The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are reportedly considering taking legal action to see if it can pursue match fixing allegations against former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns.
Cairns denies any wrongdoing, but is being investigated after accusations of illegal activity made by Lou Vincent and Brendan McCullum, both of whom he played alongside during his days with the Kiwis. The claims relate to domestic matches in England in the summer of 2008.
At present, it is unclear whether the ECB have the right to press charges, or whether it is outside their jurisdiction and is a matter for the International Cricket Committee (ICC).
Current captain McCullum very nearly found himself in hot water for not reporting the alleged approaches to the ICC straight away, as cricketers are expected to do.
McCullum spoke of his shock when encouraged to spot-fix by a man within the game who he described as a “hero." The player has so far only been identified as “Player X”, but Cairns – who was once famously described by former Australia spinner Shane Warne as “the best all-rounder in the world” - believes the reports are referring to him.
Various County Championship officials have, in recent months, moved to reassure fans that domestic cricket in England remains almost untouched by the match-fixing that has riddled the international game.
However, the latest revelations will cast doubt on those assertions. English cricket is clearly not as impermeable as the ECB would like to believe.
Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield became the first English player to be charged with spot-fixing in 2012, in a scandal that also involved his county team mate Danish Kaneria. Westfield admitted giving a certain number of runs away in an over in a game against Durham in 2009.
England captain Alastair Cook, who played in that Essex game, insisted more must be done if the game’s image is to be restored. The ECB have stepped up their education programme, aimed at teaching players, particularly young ones, how to handle approaches made by illegal bookmakers and even team mates who have become involved in fixing.
While the latest accusations – which Cairns dismisses as “bizarre and scary” - are historic, they will not be welcomed in the County Championship, particularly at Lancashire, where Vincent says Cairns tried to persuade him to involve team mate Mal Loye in fixing. Loye told an inquiry he was offered £20,000.
Another claim relates to the short-lived Indian Cricket League of 2008, though it will be difficult to pursue any case related to that tournament as it was not recognised by either the ICC or the Indian board.
Regardless of whether the ECB are allowed to take action, the case is yet another worrying indication that cricket has failed to deal with the disease of match fixing, and while that continues, the game is unlikely to stop it.
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