Two reactions stood out after the latest sting on cricket corruption by Al Jazeera which released a cache of audio recordings where an alleged match-fixer, Aneel Munawar, phones in details of spot-fixing to a bookmaker about matches between 2011 and 2012. The first is the auto reflexive denial from the Anglo-Saxon world that always kicks in strongly to any accusation made against English and Australian players. The second, more damning development, is that Al Jazeera has refused to release the raw footage to the International Cricket Council (ICC), preferring to send it to Interpol instead. The first can be seen a parochial reflex of disbelief but the second is a statement on the way the ICC has run its anti-corruption wing. The documentary registers its strongest condemnation for the way the ICC handled the affairs: It insinuates that the ICC knew of Munawar as early as 2010 but did nothing about it until now. In August, just as it learnt that Al Jazeera was about to broadcast another sting, it issued a template appeal to identify Munawar. Several troubling questions arise about the ICC: Did Alan Peacock, chief of anti-corruption and the ICC know about Munawar in 2010, as alleged in the documentary? There has been no denial as yet, just a regular statement that it will investigate.
It’s also high time the cricketing world begins to introspect on its blind spots and looks honestly into the allegations made out against English and Australian cricketers. It’s one thing to say that the evidence is thin but to jump the gun and outrightly dismiss it, as the boards and former cricketers of England and Australia have done, isn’t wise. Especially in these fragile times when cases of cricket corruption keep coming up. The big bash league, the T20 of Australia, is as vulnerable to corruption as other leagues like the IPL around the world.
Ask for more evidence for sure, but it’s not wise to dismiss any serious allegation. Moreover, most of the 15 matches that Al Jazeera documents have already had questions raised about them in the past. A day after England’s one-day international against Pakistan in 2010, the PCB chairman, Ijaz Butt, had raised fixing charges against England players. So, it’s not a retroactive thirst for vengeance that is driving the current allegations. A proper investigation needs to be done. If cricket isn’t ready to honestly look itself in the mirror, then the broken shards in the future will reflect hypocrisy, negligence and an unwillingness to cleanse itself.