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Cricket losing credibility


Nov. 10, 2000

By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
 
 

AMONG the comments made by former West Indies pace bowler Colin Croft, during an interview featured on the TV 6 sport show, "Inside Sport," last Wednesday night, was one that focused on the actual impact of the current match-fixing scandal on the game itself.

According to Croft, the credibility of cricket has been "tarnished tremendously" and he went on to postulate that, "it will never be redeemed" within his lifetime. He pointed out that scepticism is now the order of the day, with the results of games being called into question on a regular basis. As examples, he cited two games in the recent ICC knockout tournament in Kenya: India's victory over Australia and India's defeat in the final at the hands of New Zealand. In both cases, he said, there was the "suggestion that that (match-fixing) has happened."

As Croft sees it, everybody "is now a  sceptic because they have seen, or heard, what has been happening over the last couple of years." Even the results of certain games from a decade ago can now be the subject of speculation - particularly those that involved extraordinary defeats.

When one really thinks about it, Croft's words do have some validity. During the tours of Zimbabwe and Pakistan to the West Indies, earlier this year, there were several comments, mostly bordering on jokes, that some games appeared to be fixed - not least of which, the West Indies' victory over Pakistan in the third and final test. More seriously, there have been the allegations made against Brian Lara and eight other established cricketers in the match-fixing report released in India last week.

The mounting allegations, whether in jest or not, should not be allowed to continue unchecked, especially with the notion that cricket is now heading in the same direction as track and field - a great sport, but with the credibility of local politics. Today, few top-class athletes, particularly sprinters, can escape public suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs. Any one that consistently yield's sub-10 and sub-20 displays in the 100 and 200 metres over a short period of time, becomes the subject of "talk," with people wondering, "What if...?"

Nowadays, it no longer matters if a sprinter does not display the Ben Johnson-telltale signs of steroid use: over-developed physique, yellow eyeballs etc. Even the great Carl Lewis, who never had any dramatic leaps in his running times and long-jump marks, and who always maintained a comparatively slim build throughout his career, easily becomes the subject of gym talk, with some fellas doubting that one could ever win all those Olympic gold medals - including four at one Games - and NOT be on steroids. Few are spared and it seems that there may always be "speculation."

Could cricket end up like track and field? For now it seems that there is little need for urgency. But, the ubiquitous scepticism mentioned by Croft does have the potential to spread to epidemic proportions: and the thing to trigger it off will be the surfacing of another, similar controversy. Because we are only in the early stages, the ICC still has time to enact a serious repair job on its sport. It has to investigate and it has to be harsh: players will have to be banned, with guilty bookmakers identified and prosecuted. Anything and everything must be done to prevent cricket's credibility from being seriously tarnished - just like track and field's.