Sharjah: Former South African batsman Barry Richards is concerned about the long-term impact of match-fixing scandal on cricket and says if the players and administrators do not stamp it out in time, the game's integrity will suffer an irreparable damage.Richards, President of the Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA) and here as a commentator for the ongoing tri-series, urges cricketers and administrators to realise the implications of the match-fixing charges and save the 'gentleman's game' from disrepute.''There are many players who do not realise the impact it has created on the game. Cricket has been played for the last 100-odd years and if it has to go on the same way, the integrity of the game has to be protected,'' Richards told 'Gulf News'.''If you start messing up with the game, people will start losing interest and it won't take long for spectators to lose interest and sponsors to move away from it with television coverage going down,'' he warned, and added, ''the players and administrators should realise this and stamp it out forever.''Richards is also concerned about the standard of some of the countries playing International cricket today and said, ''in the name of globalisation, one should not devalue the standard of the game.''''There is a huge disparity between the top teams and a few others. We should not let any country play Test cricket just to globalise the game. It will devalue the history of the game. A particular standard should be maintained, otherwise spectators and television will lose interest,'' the former dashing batsman said.''Who will want to watch an ATP tournament final between a player ranked 495 against one ranked 520?'' he asked. Incidentally, Bangladesh is on the verge of its entry into the fold of Test cricket with its inaugural match against India beginning in Dhaka on November 10.Richards said the volume of cricket being played today is another area of concern with many players burning out fast. ''We have got to try and protect the health of the players as the volume of cricket is a bit of concern.''''We have seen Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistani fast bowler) burn out and Glen McGrath (Australia) struggling to make a comeback. There are youngsters like Zaheer Khan (India) and the likes. We need to protect them from burn-out,'' he said.He said FICA has suggested for enforcement of an international drugs policy by the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has taken heed of the advice and is contemplating a comprehensive policy on the use of performance-enhancing and recreational drugs by cricketers.FICA, comprising West Indies, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, has been formed to co-ordinate the activities of all national players' associations and protect the interest of professional cricketers worldwide.Represented by Richards, David Graveney and Tim May, FICA recently presented a constructive plan to the cricket committee management of ICC.''The ICC has agreed to give us a status higher than what it is now, though not an official status whereby a representative of our association can attend meetings of the world governing body (of cricket),'' Richards said.He said FICA would hold its next meeting in Dubai in January. However, the agenda is yet to be finalised.
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