OPINION: It is tempting to try to join the dots as New Zealand players are drawn into, or linked with, international cricket's match-fixing scandals. The temptation should be resisted. London's Metropolitan Police and New Zealand police are both now working with the International Cricket Council, and people should wait for the outcome of those inquiries before jumping to any conclusions.
At the moment, damaging details are leaking into the public domain drip by drip. These include the admissions made by former Black Cap Lou Vincent, made public last week. He told investigators that he was paid £40,000 (NZ$78,000) by Asian book-keepers to throw an English county game.
According to reports in British newspapers, he also helped fix other matches around the world, including a Twenty20 Champions League game for Auckland Aces against Hampshire in 2012. The former New Zealand opener told the ICC's anti-corruption unit he knew of six other players who had been involved in fixing and says three county games he was involved in between 2008 and 2011 were targeted by bookies offering money and women for sexual favours.
Adding fuel to the speculative fire, meanwhile, is the leak to the British media of evidence given to the ICC by New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum. The Daily Mail said that McCullum, who is himself not under investigation, told the anti-corruption unit that a world-renowned former cricketer offered him up to US$180,000 (NZ$208,000) to fix matches in 2008. The person making the offer was reported to be a "hero" of McCullum's.
The questions that arise out of this evolving scandal are obvious. Who are the six other players allegedly cited by Vincent? Who was the "hero" who made overtures to McCullum in a Worcester cafe in 2008? Speculation is unhelpful at this point. Before people start throwing mud, they should think about where it might stick. The principles of natural justice apply as much in the sporting world as any other of life's arenas - people are innocent until proven guilty.
Corruption in cricket is nothing new. The late Hansie Cronje, a former South African captain, was banned from the game for life in 2000, after admitting his part in a match-fixing ring which allegedly involved other players. Later suspicions focused on the short-lived unsanctioned Indian Cricket League, in which Vincent played for the Chandigarh Lions, along with New Zealanders Chris Cairns and Daryl Tuffey. All three have been the subject of ICC investigations, although Cairns has already won a High Court defamation trial in Britain against former Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, who made allegations against him on Twitter. Cairns has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
Cricket has moved on from the days when it was an idealised sport indulged in by gentlemen and players. It has also become big business and as such it is subject to the pressures of any business, and the far reach of that spectrum can always involve corrupt practice. These suspected practices include "spot-fixing", where players allegedly act to influence specific moments in play which are the subject of bookmakers' attention. Because it is also a truly international sport, in which players can be contracted to play in all parts of the world, the players of no one country can be considered immune to match-fixing. We would be naive to think that New Zealand should be forever considered above that sort of thing.
Yet, as former England international Mike Atherton writes on the opposite page, a scattering of individual cases does not amount to worldwide corruption. One, or a few, bad apples shouldn't spoil the lot. Our players deserve the benefit of the doubt until evidence is produced to suggest otherwise. With Scotland Yard and New Zealand police helping the ICC in this matter, we can be sure the inquiries will be rigorous.
- The Press