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Fixing eclipses Walshs awesome feat

Published: Friday, December 29, 2000, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London: A telephone call in the middle of the night to Dr Ali Bacher last April set off a chain reaction that is still reverberating through world cricket.The caller was South Africa's captain Hansie Cronje, who told the managing director of his country's Cricket Board that he had not been ''entirely honest'' in his previous denials of match-fixing.It was the defining moment in the simmering saga of cricket corruption that had been thrust into the open in such a way that it would bring down some of the sport's best known names before the end of the year.Cronje has been banned for life by the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) - a punishment handed out to Pakistan's former captain Salim Malik and India's ex-captain Mohammad Azharuddin by their respective Boards.Other Test cricketers have also been banned for up to five years, or fined and censured, as the game's authorities finally began taking significant steps to root out the menace of match-fixing.Accusations, denials and rumours of bribery and corruption in cricket had surfaced sporadically during the 1990s but it was the New Delhi police who, quite by accident, finally unearthed a case to answer.While investigating illegal bookmakers through phone-tapping they stumbled upon a conversation between one of their suspects and Cronje.Subsequently, the Indian police on April 7 charged Cronje and team mates Herschelle Gibbs, Pieter Strydom and Nicky Boje with ''cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy'' relating to a One-day International series that South Africa played in India during the previous month.Cronje initially denied any involvement, but on April 11 came his 3:00 am phone call to Dr Bacher, who said later the same day that Cronje had accepted $ 10,000 to 15,000 from bookmakers for information and forecasting during a triangular Limited Overs series with Zimbabwe and England in January.The revelations sent shockwaves through the game, and match-fixing was suddenly all over the front pages as well as the back pages of the world's newspapers.The game's ruling body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), responded with an emergency meeting at Lord's in early May when it announced life bans for anyone found guilty of match-fixing and set up an Anti-Corruption Investigation Unit headed by London's former Metropolitan Police chief Paul Condon.Pakistan's position in the match-fixing issue had been under the microscope since a judicial inquiry under Judge Malik Qayyam started in October 1998, and 20 months later Pakistan's cricket chiefs published his long-awaited report.As a result of Qayyam's recommendations, ex-Pakistan captain Salim Malik and pace bowler Ata-ur-Rehman were banned for life, and Wasim Akram, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq were among other players fined and censured either for bringing the game into disrepute or failing to co-operate with the inquiry.By this time, the Indian government had ordered the country's highest police authority, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to investigate match-fixing.The Indian cricket Board subsequently banned the country's former captain Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma for life, and suspended Ajay Jadeja and former all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar for five years.The corruption issue overshadowed much of what happened on the field in 2000.West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh became the highest wicket-taker in Test history when, at the age of 37, he passed Kapil Dev's mark of 434 - a fitting reward for the Jamaican's stamina, skill and durability.Steve Waugh's Australians completed a world record of 12 consecutive Test victories, poignantly doing so against West Indies, whose all-conquering team of the 1980s had set the previous mark of 11.As the year came to a close, England won a Test series in Pakistan for the first time for 38 years, having a few months earlier beaten West Indies in a test series for the first time in 31 years.All the signs point to a real scrap when Australia, who have held the Ashes since 1989, come to England next year for the sport's ultimate contest.(c) Reuters Limited. Click here for Restrictions

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