In our latest 'Beyond the Boundary' piece, we discuss the issue of match fixing and potential for coercion of umpires
As cricket reacts to yet another sting operation, this time resulting in the implication of Pakistani umpires Nadeem Ghauri and Anis Siddiqui, it’s hard to fathom how such a situation was allowed to arise. Two umpires, one a member of the ICC’s Elite Panel, were caught on television appearing to accept money in exchange for giving favourable decisions to a particular side.
The sting operation wasn’t localised, extending to both Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi umpires. The Bangladesh Cricket Board banned Nadir Shah for 10 years, whilst the Sri Lankan investigations are pending. Ghauri has been bullish in comments to the media, indicating he fully intends to appeal against his four-year ban. Corruption is unfortunately part of the game, a fact we cannot ignore, but what chance do ill-advised, naïve and impressionable players stand when those charged with promoting a spirit of fairness on a cricket field, the umpires, are found to be susceptible to the lures of riches.
Most worrying was Ghauri’s response "I have no agreement with the PCB, I am not under PCB's code of conduct. Is it possible umpires can do it? I don't know about any other umpire but I think it's been done on the pressure of the ICC.”
Surely an umpire knows what is expected of him, regardless of whether he’s under the auspices of a cricketing body or not. The lack of international cricket being played in Pakistan has hurt umpires such as Ghauri who are on the fringes of being selected for international matches. The bookies who have found player cooperation difficult to come by after the imprisonment and hefty bans on Mohammads Amir and Asif and Salman Butt, will inevitably look for alternatives and the lowest paid will always be the most vulnerable.
Education was highlighted as a key point of focus by the ICC in the light of the trio’s spot-fixing bans, but which individuals involved in cricket would you expect to have higher levels of integrity than umpires? An extract of the PCB’s release regarding the umpiring bans included the following recommendations:
Other recommendations included, increasing of awareness programs inclusive of lectures and training workshops to be conducted by PCB to ensure that the umpires fully comprehend the parameters/guidelines of the Codes of Conduct in order to safeguard against such incidents taking place in future; adopting a proactive approach to ensure the prevention of such incidents involving umpires and any other match officials; and bringing all players, support personnel and match officials associated with PCB under a strict vigilance regime and comprehensive monitoring mechanism at the earliest.
These points are basic good practice and should have been implemented years ago and reading through them, you can’t help but think it’s lip-service to the ICC rather than a concerted effort to root out corruption from umpiring. The umpires were primarily under the jurisdiction of the PCB and as such, the PCB needed to implement preventative measures. However, this can only stem from good governance, something that has been distinctly lacking for years now. Private leagues dotted in every corner of the world mean that umpires will be outside the geographical range of the domestic authorities, but with the right controls in place – primarily a fair pay structure but also an understanding of their responsibilities through education, as well as the harder threat of punishment exhibited in this case – any board can feel comfortable sending it’s trusted representatives to earn a much-needed financial boost.
The sinister forces which surround cricket will inevitably look for new avenues to influence aspects of the on-field action and as such, those charged with governance of the game, both domestic and international, must recognise its importance and act.