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Cricket: When the fix set in

CAMPBELL WEAL
Last updated 06:00 21/05/2014
Lou Vincent
Getty

LOU VINCENT: The former cricket star's name has been ruined in the past few weeks.

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When I was in my early teenage years at high school, Lou Vincent was my favourite batsman in the Black Caps. He wasn't the best player, the most elegant or consistent, but there were times his brutality towards the cricket ball made me laugh with euphoria. You know, that strange sensation where you witness something so enjoyable,  you're powerless to quell a chuckle.

That swagger, the ridiculous jaw, and of course the three-step nonchalant stroll down the pitch before a casual check drive on the up, sending the ball over the infield in a fashion reminiscent of Matthew Hayden.

I was never under any illusion that Lou Vincent would conquer the cricketing world, but in the past few weeks his name has been ruined to every single New Zealand cricket fan, and many more around the world.

It's surreal now, looking at what's being said, how much I idolised this guy and preached to my family and friends of his skills. His New Zealand record of 172 against Zimbabwe now seems worthless. That hundred on Test debut against Australia in Perth, and even that 224 against Sri Lanka or his run of consecutive 50s when he replaced Nathan Astle at the top of the order, each one a figure a player would be proud to have etched next to his name.

Now, it seems these feats will be consigned to the shadows of a match fixer.

Regardless of what has happened in this match fixing fiasco, the mystery star pulling the strings, or even Brendon McCullum being approached in the past, people need to realise that Lou Vincent is really the last person we should be blaming.

The plain cold hard fact underlying match fixing in our beloved cricket, an act that certainly affects nearly every sport in the world to some degree, is that behind it stands an administrative body that has failed to protect our game.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has become a powerless, spineless puppet doing nothing for this game, and never has their lack of control or foresight been highlighted so succinctly.

Behind the ICC stands its puppeteer, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a being largely to blame for undermining the ICC and allowing this cheating blight on our game to grow.

You could say it is human nature to cheat, to want to get ahead whether financially or through performance, and by trying to do exactly that and assert their dominance over cricket, the BCCI has allowed match fixing to flourish.

For those of you that don't know, that abomination of cricket most purists refer to as the Indian Premier League only exists today because of the greed and unquenchable thirst for power that the BCCI holds.

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Back in 2007 and starved of cricket content, Zee Entertainment Enterprises sought to create their own content after outbidding for broadcasting rights several times in India, only to be ignored. Zee, in turn, had their hand forced.

And so the Indian Cricket League was born.

With big money on offer, stars of the game flocked to it.

The BCCI spat the proverbial dummy, sensing its market share being eaten into. Wanting absolute control, they demanded that the ICC withdraw support from the ICL.

We all remember what happened next. New Zealand lost some of its players to the power struggle and the impending fall out.

Shane Bond was promised that he could play in the ICL and still maintain a contract with New Zealand. The BCCI threw its weight down on the ICC, and cricketing boards were forced to exile those players who had chosen the ICL.

I still remember the word the ICC used - 'unsanctioned' - the nail in the coffin of any player or official, ground or facility that was operating with the ICL.

Grounds around India were banned from hosting games, as the BCCI destroyed this new league's credibility and made an outcast of anyone who'd signed a contract with it. Then, the BCCI made a replica of the entire format of the ICL.

The IPL was born, and it was sanctioned too. Every international star signed on, their contracts with their home nation unscathed, and the BCCI threw its financial might into the project.

The ICL was ruined and then proceeded to die a slow and painful death, players never being paid their wages.

But while this was happening, we have now come to realise that illegal betting syndicates preyed on the ICL with impunity. There has always been match fixing in cricket. You'd have to have your head buried firmly in the sand to believe otherwise. But by simply by not acting alongside the ICL, the ICC allowed underground syndicates to flex their muscles and stretch venomous claws into players with free will.

The tournament was unsanctioned, and therefore had none of the deterrents to cheating that an ICC backed tournament would. The sport's leading corruption experts weren't at work there.

The situation we have now is largely thanks to the fact that the BCCI demanded, and the ICC allowed, for the tournament to be ignored and banished into the wilderness. Once the ICL started to wobble, the BCCI gave players a chance to return to their nations or join the IPL as well, provided they cut ties with this unsanctioned rebel league. And they did, but as you see, it was too late.

Stars of our game had already been swayed, fearless without anyone breathing down their necks, and so we see what is now unfolding in regards to Vincent.

I don't excuse what he has done, or whoever it is that has led him astray. I'm not trying to hide his actions behind depression or the miserable life he was obviously stuck inside, completely able to be bent and moulded to another's will.

But I am certain that match fixing wouldn't have managed to stretch to the proportions it has now if the ICC governed this game and the BCCI didn't.

Furthermore, it seems downright preposterous to hear that the ICC is now investigating corruption that occurred in the ICL, despite the fact that they didn't sanction the tournament in the first place. If the league wasn't under the ICC's jurisdiction, then any game tinged by corruption in that tournament should be irrelevant.

I guess it's just ironic, that at a time when the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the England Cricket Board have banded together and seized every ounce of power for themselves, we suddenly have all these leaks of match fixing about lesser nations, ruining the credibility and what's left of the little power our nation, and others, still have.


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