London/Brisbane: Though the International Cricket Council (ICC) is investigating a report made by the Australian team that one of its players was approached by a suspected bookmaker at their London hotel after the Lord's Test, the problem of illegal bookies approaching cricketers is rife in India, a source has said.
''This (match fixing and bookies approaching) is a massive problem that has its tentacles at all the high levels of the game,''he added.
Therefore, the targeting of one of the best-paid international cricketers in the world to influence the most prestigious series in the game only shows the growing audacity of illegal bookmakers, whose criminal operations include murder, death threats and entrapment.
However, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, any scrutiny is unlikely to discourage illegal bookmakers, who will continue to feed off cricket so long as there is such disparity in pay among the game's international elite.
Australian players earn up to 10 times more than peers from other Test-playing nations. If the Ashes can be targeted, what chance the new Twenty20 leagues?
Already there is widespread innuendo, all unsubstantiated, that matches in the Indian Cricket League were fixed.
Some Australian players also have concerns that bookmakers influenced a high-profile international star during the first Indian Premier League season.
''People also need to understand that this is not about match-fixing directly influencing a result, it's about spread betting. It could be about bowling a wide with the fourth ball of the 16th over, losing a wicket at a certain time in the match. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars here. This is heavy stuff, like the mafia," said one highly placed source.
Officials are remaining tight lipped about the Australian player episode, which is said to have taken place in the lobby of the Royal Kensington Garden Hotel.
''We did everything to the letter of the law,'' Australian captain Ricky Ponting said.
England captain Andrew Strauss said there had been no approaches made to his team.