We need names of cheats, not broad brush

SIMON DOULL
Last updated 13:29 10/02/2013

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OPINION: In the Australian Government report on organised crime and drugs in sport, where are the names of the players, the teams, the doctors, the bookies and the criminals?

Should one broad brush tar all? That's the current debate across the Tasman as Australia tries to come to terms with the damning government investigation into the country's national sporting scene that has revealed allegations of widespread drug use, match-fixing and links to criminal elements.

While I'm hugely sad at this unexpected turn of events, I must say I fall into line with many leading Australian sporting personalities who are bemoaning the lack of specifics. Where are the names of the players, the teams, the medical personnel, the dodgy bookies and the criminals?

Because until they are revealed, everyone and every sport is under suspicion.

Obviously that includes cricket. So where might Australia's national summer game find itself vulnerable to these investigations?

In the drugs department I'd be very surprised if any of Australia's international cricketers are involved in doping because of the testing programmes and the consequences. Surely the risks are too high when you're on as good a wicket as being in Aussie's favourite national sporting team.

There could be a question mark around the domestic scene though where young players are pushing the boundaries to produce the performances to take them to the next level of the game.

In terms of the gains that could be made through doping for a cricketer, the spotlight would most likely fall on fast bowlers.

The need to maintain fitness and strength for long spells at the bowling crease along with the requirement for quick recovery, especially in the longer form of the game, could provide a temptation.

Match-fixing is an obvious target for any investigation into cricket given the regular occurrences in recent times, though these have mostly focused on the sub-continent.

The introduction of the Big Bash League with its overseas stars has certainly given a fresh international focus to Australia's domestic leagues.

One leading betting agency across the Tasman suggested that Australian punters gambled between A$2-$5m on each BBL game and estimated an increase of between 25 and 33 per cent in bets on this summer's BBL compared with last season.

That's massive money, but could be small change compared to what's placed on Australian games in Asia where the BBL is beamed in live.

The dangers don't lie with simple match results, they lie in the lucrative spot-betting scenarios where bets can be placed on the number of no-balls bowled, or certain players' run totals and team's run rates which are more easy to disguise.

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There's an argument that has quickly risen in Australian cricket circles that says their top players are too highly paid to be tempted.

History says that's not so when you look at some of the international players who have been caught up in this deplorable behaviour in other parts of the world. A big (and honest) wage can obviously be supplemented by big (and dishonest) under-the-table payments.

What about cricket and the murky underworld of Aussie crime?

Australia's tolerance of individual bookmakers operating alongside the major betting agencies certainly leaves them vulnerable in this department.

When suspect patterns emerge, the big agencies can quickly shut things down. But that is much harder to detect on an individual basis with the bookies.

Like everyone, I'm still trying to come to terms with this shocking development that has happened virtually in our back yard, given our close sporting relations with Australia.

And that's what makes this as disappointing as anything to us Kiwis. We have so many teams involved in trans-Tasman competitions, it's not palatable to think of them being cheated on by any of the measures unveiled in this lengthy investigation.

But, as I said, it has left me wanting specifics - names and details - to satisfy my abhorrer.

I'm sure they will come because this issue isn't going to disappear until the culprits are exposed and punished.

It mightn't be until then that the enormity of this situation really sinks in.

Simon Doull is a former Black Cap

- Sunday News

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