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Murder, match-fixing and heartbreak

By March 24, 2007No Comments

Behind you! Bob Woolmer calls a time-out in the nets at Lord's, September 1, 2006© Getty Images . Michael Vaughan, at a press con­fer­ence ahead of England’s final pool match against Kenya (today’s Guardian):

Do I think the prob­lem per­sists? That is a hard question,“ he said, ”and if I’m hon­est I have to say yes, maybe it does go on. I have nev­er exper­i­enced it with­in any of my teams or with any play­er I’ve played with or against but my gut feel­ing is that there is still some­thing going on in the game. Nothing spe­cif­ic but just bad things that I’ve seen with cer­tain pas­sages of play or games that look slightly unusu­al. My gut feel­ing, and this is a huge state­ment I know, is that it is very hard to clear the whole world of crick­et of it.

Mike Selvey comments:

…for me there still lurks doubt that all is not well in every case – noth­ing to put your fin­ger on, but as with Vaughan just a nag­ging notion that all is not entirely well for no bet­ter reas­on than the pess­im­ist­ic one that it can­’t be – and I just won­der now how much that impacts on spec­tat­ors and fol­low­ers of the game now. Here is an ana­logy. There was once no finer sight in sport than an Olympic 100metres final. I’ve nev­er seen one live but my fath­er went to Rome in 1960 and told me of how the German sprint­er Armin Hary out­stripped the favoured Americans to take the title. Today, is there any­one who watches the event without regard­ing it as hav­ing about as much prob­ity as World Federation Wrestling? It is a nov­elty show, which of course does a total dis­ser­vice to those ath­letes who are determ­ined to play the sport clean.

Cynics sus­pect mal­prac­tice every­where, so even excel­lence through genu­ine endeav­our alone, par­tic­u­larly if it involves improve­ment bey­ond the norm, is regarded with sus­pi­cion. But the con­sensus sur­round­ing ath­letes and drugs seems to be that improved test­ing pro­ced­ures have not erad­ic­ated the prob­lem but merely has led to more soph­ist­ic­ated mask­ing tech­niques. Our “gut instinc­t” tells us no longer to believe the evid­ence of our eyes.

And so it is with crick­et and match fix­ing. The ACSU can scru­tin­ise their matches all they like and mon­it­or bet­ting pat­terns on the sub­con­tin­ent. These are skilled people with strong forensic back­grounds. But they are not crick­eters. it takes a Vaughan, with what he calls his “gut instinc­t” but which in real­ity is accu­mu­lated intel­li­gence, to spot the coun­ter­feit coin amongst the stack of change.

I’m sit­ting here with tears in my eyes, and it’s not just because of the rot­ten cold that has con­fined me to quar­ters for the dur­a­tion. This year New Zealand look like genu­ine con­tenders and the upsets have removed a few of our usu­al stum­bling blocks (Pakistan have turfed us out twice in the last four tour­na­ments). As I said to Jeremy Anderson yes­ter­day, we look increas­ingly like pos­sible win­ners this time around but the shad­ow cast by Woolmer’s murder means it will prob­ably be a hol­low vic­tory and that’s a cry­ing shame.