3 Sep 2010

Questioning cricket chiefs at Lord’s on match-fixing claims

Chief Correspondent

The man in charge of keeping cricket corruption free faces the media in the wake of the Pakistan match-fixing claims.

Haroon Lorgat, the Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council.

Off we trudged to Lord’s. Well, you don’t have to be asked twice, do you? Not to see cricket so much as cricket’s investigators of corruption. Because that’s the kind of week we are in just now. And so to have a coffee and, in the plush press conference area next door to the ground, await Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Haroon Lorgat, the Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council.

And then, an hour later, I stood there wondering why they had bothered. We’d all assumed they would have something to tell us about what they had charged three Pakistani stars with? When they had charged them? Why had they done so?

Not a bit of it.

And so it went on, and on, and on.

At the end of an hour or so that seemed like several days, we had squeezed from them a nugget or two of information. They had been shown evidence by the police. The ICC standard of proof for conviction and a ban has to be the same as the criminal one: beyond all reasonable doubt as opposed to the balance of probability.

But they were, in truth, very much happier telling the media what this was not about. It was not a witch-hunt or conspiracy against Pakistan as quite a few Pakistani reporters rather felt it was. It was not about having a go at Mumbai bookies either licit or illicit. Quite a few Indian journos wanted to tread that path opened by the inimitable High Commissioner for Pakistan Mr Hassan.

Nor was it even the tip of the iceberg. Sir Ronnie went on at length about how he did not believe spot-betting is a widespread problem in cricket, then talked even more about how other sports like horse-racing also had something to learn from cricket’s crisis.

And all the while, not far away in Kilburn nick, the Met was slowly moving from player to player as the three turned up for scheduled questioning with Inspector Knacker of the Yard.

But then again – the cops are not telling us anything about that, either.

No wonder the indefatigable High Commissioner for Pakistan is getting airplay. In this news vacuum his splendid ability to cast the blame in every direction except Pakistan is keeping the whole thing bubbling away almost single-handedly. But this cannot go on. High Commissioner Hassan will surely run out of steam soon, or targets, or both. And then, like messrs Butt, Asif and Amir, he will have to be rested at least until the end of the tour.

And we don’t want that, do we?