repudiate claims made in the hour-long documentary that he described as “unsubstantiated” and added that “as far as I’m concerned, our players have got nothing to worry about”.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Paine said of claims made by a man identified as a member of a Mumbai-based criminal syndicate that purportedly had a number of international cricketers – including two Australia and three England Test players – on its payroll.
“I can’t speak on behalf of all of our guys, but I certainly know it’s never been spoken about in Australian dressing rooms that I’ve been involved in.
“At this stage they’re unsubstantiated claims and we’re confident that none of our guys are involved in it.”
Paine’s rebuttal of the untested allegations followed an even more strident rejection by England skipper Joe Root who described allegations of corrupt activity in the 2016 Test against India at Chennai – in which Root played – as “outrageous” and “ridiculous”.
And it came after Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland said CA was not aware of any credible evidence that linked an Australia player to corrupt behavior, and pledged to provide full co-operation with the ICC’s investigation into the allegations raised.
However, General Manager of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit Alex Marshall expressed his frustration that Al Jazeera has thus far declined to make available material obtained for their story that reportedly detailed instances and individuals of corruption within Test matches, but which they had withheld from broadcast for ‘legal reasons’.
“We have been in ongoing dialogue with the broadcaster (Al Jazeera) which has refused our continual requests to cooperate and share information which has hampered our investigation to date,” Marshall said in confirming a full investigation by the ACU into the allegations raised.
“The content of the program is, of course, useful to the investigation, but I would now urge the production team to provide us with all un-edited and unseen evidence they are in possession of, to enable us to expedite a thorough investigation.
“Given this is a live investigation and one that is likely to be subject to the legal process, it is not possible to provide any further comment.”
The redacted material in the Al Jazeera report related to instances within the 2016 Chennai Test and Australia’s drawn match against India at Ranchi the following year, whereby the players named allegedly slowed their scoring output to a rate that was pre-arranged with the crime syndicate.
The middle-man in the ‘fixing’ arrangement, identified as Aneel Munawar who reportedly worked for an India mafia-style network known as D-Company, claimed the participating players would signal the pre-ordained scoring period was beginning through a seemingly innocuous gesture, such as removal of helmet, gloves or pads.
But as was the case with similar allegations made by criminal figures in the UK’s The Sun newspaper during last summer’s Ashes series that events within Tests were subject to corrupt practices, no compelling evidence linking the claims to subsequent events has yet been produced.
Allegations raised by The Sun were refuted by Australia and England cricket authorities at the time, and subsequently found to contain no evidence of corrupt activities following a global investigation completed by the ICC’s ACU earlier this year.
According to yesterday’s Al Jazeera report, confirmation of the section of play that had been ‘fixed’ would be phoned through by the criminal syndicate member prior to a day’s play starting, once the result of the coin toss was known.
It was not explained how the syndicate could then ‘fix’ on-field proceedings to ensure that players in the pay of the criminal network would be at the wicket at the pre-ordained time, nor how other events in the course of the match could be controlled to restrict scoring to the arranged rate.
To suggest batters could willingly prevent in-game occurrences such as mishits, deflections, misfields, dropped catches and overthrows to ensure their output did not exceed the agreed value per over would seemingly require the compliance of more than one or two players on the field.
Or reveal a level of mastery that has hitherto proved unreachable for players and coaches in almost every professional sporting endeavour.
Of seemingly greater influence to such outcomes are prevailing pitch and match conditions, both of which historically dictate the capacity of a batting team to score runs.
The Ranchi Test between India and Australia last year was played on a flint-dry pitch that was the subject of much conjecture pre-game, and on which neither team was able to establish any batting fluency.
The fact that it’s low, slow nature meant the pitch offered little other than some variable bounce and spin on days four and five for the bowlers meant scoring rates across all five days remained consistently low with breakthroughs difficult to achieve.
Australia managed 3.28 runs per over throughout their first innings (with their most productive period being the 50 they scored in the first 10 overs of day one when the ball was hard and attacking fields set) and barely two an over in their second innings as they fought to save the game.
In between those efforts, India toiled more than 14 hours to score 9(dec)-603 at a rate of 2.87 runs per over.
Should the ICC see fit to investigate individual players on the basis of evidence unearthed in their upcoming investigation, they can call upon increased authority now available under the ICC’s anti-corruption code to immediately seize players’ mobile phones and access data and details they contain.
Any player who does not hand over their phone(s) upon request can be deemed to be refusing to co-operate with an investigation and banned from competition for up to two years.
Marshall flagged the ACU’s heightened powers during an informal media briefing in Adelaide last year when newly installed in his role, and when he noted the rise of privately-run T20 competitions in Asia and Middle-East was a cause for growing concern in the ICC’s ongoing anti-corruption battle.
The Al Jazeera report also detailed plans by corrupt elements to establish a four-team T20 league based initially in the United Arab Emirates but with aspirations to subsequently stage matches in Africa and Asia utilising a number of players in the employ of criminal syndicates.
In addition, the report alleged the syndicates were able to influence pitch conditions at Test venues by providing payment to corrupt groundstaff and aired claims that such practices were used at Galle in Sri Lanka for recent matches featuring Australia (2016) and India (2017).
Sri Lanka Cricket announced Monday that it had, with immediate effect, suspended the officials named in the televised report and launched its own inquiry into the corruption allegations it raised.